We all rely on our senses to convey veridical information about the world around us, which we call “Reality”. However, distortions of reality in the form of hallucinations or illusions originating from neurological, psychiatric, pharmacological or psychological origins are prevalent. Thus, the sense of reality which is the ability to discriminate between true and false perceptions of the world, is a central criterion for neurological and psychiatric health. Despite the critical role of the sense of reality in our daily life, little is known about how this is formed in the mind and brain. This project proposes novel theoretical and technological frameworks to uncover the phenomenological, computational and neural processes underlying the Sense of Reality (SoR). The proposed experiments employ a specialized virtual reality environment allowing precise and controlled manipulations of visual reality across different domains (AliceVR). Using this VR platform, we will first test the impact of parametrically manipulating visual reality on judgments of reality in order to build a phenomenological and computational model of SoR (WP1). We will then investigate the neural mechanisms underlying SoR by combining our VR paradigm with high resolution fMRI (WP2). Finally, WP3 will investigate conditions of altered SoR, either of psychiatric origin or pharmacological origin. Here, we will empirically test SoR under conditions of altered reality processing in schizophrenia patients with hallucinations and in a pharmacological model through administration of ketamine in healthy participants. This ambitious project will thus reveal how humans discriminate reality at the phenomenological, cognitive and neural levels. The results will have important implications not only in defining a neurocognitive model of reality in healthy and clinical populations, but also shedding new light upon the fundamental philosophical question of “how do we know what is real?”.
Fields of science
Call for proposal
See other projects for this call