It appears that our best efforts to provide an immersive virtual reality experience still fall short of fooling even a rat brain that the world it is in is real.
We know this because researchers studied just that, how the neural activity in a rat’s brain experiencing a real world and then a virtual world differed. From the sounds of it they kind of expected that the pattern of activity would be similar but surprise, not even close.
In this article at Science Daily, referring to an article in Nature, UCLA researchers were studying the space mapping neurons in the hippocampus. It turns out when the rat is in the virtual world the way these neurons act more closely corresponds to randomness. And half of them shut-down. Translation: The VR experience is not good enough to fool a rat’s brain or keep it’s attention.
Of course it sounds like they provided a walk around space for the rat to explore. Maybe it there had been something more stimulating, like a predator image, the rat’s brain might have suspended its disbelief long enough to change the results …