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J Med Internet Res. 2018 Nov 30;20(11):e11152. doi: 10.2196/11152.

Involuntary Attention Restoration During Exposure to Mobile-Based 360° Virtual Nature in Healthy Adults With Different Levels of Restorative Experience: Event-Related Potential Study.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Gangnam Severance Hospital, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
2
Institute of Behavioral Science in Medicine, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
3
Department of Interaction Science, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

With the global trend of urbanization, there are increasing reports of a possible association between decreased exposure to nature and increased occurrence of mental disorders. New 360° virtual reality (VR) technology using smartphones and portable VR glasses can overcome spatial and temporal limitations to help people deal with mental fatigue in everyday life.

OBJECTIVE:

On the basis of attention restoration theory (ART), this study aimed to investigate whether the amplitude of the mismatch negativity (MMN)/P3a complex could act as an event-related potential (ERP) biomarker of involuntary attention restoration during exposure to 360° virtual nature in healthy young adults with different levels of restorative VR experience.

METHODS:

A total of 40 healthy adults completed prequestionnaires on demographics and simulator sickness and postquestionnaires on simulator sickness and perceived restorativeness before and after exposure to virtual nature, respectively. During the VR exposure, brain activity was measured by electroencephalography as participants were asked to conduct a 2-tone passive auditory oddball task.

RESULTS:

The amplitude and latency of the MMN/P3a complex were compared between individuals reporting a highly restorative experience and those reporting a less restorative experience. Although viewing a virtual nature environment, the high restorative group (N=19) exhibited significantly reduced P3a amplitudes compared with the low restorative group (N=20; t38=2.57; P=.02; d=0.59). Particularly, a moderate but significant negative correlation was found between the self-reported restorativeness scores and the P3a amplitudes at the fronto-central region (r=-.38; P=.02). However, the latency of the MMN/P3a complex did not significantly differ between the 2 groups (auditory mismatch negativity: t38=-1.47; P=.15 and P3a: t38=-0.31; P=.76).

CONCLUSIONS:

Considering individuals' restorative experience, the amplitude of the fronto-central MMN/P3a complex can potentially be employed as a distinct ERP component of interest in involuntary attention restoration during virtual nature experience in healthy young adults. The findings for the 360° virtual nature experience seem to be consistent with those of previous ERP studies on the effects of meditation practice. This study extends the findings of previous ART and ERP studies of real-world meditation, restoration, and mental fatigue management into the virtual world created by mobile phone-based VR glasses and 360° video content.

KEYWORDS:

attention; electroencephalography; evoked potentials; smartphone; surveys and questionnaires; virtual reality

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