Taylor Heuer


Prism adaptation therapy is a commonly-used treatment for the neurological disorder, spatial neglect, in which patients are unable to attend to or interact with one side of their visual field. Prism adaptation induces a sensory mismatch between patients’ motor movements and visual input through the use of prisms which shift the visual field either to the left or right. Patients have to adjust their motor movements to align with their shifted visual input. This process results in aftereffects that alleviate the symptoms of neglect. The goal of this research is to determine whether a virtual reality version of prism adaptation can alter the spatial attention of healthy, undergraduate students in a way similar to traditional prism adaptation methods. The present study replicated a physical prism adaptation study performed by Goedert, LeBlanc, Tsai & Barrett (2010), but using virtual reality induced visual-motor mismatch. Twenty-four participants performed line bisection and straight-ahead pointing tasks both before and after spending 15 minutes in a virtual reality game in which they poked the noses of cartoon circus animals. The virtual reality environment induced a mismatch between the visual location of the hand and the actual physical location of the hand either in the leftward or rightward direction. Results for the straight-ahead pointing task replicated those of Goedert et al. (2010). Among individuals with a leftward baseline bias of spatial attention the magnitude of the aftereffects was greater for a leftward versus a rightward shift in the virtual reality environment. Performance on the line bisection task, however, was unaffected by the virtual reality manipulation Despite this, this work has implications for the extent to which the vision and action systems respond to virtually reality in a way similar to actual physical reality.