(Phys.org) —A team of researchers from the University of California has found that one part of the brain in rats responds differently to virtual reality than to the real world.In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes the results of brain experiments they ran with rats. They found that "place" cells in the rats' hippocampus didn't light up as much when immersed in a virtual reality experiment as they did when the rats were engaging with the real world.
Researchers in many parts of the world are studying how virtual reality works in the brain. Some do so to better learn how the brain works, others are more interested in creating games or virtual reality environments to allow people to experience things they couldn't otherwise. In either case, despite the increase in processing power and graphics capabilities, virtual reality systems just don't live up to the real world. People can always tell the difference. To find out why, the researchers in this new effort turned to rats—most specifically, their hippocampus's—the part of the brain that has been identified as building and controlling cognitive maps.