Background: Virtual Reality is an interactive three-dimensional computer generated environment. Providing a complex and multi-modal environment, VR can be particularly useful for the study of complex cognitive functions and brain disorders. Here we used a VR world to measure the distortion in reality perception in schizophrenia patients. Methods: 43 schizophrenia patients and 29 healthy controls navigated in a VR environment and were asked to detect incoherencies, such as a cat barking or a tree with red leaves. Results: Whereas the healthy participants reliably detected incoherencies in the virtual experience, 88% of the patients failed in this task. The patients group had specific difficulty in the detection of audio-visual incoherencies; this was significantly correlated with the hallucinations score of the PANSS. Conclusions: By measuring the distortion in reality perception in schizophrenia patients, we demonstrated that Virtual Reality can serve as a powerful experimental tool to study complex cognitive processes.
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