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Cultivating virtual embodiment using non-invasive brain stimulation

Virtual embodiment (VE) sense of embodiment is the feeling of one’s own body in relation to its environment. It is related to a sense of self and is considered as the starting point of having self-identity. Embodiment is critical in Virtual Reality (VR) as it creates an immersive experience which is important when adopting VR to alter behaviour or perception of one’s self.

Virtual embodiment influences the following:

  • sense of ownership which influences social perception or modulate pain perception,
  • motor performance,
  • threat evoked skin conductance responses or memory processes influence spatial perception and orientation,
  • perceived size and location of objects in the virtual world.

While there is much research on virtual embodiment, it is far from fully understood. Research into fully understanding the neural mechanisms associated with embodiment are yet to be investigated. Thus, this is the aim of this research.

Students will be expected to undertake the design of a Virtual Reality environment in which a virtual agent would navigate. Students will also be expected to explore the different ways of improving virtual embodiment using low level in an attempt to understand VE and explore cortical excitation.

This could be with the use of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and electroencephalogram (EEG).

A master’s degree is not required by could be an advantage due to the multidisciplinary nature of the project. Students that apply should have programming skills (C#, Java, Python and/or JavaScript).

References

  • Matamala-Gomez, M., Donegan, T., Bottiroli, S., Sandrini, G., Sanchez-Vives, M.V. and Tassorelli, C., 2019. Immersive virtual reality and virtual embodiment for pain relief. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, p.279.
  • Škola, F. and Liarokapis, F., 2021. Study of full-body virtual embodiment using noninvasive brain stimulation and imaging. International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, 37(12), pp.1116-1129.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

Meet the Supervisor(s)


Monica Pereira - Monica completed her undergraduate degree at London Metropolitan University and was awarded the British Psychology Society Undergraduate Award. Monica then went on to study clinical neuroscience at University College London and had a particular interest in brain injury and electrical brain stimulation. Her journey to becoming a chartered psychologist was finalised when she went on to complete a PhD at Brunel University London in Affective Computing. Monica began her academic career in the Psychology Department at London Metropolitan University, University of Westminster and Birkbeck University. Now, Monica is a full-time lecturer in the Computer Science Department at Brunel University London and is a Chartered Cyberpsychologist. Monica is also involved in several external academic service activities.

Nadine Aburumman - Nadine is a lecturer at the Computer Science Department, and a member of the Intelligent Data Analysis (IDA), the Interactive Multimedia System (IMS) and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research groups. She is doing research in computer graphics, physics-based animation, real-time physics, skinning, secondary motions, cloth simulation and fluid simulation. She has focused her career both on computer science and digital arts. The ultimate goal of her research is to improve the quality of 3D animated movies, video games and VR/AR/XR through physically based simulations of virtual characters, cloth, soft bodies, fluids and rigid bodies. Towards this goal, she intends to advance computer games and computer animation on various levels, mainly through efficient physics-based algorithms, skeletal based deformation, and machine learning.

Related Research Group(s)

Human Computer Interaction

Human Computer Interaction - Investigating ways in which humans and computers can interact through intuitive interface design, understanding of human factors and multimedia.

Interactive Multimedia Systems

Interactive Multimedia Systems - Building sensor and media-rich, cross-layer, inclusive e-systems, with an interest in human-machine interaction, sensorial-based interfaces, data visualisation and multimedia.