Virtual Reality Sickness Reduces Attention During Immersive Experiences

Katherine J. Mimnaugh, Evan G. Center, Markku Suomalainen, Israel Becerra, Eliezer Lozano, Rafael Murrieta-Cid, Timo Ojala, Steven M. Lavalle, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we show that Virtual Reality (VR) sickness is associated with a reduction in attention, which was detected with the P3b Event-Related Potential (ERP) component from electroencephalography (EEG) measurements collected in a dual-task paradigm. We hypothesized that sickness symptoms such as nausea, eyestrain, and fatigue would reduce the users' capacity to pay attention to tasks completed in a virtual environment, and that this reduction in attention would be dynamically reflected in a decrease of the P3b amplitude while VR sickness was experienced. In a user study, participants were taken on a tour through a museum in VR along paths with varying amounts of rotation, shown previously to cause different levels of VR sickness. While paying attention to the virtual museum (the primary task), participants were asked to silently count tones of a different frequency (the secondary task). Control measurements for comparison against the VR sickness conditions were taken when the users were not wearing the Head-Mounted Display (HMD) and while they were immersed in VR but not moving through the environment. This exploratory study shows, across multiple analyses, that the effect mean amplitude of the P3b collected during the task is associated with both sickness severity measured after the task with a questionnaire (SSQ) and with the number of counting errors on the secondary task. Thus, VR sickness may impair attention and task performance, and these changes in attention can be tracked with ERP measures as they happen, without asking participants to assess their sickness symptoms in the moment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4394-4404
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023


  • Attention
  • Cybersickness
  • Virtual Reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Signal Processing
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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