Exploring and modifying the sense of time in virtual environments (VIRTUALTIMES)

Our sense of time is a shared human experience that includes the dimensions of passage of time (feeling of time passing by) and structure of time (of serial order of events).

Both the sense of passage and structure of time can be disturbed and changed for people living with psychopathological conditions. For example, disturbances of time are reported by patients with depressive disorders, schizophrenia, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

This gives rise to a broad range of psychopathological symptoms, such as the feeling of being “stuck in time”, or that time “stands still”, asynchronies in temporal order and feelings of emptiness and disembodiment. Virtual Reality can be used to modify time experience if natural events speed up or slow down. For example, it has been shown that the velocity of the movement of a virtual sun had an influence on time judgment.

On this basis, we propose the hypotheses that the modification using an “intelligent”, game-based Virtual Reality Technology, called MetaChron, will ameliorate distortions of the sense fo time and core symptoms of psychopathological conditions. We assume that the experience of an accelerated passage of time while playing the VR game can in itself already improve the mood of the users leading to a “flow” state and the experience of losing track of time.

Together, our consortium with expertise in psychology, psychopathology, cognitive neuroscience, engineering, computer science, and philosophy will develop and provide MetaChron, a time-sensitive and “intelligent” Virtual Reality platform, to study, manipulate and treat distortions in sense of time.