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Inhalation is a game studio building a walking simulator named Toy (working title). Toy produces three-dimensional digital representations of the subjective dimension of human experience, obtained using objects and locations our audience has a personal relationship with.

The walking simulator's content creation process is informed by our Mind and Cognition Lab, which is concerned with the research and production of experimental paradigms aimed at developing novel applications for video games.

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Toy (work in progress)

Toy is incrementally producing short-form game loops created using content provided directly by our audience. Toy creates models from these visual contents and offers back to the audience an external representation of their thoughts and their emotional relationship to those objects, locations, and events.

Audience content:

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Product

Re-modelling experience

The contents provided are elaborated with photogrammetry: a measurement technique of physical objects and locations obtained from photos and/or videos. The material is used to create three-dimensional digital models.

These models are then curated in order to become external representations of specific lived or imagined experiences associated with such objects and events that the audience decided to relate to emotionally.

Mind and Cognition Lab

Our research unit develops experimental paradigms exploring a number of questions about mental imagery and meta-awareness to inform Toy. 

We combine neuroimaging techniques with qualitative and quantitative assessments conducted through web-based versions of our experiments.

Mental imagery

Mental imagery is a notion used for describing perceptual processes that are not triggered by corresponding sensory stimulation in a given sense modality.

If we remember how we met a loved one, we sometimes see a visual image of how we first met them and this visual image can be accompanied by intense positive emotions. Similarly, we may vividly remember how it hurt when we were beaten up in the schoolyard and again this tactile image may come with intense negative emotions. 

Meta-awareness

Consider mental imagery to occur whilst driving a car, or whilst swimming. These would amount to instances of perceptual decoupling, that is the capacity to disengage attention from perception: an occurrence that often leads the mind to wander or to be blank even. In the second case, attention calls no perceptual inputs into conscious awareness.​ Mental imagery can be conscious or unconscious. The ability to take explicit note of the current contents of consciousness is known as meta-awareness. 

Cognitive neuroscience

In particular, we are interested in non-propositional meta-awareness, or how we are capable of accessing the content of our mental states without relying on linguistic discourse. Mental imagery and non-linguistic meta-awareness can be explored with the help of non-invasive neuroimaging techniques such as Electroencephalography (EEG), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). These tools can help us understand the mechanisms of both the brain and the mind (with the additional support of techniques for qualitative self-assessment).

Take part in our initial online experiment

The White Maze is an online experiment designed as a first-person Pac-Man copy aimed at learning how individuals subjectively experience their attentional lapses.

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The White Maze, in-game footage

Take part in our research

You can take part now in our studies in one of our partner labs. Why should you participate?  Participating in our studies may be enjoyable for you, and it will help us learn how individuals subjectively experience their attentional lapses.

Please email info@inhalation.dev with subject title "participate".

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In-lab experimental procedure with EEG

Research outputs

Kaufmann et al. 2023. Two Models of Mind Blanking. arxiv 

Abstract

Mind blanking is a mental state in which attention does not bring any perceptual input into conscious awareness. As this state is still largely unexplored, we suggest that a comprehensive understanding of mind blanking can be achieved through a multifaceted approach combining self-assessment methods, neuroimaging, and neuromodulation. In this article, we explain how EEG and TMS could be combined to help determine whether mind blanking is associated with a lack of mental content or a lack of linguistically or conceptually determinable mental content. We also question whether mind blanking occurs spontaneously or intentionally and whether
these two forms are instantiated by the same or different neural correlates.

Kaufmann, A. et al. 2023. "Meta-awareness of attentional lapses in first-person video-game exploration" (in preparation)


Abstract

Attentional lapses, encompassing phenomena such as mind blanking and mind wandering, are integral to understanding the complex dynamics of meta-awareness. However, devising an empirical approach to reliably track these transient mental states remains a challenge. The implementation of video games as cognitive research tools offers a promising avenue for such explorations. The primary objective of this paper is to introduce and evaluate 'The White Maze,’ a novel first-person explorative video game, as an innovative tool for studying attentional lapses and their meta-awareness in a controlled yet engaging environment. Importantly, this experiment was conducted in two versions, English and Japanese, making it a cross-linguistic and cross-cultural study as well. We aim to demonstrate the efficacy of this approach in amalgamating quantitative behavioural data with qualitative self-reports, while also examining potential cultural and linguistic influences on attentional lapses and their awareness.

Partner Institutions

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