VirtHuLab - Virtual Human Dynamics Laboratory

Since 2008, thanks to an international scientific network made up of psychologists, physicists, engineers and experts from other disciplines, VirtHuLab deals with the study and modeling of human dynamics (individual and collective) in a virtual environment and investigates the use of new technologies through complex and advanced statistical and scientific tools. Particular attention is given to the psychosocial and neurocognitive aspects of these dynamics.

On the one hand, the online environment is configured as a new "social setting", characterized by the emergence of new contexts (eg, social networks, virtual communities, e-learning, cyber-therapies, self-help groups) of central interest for disciplines such as social, environmental, and developmental psychology. On the other hand, it represents a potential still to be studied both for the horizons related to psychosocial intervention, and for those related to neuropsychology, clinical psychology (e.g., cyber-therapies) and the more general context linked to the ergonomics of virtual environments.


Aims and scopes:

VirtHuLab aims can be summarized along three hierarchically dependent dimensions.

The first cultural purpose of the laboratory is linked to the conduction of scientific research concerning the study of perceptual dynamics (eg, through devices capable of detecting signals such as EEG, GSR, Eyetracking, Reaction Times), cognitive (eg, longitudinal and adaptive assessment aimed at both psychological and operational dimensions such as reaction times), behavioral and psychosocial human typical of virtual environments. The first purpose determines both the import and validation of fundamental theories of psychology and neuroscience, and possibly the isolation and description of new experimental evidence of theoretical interest.

The second purpose is to encapsulate and condense the results of fundamental research typical of the first purpose, in a second level research activity, through a multidisciplinary approach (eg, with disciplines such as sociophysics, biomedical engineering, information, nursing and biomedical sciences) to the development of theoretical models and experimental applications "located" in the various contexts of interest (eg, adaptive and longitudinal psychological and neuropsychological assessment and assessment, development of systems for social training and behavioral change, support systems for psychotherapies or group psychotherapeutic approaches, numerical simulations of psychosocial scenarios of interest).

The third purpose is to contribute to the creation of a new figure, that of the psychologist of virtual environments, dedicated to the design and implementation of appropriately parameterized virtual settings dedicated to both measurement (assessment) and intervention, in every psychological area ( ie, from experimental and clinical psychology, to dynamic and context psychology).



VirtHuLab objectives are achieved through the following main activities:

  • Basic scientific research concerning the psycho and neurophysiology of virtual experience.
  • Basic scientific research concerning the fundamental cognitive and psychosocial dynamics of virtual environments (e.g., self-impression, self-development, group decision making and collective intelligence, opinion dynamics).
  • Observational and correlational research through virtual environments, concerning the psychosocial dynamics fundamental to the validation of experimental evidence.
  • Research-intervention in public sector organizations on topics of interest.
  • Activation and maintenance of relationships and forms of collaboration with similar bodies and institutions, both in Italy and abroad, both in the field of scientific research and research-intervention.
  • Participation in tenders for the financing of research projects in the areas of interest.
  • Participation and promotion of conferences, seminars, conferences, workshops, dissemination activities, and public events related to their research activities.


VirtHuLab's previous skills and experiences allow its scholars to evaluate the usability of web devices and platforms, using psychological and neuropsychological models.

Furthermore, VirtHuLab has already successfully implemented strategies capable of improving the perceptual and cognitive ergonomics of the new technologies involving human-machine interactions.

For his research Virthulab also uses neuropsychological tools, such as:

  • PupilCore (Pupillometer): through which it is possible to obtain pupil dilation, blinks, fixation points, etc. from one or both eyes.
  • Neurosky Mindwave Mobile 2: a wireless helmet for electroencephalography, through which it is possible to obtain 8 brain frequencies.
  • eye-tracking devices.


Virthulab has developed algorithms for automatic recognition of facial expressions, virtual environments for psychological and neuropsychological assessment, together with procedures for psychological, neuropsychological rehabilitation, and cybertherapy.

The laboratory is also developing web apps and virtual platforms such as Cardiodiario, in collaboration with the national center for cardiomyopathies, BadiAMO, VARP Ambiente, VARP Migranti, and Virthulab Care.


Joint Laboratory Multisetting Community Action Research: from real to virtual


FORLILPSI Afferent staff:

  1. Andrea Guazzini
  2. Mirko Duradoni
  3. Camilla Matera
  4. Luisa Puddu
  5. Amanda Nerini

Afferent staff from different UNIFI Department:

  1. Francesco Bagnoli
  2. Leonardo Bocchi
  3. Duccio Fanelli
  4. Giorgio Gronchi
  5. Rosapia Lauro-Grotto
  6. Laura Rasero
  7. Stefania Righi
  8. Federico Carpi
  9. Giovanna Pacini
  10. Elisa Guidi
  11. Camillo Donati
  12. Serena Coppolino Perfumi

External staff:

  1. T. Carletti
  2. G. Deffuant
  3. A. Guarino
  4. P. Meringolo
  5. J. Ramasco
  6. Enrico Giampieri
  7. Eyko Yoneki
  8. Mario Paolucci
  9. Daniele Viloni
  10. Francalanci Martina



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