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Researchers develop VR goggles for mice to create immersive scenarios for brain research

Researchers at Northwestern University have developed specialized virtual reality (VR) goggles designed for mice, creating immersive scenarios for advanced brain research. These VR goggles, named Miniature Rodent Stereo Illumination VR (iMRSIV), represent a significant advancement over existing systems used for studying neural circuitry in mice.

The primary goal of the VR goggles is to more accurately simulate natural environments, allowing researchers to gain insights into the neural processes underlying behavior. Unlike conventional systems that use computer screens or projection screens to surround mice, iMRSIV provides a substantial leap forward.

Professor Daniel Dombeck, the senior author of the study, explained that while VR systems for mice have been used for the past 15 years, the conventional approach involves surrounding the animal with screens. He compared this to humans watching TV in their living rooms, where they still see the physical surroundings, unlike the immersive experience provided by VR goggles like Oculus Rift.

The use of VR in laboratory settings aims to address the challenge of imaging real-time brain activity while animals engage with the real world. Rather than allowing the mouse to navigate a physical maze, researchers use a treadmill to navigate virtual scenes, such as a maze, projected onto surrounding screens. This allows for the observation and mapping of brain activity as the mouse traverses a virtual space.

The iMRSIV goggles, equipped with custom-designed lenses and miniature organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, provide each eye with a 180-degree field of view, fully immersing the mouse and excluding the surrounding environment. Unlike human VR goggles, iMRSIV does not wrap around the mouse’s head but is perched directly in front, allowing researchers to achieve a high level of immersion.

This development represents a significant advancement in the field, enabling researchers to study neural circuits and behavior in a more lifelike and immersive manner, paving the way for new insights into how the brain adapts and reacts to virtual reality exposure.


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