Brain visualization in Neuroeconomics course

Scott Huettel, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Co-Director, Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, School of Medicine
Michael Platt, Associate Professor of Neurobiology, Co-Director, Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, School of Medicine

Project descriptionbrain

The course NEUROBIO95FCS.01 covered the structural and functional organization of the brain, strengths and limitations of techniques in neuroscience, how concepts from economics are being introduced into neuroscience, and how results from neuroscience are changing economics models. Neuroanatomy was taught using a novel approach. First, instructors lectured using two-dimensional graphics. Then, students manipulated brain models in small-group workshops. Finally, the students were led on a “guided tour” of neuroanatomy, in a three-dimensional (virtual) brain models within the Duke immersive visualization environment (DIVE). Students walked through realistic, high-resolution brains with their instructor. This allowed them to learn how different brain parts are organized spatially. They later returned to the DIVE to practice in small groups without their instructor.

We know that students did learn the required neuroanatomy because of their exceptional performance on their mid-term neuroanatomy exam. Our students all completed practical exams in the DIVE, and both instructors were impressed with their facility with the neuroanatomy. We also gave a very challenging, graduate-level written examination. With only 2-3 exceptions in a class of 16, the students’ performance was outstanding. Their knowledge of neuroanatomy – as estimated from the performance on the test – was roughly equivalent to that of graduate students in the cognitive neuroscience program.

This project was presented at the 2007 Center for Instructional Technology Showcase on “Helping Students Visualize Science in Three Dimensions Using Virtual Reality

Project start date: May 26, 2006
Funding awarded: $5,000