Brain research is yielding novel insights and detailed understanding of brain circuitry and neurochemistry. Students in medical, psychological, and biological disciplines need an understanding of neurobiology and recent advances to develop their understanding of the brain’s anatomy, functioning, and disease states. However, developing a mental map of the brain’s complex network of structures and neural pathways is challenging. Our 3D brain model provides an immersive and interactive experience in VR that helps students in these disciplines develop a robust understanding of complex spatial relations, connections, and neurochemistry.
We have built an early version of the VR brain exploration experience, allowing the user to navigate within the brain itself. The rendering can be navigated freely, which allows the user to examine the subcomponents of the brain individually. Labels can be enabled in order to teach the names of anatomical structures to gain a deeper understanding of the structures and their positions in this complex organ. Alternatively, the learner can follow lessons in which they learn brain structures involved in particular functions, as well as connections between those structures and the neurotransmitters involved.
Where We’re Going Next
With the basic navigation in place, we want to utilize the VR experience to look at specific medical conditions from a patient perspective. Our first project with a patient education application is Opioid Defense in VR: Building Resiliency to the Challenges of Opioid Addiction, where we will evaluate the simulation experience’s impact on Substance Use Disorder treatment and recovery. In immersive VR, the patient will build an understanding of how addiction impacts their brains, as well as expand their understanding of how skills learned in counseling can change the brain. For example, the experience can show activation of parts of the brain involved in better impulse control and assist them in overcoming the challenges of opioid addiction. This will allow them to build a better understanding of the elements required to overcome their addiction and develop improved confidence in their recovery efforts.
Once the product is completed, we will test the efficacy of the VR experience and utilize data generated from these studies to support a 510k submission in order to seek clearance as a digital therapeutic FDA medical device.