Drugs and the Brain: a Serious Game

Period of Performance: 09/30/2007 - 04/30/2009

$100K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Entertainment Science, Inc.
Durham, NC 27712
Principal Investigator

Abstract

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The Entertainment Science & Virtual Heroes Joint Venture seeks to develop a touring museum exhibit featuring a virtual reality (VR) environment for teaching about the impact of drug abuse on the brain. The exhibit will feature detailed, 3-D graphical models of the brain, animated to depict its activity as it functions naturally or under the influence of drugs of abuse, and with various color-contrast views to illustrate changes in the neurochemistry and structure of the brain (loss of brain mass) induced by various drugs of abuse. The models will be presented on autostereoscopic 3-D displays, which provide the same "virtual reality" visual perception of three dimensionality as "VR goggles," but without the need to wear headset, and viewable on the same monitor by multiple people have the same time. A standard controller will allow visitors to navigate through the model of the brain in 3-dimensional space, viewing brain structures from any angle. Viewers will be able to select brain structures and learn about the specific mental tasks they are thought to perform and how drugs of abuse can affect performance of these tasks. They will also be able to test their own skills at performing these tasks in computer animated versions of the standard psychophysical tasks used by scientists, as well as in engaging 3-D animated mini-games that rely primarily on performance of these tasks, but placing them in a more environmentally realistic context. In Phase I we will develop and evaluate a prototype that features a single drug, methamphetamine. We will recruit 180 museum visitors to view the prototype and complete a brief instrument assessing knowledge gain and their reaction to the exhibit. Some visitors will also be asked to participate in focus groups in which they can share their reactions in a discussion format. In Phase II we will complete the development of the exhibit, adding representative drugs from each class of drugs of abuse to the VR tour, as well as adding traditional (real, non-VR) models and displays to the exhibit. This project will address the National Institute on Drug Abuse's objective that all members of society understand the roles of science, biology, and technology as they relate to neuroscience, behavioral science, and drug abuse and addiction research. In particular, it will address the misunderstanding among many groups about the nature of addiction as of biologically based brain disorder. The proposed exhibit, "Drugs and the Brain: a Serious Game" addresses the public health issue of drug abuse. It seeks to educate the public about the impact of drugs of abuse on the brain and mental functioning. It is hoped this will both teach the public about the science of drug abuse researchand the importance of its continued public support, and enable members of the public to make informed personal decisions when presented with a decision about whether to use a drug of abuse.