, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 233-238

Neurophysiological Age Differences During Task-Performance in a Stereoscopic Virtual Environment

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In today’s society, there is an increasing number of workplaces in virtual environments (VE). But, there are only a few reports dealing with occupational health issues or age effects. The question arises how VR generally interferes with cognitive processes. This interference might have relevant implications for workability and work-efficiency in virtual environments. Event-related potentials are known to reflect different stages of stimulus reception, evaluation, and response. We have established an electroencephalographic (EEG) monitoring, focussing on event-related potentials (N100; mismatch negativity, i.e., MMN) to obtain access to attention dependent and pre-attentive processing of sensory stimuli applied in VE. The MMN is known to be correlated with the ability of subjects to react to an unexpected event. The aim of the present study was to investigate cognitive responses to distracting auditory stimuli in two different age groups in a virtual environment (VE) and in a real environment (“real reality”), and to compare characteristic neurophysiological response patterns. Data show that stimulus detection as given by the N100 amplitude and latency does not differ in both age groups and task conditions. In contrast, the pre-attentive processing as given by the MMN is altered in the VR such as the non-VR condition in an age-related manner. A relevant finding of the present study was that the age related differences seen in the non-VR condition were not strengthened in VR.