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Virtual reality machine

By on March 11, 2015
Picture courtesy of twobee and

Wouldn’t it be cool if you had a virtual-reality machine? If you’re a gamer then your computer creates virtual worlds for you when you play, perhaps driving your virtual car around the virtual streets of virtual Tokyo, or shooting up virtual aliens with your virtual ray-gun.

In fact, you do have a virtual-reality machine, is called your imagination! At the wonderful thing about this machine is that you can use it to reprogram your brain. If you have a good imagination, and use it to imagine how you want the world to be, how you want any particular event to turn out, you will be programming your unconscious mind for success.

It is often said within the hypnosis and NLP world that the unconscious mind can’t tell the difference between reality and a intensely imagined fantasy. Therefore it is easy to see why using your imagination in this way can be so effective, after all if you have an actual memory of being successful, you would be more likely to be successful in the future, would you not? So a strongly imagined memory can have the same effect, leading you to be more successful in the future.

While that’s true that the unconscious mind can’t tell the difference between reality and something that is simply strongly imagined, the trick is making sure that your fantasy is intensely imagined enough to fool the unconscious mind. And it turns out that’s not as easy as it sounds. Researchers from UCLA have shown that the hippocampus of rats react very differently to virtual reality worlds, than to actual physical reality. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is responsible for laying down long-term memories, so if the hippocampus is reacting differently to virtual reality then it’s unlikely that virtual reality will give you the right sort of ‘memory’ or reference experience to help you in the future. Not only did the rat’s hippocampus fire off differently in virtual reality environments, but half of the cells in the hippocampus didn’t even bother firing at all!

The researchers believe that the reason the virtual reality world was not able to spark the interest of the rat’s hippocampus was because there is much more to navigating within and environments than simply ‘seeing a picture’. The brain also navigates through the other senses, such as how far the brain believes you have moved, the location of sounds, smells and scents, and so on. By limiting itself to the visual sense, the virtual reality machine failed to fool the rat’s hippocampus, the rat’s brain.

The lesson for hypnotists, coaches and other change workers is that it may not be sufficient to simply ask your client to ‘imagine’. It may be absolutely necessary to make sure your client is using all their senses within any sort of guided visualization, future pacing, and similar uses of the imagination within change work. While good coaches will probably already do this, it’s great to have the scientific research to back you up!

Here’s an article from neurosciencenews describing the research:


Brains Reaction to Virtual Reality Should Prompt Further Study | Neuroscience News Research Articles

UCLA neurophysicists have found that space-mapping neurons in the brain react differently to virtual reality than they do to real-world environments. Their findings could be significant for people who use virtual reality for gaming, military, commercial, scientific or other purposes. Since so many people are using virtual reality, it is important to understand why there are such big differences. The study was published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Brains Reaction to Virtual Reality Should Prompt Further Study | Neuroscience News Research Articles

Picture courtesy of twobee and

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