BBC News are reporting that Belgian researchers are using a modified version of Duke Nukem 3D in brain imaging studies – unaware that Duke Nukem has been used in brain-scanning experiments since 1998.
The image on the left is from a 1998 paper published in Science by Dr Eleanor Maguire and colleagues. The paper is available as this pdf.
The Maguire study mapped out areas of the brain involved in navigating through space and spatial memory by editing the standard Duke Nukem game to include controlled tasks.
The brain activation can be seen in the hippocampus and caudate nucleus. The location is the LA Meltdown level. Come get some!
A recent study published in PLoS Biology by the same Belgian neuroscientists mentioned by the BBC extended this research by looking at delayed brain activity associated with learning various tasks. This included a spatial navigation task which also used a modified version of the Duke Nukem environment.
After participants had learnt one task, they were asked to wait before completing another. The learning from the first task induced long-term changes in brain activation which could be detected when participants were doing the second unrelated task.
This suggests that learning is an ongoing and evolving brain process, even when you’ve moved on to other things.
Duke Nukem has now featured in a whole raft of brain scanning experiments, often only described as being a ‘virtual environment’.
Link to badly spun BBC News story.
pdf of Maguire and colleagues 1998 paper.
Link to summary of delayed learning paper.
Link to full text of delayed learning paper.