Research: Virtual reality affects children’s brains differently than adults

Virtual reality can disrupt coordination between a child’s head and trunk, say researchers at the Swiss EPFL. According to the research, young children move their head and torso separately in VR, while in real life they use their upper body as one.

According to the researchers, the results are especially important for when therapy games for children are made in virtual reality. The research shows that children do not use their bodies in VR in the same way as in real life. As a result, rehabilitation through virtual reality may not work as well for this group as previously thought. The study was conducted among eighty children and twenty adults.

The researchers from the Swiss university École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne claim that young children between 1 and 6 to 7 years old use the entire upper body to move under all circumstances. Children have yet to develop the part of the brain that allows people to move their head separately from the rest of the body, the researchers conclude. But according to this research, this works differently in VR games in which children have to steer with their torso. In such cases, a child does move his head separately from the rest of the upper body. According to the scientists, such behavior in children of this age has never been observed outside a VR world.

In one of the experiments, children had to play a VR game. They had to collect coins on the back of an eagle. When they had to steer with their head, they succeeded about as well as with adults. As soon as they had to steer with their torso, the children got confused. They tried to adjust with their heads in that game. As a result, they missed a lot more coins than if they actually controlled the game with their head.

According to the scientists, this is due to the fact that children in the first scenario see much more easily what they have to do, while steering with the trunk is more about feeling. Young children would rely much more on what they see than what they feel. Adults can switch more easily between the two. According to previous studies, children’s head-trunk coordination is fully developed by the age of eight. However, the scientists of this study noted in this study that children as young as ten were not yet at the adult level in this area.

The reason why children in VR have even more trouble with head-torso coordination than in real life, according to the study, may be because children are overwhelmed by the ‘novelty’ of the virtual reality in which they move. Also, vr would disrupt children’s ‘standard coordination strategy’; Since children in the VR world cannot rely on instinctive impulses, such as proprioception and balance, they rely all the more on vision. The conclusion is that when their eyesight has little use, because they have to use their torso to steer, the brain of children gets confused.