Virtual Environment Science Laboratory for Neuroscience

Period of Performance: 07/01/1998 - 04/30/1999


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Interface Technologies Corporation
1840 41ST AVE, SUITE 102
Capitola, CA 95010
Principal Investigator


Virtual environment technology (VET) may help students integrate massive amounts of neuroscience data, and help them understand the complex relationships of brain and behavior underlying mental illness, by creating networked, 3D, multisensory virtual worlds encouraging interactive, constructive, self-directed learning processes. During Phase 1, we will design, construct, and evaluate such a virtual neuroscience laboratory for high school students. This effort will include creating a virtual synapse that students may enter and explore by "shrinking" themselves, and manipulating synaptic activities such as transmitter binding and reuptake. Students can learn more about events in the chemical synapse, actions of antipsychotic drugs, and biological substrates of schizophrenia. The benefits of this simulated environment can be enhanced by allowing partners to explore the synapse in a networked system. During Phase 2, we will further develop the laboratory by creating additional virtual worlds for exploring and learning about neuroscience, conducting further evaluations of educational utility, and designing the system for accessibility by students with disabilities. The potential commercial applications of VET for education and training are vast, and will provide the next generation of interactive learning systems. The team has extensive experience in instructional design, teaching biology, conducting research, and designing and developing virtual environments. PROPOSED COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS: Commercial markets for virtual learning environments exist in education, home learning, business, manufacturing, and military markets. Phase I and II efforts should indicate the practical and commercial feasibility of developing VE technology for educational purposes, improve upon current educational media, improve current methods for interacting with VEs.