VR Headsets Can Reprogram Your Brain


Apple enthusiasts are excited about Apple’s new Vision Pro headset. For $3,500, you can have one, too. Apple claims the Vision Pro is its first “spatial computer” that “seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world, while allowing users to stay present and connected to others”. However, recent research from Stanford University claims that headsets like the Vision Pro can reprogram the human brain.


VR headsets enable experiences in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). VR transports you to a simulated, virtual (fake) world. AR enhances the real world by adding digital elements to it. MR allows you to interact and manipulate both physical and virtual items and environments. The potential applications of VR, AR, and MR include healthcare, film and television, virtual travel, sports, and gaming.

Previous generations of headsets used optical see-through technology, where the content was projected onto a transparent lens that allowed users to see light from the physical world. This would be like wearing regular reading glasses, with a small portion of the lens showing digital content.

However, newer generation headsets, such as Apple’s Vision Pro and Meta’s Quest Pro, use “passthrough” video. This is fundamentally different. These headsets block out light and sensory inputs from the real world. Instead, they use cameras and sensors to capture stereoscopic, high-resolution, low-latency, real-time video of the actual world. They reproduce this artificial world on small screens inside the headset device.

This artificial world is made to look like the real world. In Apple’s MR world, Apple will add floating Apple apps and digital elements to the display. Apple and Meta hope that these simulated worlds will be so compelling that you will want to spend all day in them.

The Problems

These newer generation passthrough video headsets sound great, but long-term use can cause problems both during and after use by reprogramming the human brain. The Stanford researchers wore Vision Pros and Quests headsets around the campus for a few weeks.


The researchers experienced video distortion. Stationary objects appeared to move regularly, sometimes stretching by about fifteen percent of their actual size. Walls seemed to inflate or deflate. Objects placed very close to a user’s face became oversized. When objects moved, or people rode by on bicycles, they could disappear or teleport from one location to another.

Distance Estimation

The researchers struggled to judge distances, especially during spatial tasks such as catching a ball and placing pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Trying to understand the position of moving people, such as navigating through crowds, was difficult. Eating was especially difficult. Even pushing an elevator button was a struggle.

Simulator Sickness

Researchers experienced “simulator sickness” with symptoms including eye strain, nausea, dizziness, and headaches.

Social Presence

Participants who wore the headset during social interaction reported feeling significantly less connected to their partners than participants who did not wear the headset. Social absence was common. People in the real world just felt less real. Especially for strangers, people appeared distant and blended into the background.

The longer the researcher wore the headsets, the longer these symptoms stayed after removing the headsets.

Bottom Line

Long-term use of these new passthrough video headsets may result in a rewiring of the human brain. It could change the way we view the world and other people in society.

The Stanford researchers concluded that “the passthrough experience can inspire awe and lends itself to many applications, but will also likely cause visual aftereffects, lapses in judgments of distance, induce simulator sickness, and interfere with social connection.”

Personally, I prefer to keep Apple and Meta away from reprogramming my brain. However, if you do get one of these newer generation passthrough video headsets, I suggest limiting your use of them.

1 thought on “VR Headsets Can Reprogram Your Brain”

  1. I recently read many users of the Apple VR headsets are returning them complaining about discomfort when wearing them.
    Whilst I dont know much about the headset’s ability to “re-program one’s brain”, I’m fairly confident that anyone silly enough to shell out $3500 USD on something of very dubious benefit just because it has a little Apple logo on it seriously is in need of their “head being read” !

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