UGA researchers are developing a video game that teaches students about the complex networks in the brain and the nervous system by challenging them to solve puzzles using music, colors and shapes. The project is funded through a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Interactive Science in 3D, or IS3D, the UGA startup company developing the game called Nurbits, will soon test it in Athens and Atlanta schools. The company, based in UGA’s Georgia BioBusiness Center, recently won a National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research grant for $535,000 to develop the game over the next two years. The award will fund a game designer, computer programmer, artists and neuroscience content experts.
“We’ve learned to create entertaining games, and kids learn complex concepts without literally putting the concepts in front of them,” said Tom Robertson, an associate professor of physiology and pharmacology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and CEO of IS3D. “It becomes a conversation piece in class and makes students think about the concepts in relation to the real world.”
During the game, students will first make decisions that help chips on a computer circuit board communicate using attractive colors, shapes and musical sounds to represent electrons that pass between the chips.
As the students progress through the levels of the game, they will learn concepts of neuroscience through success and failure. At higher levels of the game, they control neurons and neurotransmitters and learn about the brain and nervous system. At the most advanced levels, they learn about electrical and chemical disruptions to nerve function, which represent abnormalities that underlie diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression or the ill effects of toxins such as botulinum.