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University and Adventium Enterprises developing mobile application for teaching neuroscience

1graphic image.jpgMichael Michlin, research associate and associate director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, is the external evaluator of an intriguing project to develop iNeuron™, an interactive game-like approach to teaching neuroscience and mental health at the classroom level and beyond.

For more than a decade, the University has been promoting neuroscience education in K-12 schools through its Brain Awareness and BrainU programs. Dr. Janet Dubinsky (Department of Neuroscience), BrainU director, is an internationally recognized neuroscientist and leader in neuroscience education. BrainU (brainu.org) provides professional development resources and materials for K-12 science teachers interested in understanding the brain and its relevance to education.

Dubinsky is co-lead of the iNeuron project and head of the University team, including Dubinsky, Michlin, and Dr. Selcen Guzey (Educational Technology Integration), Department of Curriculum and Instruction. The other half of the partnership is Adventium Enterprises, a Minneapolis-based software research and development company (adventiumlabs.com). Dr. Martin Michalowski, Senior Research Scientist, is the iNeuron program director for Adventium.

iNeuron will be a mobile framework that combines development of flexible, multimodal software hosted on multiple, interactive hand-held devices with centralized management and coordination that integrates classroom level and distributed learning environments. It will use an immersive story-based set of neuroscience challenges teaching key concepts as students connect model neurons (one or more of which will be represented on handheld electronic devices such as the iPod Touch, iPad, and iPhone) into functional circuits. Thus iNeuron will integrate nervous system function with engineering, technology and mathematics concepts while providing an engaging, hands-on, problem-solving learning environment using the mobile computing devices.

iNeuron is expected to increase K-12 student and general public understanding of normal nervous system functions as well as drug interactions, and mental and neurological disorders. It will support federal goals for neuroscience education and numerous states' standards.

The iNeuron project is supported by a National Institutes of Health's Small Business Innovation Research grant to Adventium Enterprises. Over the years, Dr. Dubinsky's BrainU efforts have been supported by grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Pre-College Education Program for Biomedical Research Institutions, the Minnesota Eisenhower Professional Development program, the National Center for Research Resources' Science Education Partnership Awards, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse's Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Awards.

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