Research Article: Simulated prism exposure in immersed virtual reality produces larger prismatic after-effects than standard prism exposure in healthy subjects

Date Published: May 24, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Alexander A. Ramos, Emil C. Hørning, Inge L. Wilms, Markus Lappe.


Previous studies have shown that the size of the leftward bias after exposure to rightward prism-deviation (the prismatic after-effect) depends on the degree of rightward prism-deviation as well as the type of visual feedback receives during exposure to prism-deviation.

Partial Text

For more than a century, adaptation to the visual distortion created with prisms has been used to study experience-based plasticity in the visuomotor system. Stratton [1] found successful adaptation to a 180-degree deviation and since then, adaptations to other large and small prism-deviations have been used to test learning and adaptation in the perceptual and motor systems (e.g. [2–5]). In healthy subjects, the exposure to prism-deviation followed by removal of the prisms produces a prismatic after-effect, a deviation in pointing accuracy in the opposite direction to the prism-deviation [6]. The size of the after-effect correlates with the degree of distortion induced by prism goggles; the larger the deviation, the larger the size [7]. A surprising issue regarding the after-effect is that it does not equal the prismatic deviation. Usually, the after-effect produced is about 40% of the prism-deviation [3]; the reason for this is still an unresolved mystery.

Twenty healthy subjects, 13 females of an average age of 25.9 (5.5) and 7 males of an average age of 28.3 (3.1) were tested under three different prism adaptation conditions: 1) a virtually simulated prism-deviation using virtual reality ROTATE (abbreviation VRR), 2) a virtually simulated prism-deviation using virtual reality SKEW (abbreviation VRS), and 3) prism-deviation using a standard set of prism goggles and PC (abbreviation PCP). All subjects were tested in all three conditions but assigned to one of four different sequences through randomisation to avoid learning effects. The four sequences were VRR-VRS-PCP, VRS-VRR- PCP, PCP-VRR-VRS and PCP-VRS-VRR. Subjects had a break of at least 10 minutes between each condition for adequate mental recovery.

All scores are presented in degrees and are calculated as the difference from the centre of the displayed target to the actual pointing position. A negative value indicates a leftward pointing position and a positive value a rightward position relative to the centre of the target.

The results confirm that it is possible to generate a prismatic after-effect in healthy subjects using immersive VR technology with simulated prism-deviation. Secondly, contrary to expectation, the after-effect produced with indirect feedback (you do not see your own finger but an image of a finger) in immersed virtual reality is larger than the after-effect produced by normal prism goggles (seeing your real finger in physical reality). Finally, the study demonstrated that there was no difference in the size of the prismatic after-effect between the two types of simulated prism-deviation available in Unity.

We wanted to investigate if it was possible to produce a prismatic after-effect using simulated prisms in virtual reality. We also wanted to know if the after-effect from simulated prisms would be smaller or larger than the after-effect produced by normal prism goggles. Finally, we wanted to compare the effects of two different types of simulated virtual prisms. The results show that the two types of simulated prism-deviation produce larger after-effects than that produced by real prism goggles in healthy subjects. The study also showed that the two different methods of simulating prism-deviation in virtual reality produce after-effects of equal magnitude in healthy subjects.




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