NYUAD researchers demonstrate the effectiveness of 3D VR, a learning tool that helps students understand the complex systems of the brain

According to the study, VR far outperformed the PC display for experiential learning outcomes – in other words, VR was more enjoyable and easier to use.

Researchers at the Neuroimaging Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and the Wisconsin Institute for the Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed the UW Virtual Brain Project ™, which creates unique, interactive 3D narrative diagrams to help students understand Structure and function of perceptual systems in the human brain. A new study examining how students responded to these lessons on desktop PCs and in virtual reality (VR) offers new insights into the benefits of VR as an educational tool.

Under the direction of Associate Professor and Director of the Neuroimaging Center at NYUAD, Bas Rokers and Assistant Professor of Psychology and Principal Investigator in the Virtual Environments Group at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Karen Castle, the researchers did the results of their Work published in a new article, UW Virtual Brain Project: An immersive approach to Teaching Functional Neuroanatomy in the journal Translational Issues in Psychological Science of the American Psychological Association (APA). In their experiments, the researchers found that participants demonstrated significant content-based learning for both devices, with no significant differences between PC and VR devices for content-based learning outcomes. However, VR far surpassed PC viewing to achieve experiential learning outcomes – in other words, VR was more enjoyable and easier to use.

Schoolchildren are enthusiastic about learning in VR. However, our results show that learners can have similar access to learning about functional neuroanatomy across multiple platforms, meaning that those who do not have access to VR technology have no inherent disadvantage. The strength of VR lies in its ability to place learners in new environments that they might not otherwise be able to explore. But above all, VR is no substitute for real interactions with colleagues and lecturers.

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The annotated 3D videos are already being actively used in courses that include neuroanatomy classes at both the University of Wisconsin-Madison and NYUAD.

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About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive humanities and science campus in the Middle East operated by a major American research university overseas. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective humanities, engineering and science curriculum with a world center for advanced research and science that enables its students to thrive in an increasingly interdependent world and to collaborate and advance on the common challenges of humanity to advance. The high-performing students at NYU Abu Dhabi come from more than 115 nations and speak over 115 languages. Together, the NYU campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university that gives faculties and students the opportunity to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of NYU’s numerous study abroad locations on six Continents.

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