Online lecture: Embodiment in Virtual Reality and applications to reduce gender violence

The Observatory on Artificial Intelligence and New Technologies and Equality Unit Online

Immersive virtual reality (VR) offers the unique possibility of experiencing a variety of situations from a different perspective, in a safe and controlled environment. As such, it is a tool with great potential for the study of human behaviour and its underlying brain and psychological mechanisms.

In that context, the VR per GENERE (Virtual Reality Prevention of Gender-Violence in Europe based on Neuroscience of Embodiment, Perspective and Empathy) aims at reducing intimate partner violence (IPV) through the deployment of virtual reality prevention and rehabilitation tools.

In this talk, we will first introduce the key concepts of immersive virtual reality. Then, we will present different scientific studies undertaken in our research lab and as part of the VR per Genere project, demonstrating that immersion in virtual reality allows us to modify empathetic skills, but also behaviour and attitudes among domestic violence perpetrators and the general population.

Throughout the talk, we will show participants the VR reality material used in our project and will facilitate a discussion with participants on the different aspects involved in using VR for research, prevention and rehabilitation purposes.


Mavi Sanchez-vives. MD, holder of a PhD in neuroscience, she is ICREA research professor at the Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer where she is head of the Systems Neuroscience group. She is also co-director of the Event Lab (Experimental Virtual Environments in Neuroscience and Technology) and an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Basic Psychology, at the University of Barcelona. She is interested in the neuronal and network properties determining brain emergent activity, in neurotechnology, neuromodulation and on the basis of consciousness. She also investigates the use of virtual reality in neuroscience and its applications.

Tania Johnston. A clinical psychologist, and holder of a PhD in clinical and health psychology, she is a post-doctoral researcher on the VR per GENERE project. After working for 5 years in a psychiatric and forensic hospital in France, she completed a master's degree in research into behaviour and cognition at the University of Barcelona, and completed her master’s dissertation on the use of embodiment to modify cognitive distortions at Event Lab (Experimental Virtual Environments in Neuroscience and Technology). She then completed her PhD thesis on the use of virtual reality for the Assessment, Prevention and Rehabilitation Of Intimate Partner Violence, under the supervision of Mavi Sanchez-Vives and Mel Slater. In general terms,  she is interested in the use of virtual reality to modify cognition, emotions and behaviour, in the field of violence as well as in the psychotherapy field.

Nicolas Barnes. A forensic psychologist, coordinator of gender violence programmes in the Justice Department for Catalonia, and a pre-doctoral researcher in the VR per GENERE project. He has worked as a forensic psychologist as part of the Criminal Technical Assessment Team of Tarragona (Department of Justice) for more than 10 years, carrying out expert reports on victims who were minors, women and other particularly vulnerable members of the population. Currently, he is also responsible for the Care Service for Men in Tarragona City Council.

The session will be held in English and it will be moderated by Dr Gabriel Fernández Borsot, director of OIANT and lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities at UIC Barcelona.

You can attend the lecture online by clicking here.

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