Tricking the Brain

"Tricking the brain" using HMDs and multisensory feedback. Left: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) applied over motor brain areas to study the cortical excitability during motor task performance visualized in immersive VR. Right: Visual and auditory feedback to induce the "Stone Arm Ilusion" over embodied avatar perceived from first-person perspective.

Head-mounted displays allow to realistically mimic the subject’s body from a first-person perspective (i.e., avatar) in a highly immersive virtual training environment. In this immersive virtual environment, subjects may experience body ownership over avatars with different body characteristics. Importantly, body characteristics impact how people interact with the environment, as movement execution critically depends on, for example, the size and shape of body parts. Therefore, immersive virtual reality (VR) may be a powerful tool to alternate body perceptions and modulate motor performance and the engagement of motor brain networks. However, the ability of the brain to adapt motor commands based on a perceived modified reality has not yet been fully explored.

In this project, we aim to “trick the brain” using immersive VR and investigate if modulating the physical properties of an embodied avatar influences motor brain networks and performance for potential application in neurorehabilitation.

Interested in the Project? Contact: Karin Buetler


Swiss National Science Foundation

NCCR Robotics


Buetler, K.A., Penalver-Andres, J., Özen, Ö., Ferriroli, L., Müri, R.M., Cazzoli, D., and Marchal-Crespo, L. (2022). “Tricking the Brain” Using Immersive Virtual Reality: Modifying the Self-Perception Over Embodied Avatar Influences Motor Cortical Excitability and Action Initiation. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 15:787487. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2021.787487