My initial interest in brain science was sparked by a simple question – how is it possible that each night people experience internal hallucinations more widely known as dreams and how can this be a completely normal part of our life?
One psychology masters degree later it became clear that this question calls for far more complicated approaches than neuroscience currently has to offer. Plus dreams are really difficult to catch in the lab, let alone study. This has led me to a complete opposite research direction – how is it even possible that in the silence and darkness of the skull our brain can experience everyday external reality?
Therefore I’m a PhD student at the University of Tartu institute of computer science, researching the algorithmic underpinnings of the brain. The solution to this question has three key elements: experimental psychology, computational neuroscience & virtual reality.
Besides studying and teaching I try my best to share my knowledge and realizations through public talks, trainings, consulting and articles.
PS – Why “Mad”, you might ask? Because the world is in dire need of more mad scientist!
My main interest in brain science revolves around consciousness in its many forms. My research topics have included sleep, lucid dreams, attention, neural correlates of consciousness & computational neuroscience. In general I find that our brains are amazing and I’ve tried to communicate this also to the wider audiences.
I’ve published a popular dream science blog in estonian Oneirofiil (currently on hold) and written some opinion articles for various outlets.
I’m also one of the founders of Psychobus –
a project to popularize scientific psychology and bring it closer to peoples everyday lives through interactive experiments and explanations. For this work we were awarded the national recognition in 2014.
My main academic position is currently at the University of Tartu institute of computer science Computer Graphics and Virtual Reality Lab, where I do my PhD studies and supervise students. For a list of scientific publications scroll to the end of the page.
Since 2013 I’ve been active in all things Virtual Reality, be it as a researcher, developer or evangelist. Like many others, I see VR as a technological leap that has huge potential to change how we live our lives.
I’m a co-founder and organizer of the estonian VR community EEVR.
I’m heavily involved in the biggest and most immersive local VR arcade Futuruum.
I’ve directly worked with collectives such as Virtual Heritage, VR Lab OÜ, SurfaceLabs, Level1, HITSA, DIGIX & Tuleviku Tehnoloogiate SA.
Software development projects (Unity3D / Unreal Engine):
2018 – GameDevDays in Tallinn
2017 – GameDevDays in Tallinn
2017 – European VR Days in Amsterdam
2016 – European VR Days in Amsterdam
2016 – VECTOR VR workshop in Tübingen
2015 – IEEE VR conference in Arles
Who am I as a person? Fuzzy question, that has an empirical answer (according to Clifton StrengthsFinder‘). I’m someone who is…
- Constantly learning new knowledge and skills.
- Generating original ideas and seeing things from a different perspective.
- Keeping it cool and avoiding unnecessary conflict
- Setting a goal and following through
- Always looking to the future, to make sustainable decisions.
What occupies my free time:
I’m a fan of informative e-mails: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anonymous comments can be sent right here:
Appendix: Measurable contribution to science so far:
- Toolbox for creating different psychological experiments in VR:
Vasser, M., Kängsepp, M., Magomedkerimov, M., Kilvits, K., Stafinjak, V., Kivisik, T., Vicente, R., & Aru, J. (2017). VREX: an open-source toolbox for creating 3D virtual reality experiments. BMC Psychology. DOI: 10.1186/s40359-017-0173-4
- A new paradigm for studying attention in the light of predictive coding theories. Basically we turned people invisible with the help of VR:
Laak, K-J., Vasser, M., Uibopuu, O J., Aru, J. (2017). Attention is withdrawn from the area of the visual field where the own hand is currently moving. Neurosci Conscious 2017; 3 (1): niw025. doi: 10.1093/nc/niw025
- Something for the mad scientists – what happens when you give people 8 hands?
Kulu, S., Vasser, M., Zafra, R. V., Aru, J. (2016). The Human Octopus: controlling supernumerary hands with the help of virtual reality. bioRxiv; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/056812
- A new take on the classical change blindness experiment, now in 3D:
Vasser, M., Kängsepp, M., & Aru, J. (2015). Change Blindness in 3D Virtual Reality. BioRxiv, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/025817
- Investigated the phenomena of communication breakdown between different brain areas in sleep. Used fancy tech, such as brain scans, EEG and magnetic stimulation.
Vasser, M., Aru, J., & Bachmann, T. (2014). Comparison of transcranial magnetic stimulation evoked electroencephalography potentials between waking and non-rapid eye movement sleep states. Journal of sleep research, vol. 23, pp. 255-255