Thanks to philosopher and cognitive scientist Evan Thompson for sharing a project that was accepted today in Cerebral Cortex. I’m sure we can expect to see this one get reported all over as soon as the actual article is released (i’m looking at you Wired).
Here’s the abstract, via Evan Thompson
“How the human brain goes virtual: distinct cortical regions of the person processing-network are involved in self-identification with virtual avatars.”
Cerebral Cortex: Shanti Ganesh, Hein T. van Schie, Floris P. de Lange, Evan Thompson, and Daniel H.J. Wigboldus
“We applied functional neuroimaging to 22 long-term online gamers and 21 non-gaming controls, while they rated personality traits of self, avatar and familiar others. Strikingly, neuroimaging data revealed greater avatar-referential cortical activity in the left inferior parietal lobe, a region associated with self-identification from a third-person perspective. The magnitude of this brain activity correlated positively with the propensity to incorporate external body enhancements into one’s bodily identity. Avatar-referencing furthermore recruited greater activity in the rostral anterior cingulate gyrus, suggesting relatively greater emotional self-involvement with one’s avatar. Post-scanning behavioral data revealed superior recognition memory for avatar relative to others. Interestingly, memory for avatar positively co-varied with play duration.”
I’ll admit, I expected the usual “self x vs other x produces greater MPFC activity”. These findings are a nice extension to similiar work by Schilbach et al. I find it particularly interesting that the avatar-related activity correlated with a tendency to couple with external tools; a bit of an Andy Clark-esque vibe there. I look forward to reading the full article (and watching the media go nuts)!