Use virtual reality to help students understand complex brain systems

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, August 2, 2021: Researchers at the NYU Abu Dhabi Neuroimaging Center (NYUAD) and the Wisconsin-Madison Institute for the Discovery of Wisconsin have developed the UW Virtual Brain Project ™, which produces interactive and unique 3D narrative diagrams. to help students learn about the structure and function of perceptual systems in the human brain. A new study that explores how students responded to these lessons on desktop and virtual reality (VR) computers offers new insights into the benefits of virtual reality as an educational tool.

The researchers have led associate professor and director of the NYUAD Neuroimaging Center Bas Rokers and assistant professor of psychology and a senior researcher in the Virtual Environments group at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Karen Schloss. in a new article, UW Virtual Brain Project: An Immersive Approach to Teaching Functional Neuroanatomy in the American Psychological Association’s (APA) journal Translational Issues in Psychological Science. In their experiments, the researchers found that participants showed meaningful content-based learning for both devices, with no significant differences between PC and VR devices for content-based learning outcomes. However, virtual reality far surpassed PC visualization for experiential learning outcomes: VR was, in other words, more enjoyable and easier to use.

“Students are excited about learning in VR,” Rokers said. “However, our findings indicate that students may have similar access to learning about functional neuroanatomy across multiple platforms, meaning that those who do not have access to VR technology are not at a disadvantage. inherent. The power of virtual reality is its ability to transport students to new environments that they might not otherwise explore. But more importantly, virtual reality is not a substitute for real-world interactions with peers and instructors. ”

3D narrated videos are already actively used in classes that include instruction in neuroanatomy at both the University of Wisconsin-Madison and NYUAD.

Video caption: Illustration of the Visual Pathway demonstration in the Virtual Brain Project ™. Our perspective on virtual reality education is that virtual reality is a lens, analogous to a microscope or telescope, through which students experience content that would otherwise be difficult to see. We believe that the future of RV in the classroom is to provide enriched experiences that are integrated within the larger course structure, rather than supplanting traditional education. Just as students do not take whole classes with microscopes or telescopes connected to their face, they do not have to take whole classes with virtual reality headsets. VR acts as a springboard to facilitate discussion and class activities, rather than isolating students from each other and the instructor. Therefore, UW Virtual Brain Project ™ lessons are short (approximately 5 minutes) and can be integrated into regular lessons on neural structure and function. Video courtesy of the UW Virtual Brain Project team ™.

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