Project NEURON has received funding to develop a computer game called BrainCASE: The Golden Hour. If successful, additional BrainCASE (Computer Aided Student Exploration) games will be developed. The current game focuses on traumatic brain injury and aligns with a Project NEURON unit focused on the same topic titled “Why dread a bump on the head?”
The game will provide a platform for students to learn key concepts in the scientific and medical professions in non-traditional ways. Although the game can be used in the classroom to complement its corresponding unit, the game is also meant to be entertaining.
“All of our curriculum materials link to neuroscientists here on campus and we’re hoping that we can build more games that link to their work,” said Barbara Hug, clinical assistant professor in Curriculum and Instruction and principal investigator for Project NEURON.
Students who play the game act as a “super” medical student who is asked to be part of a team taking care of an individual with a head injury. The “medical student” is responsible for different aspects of patient care. As the medical student/game player works through the game, they learn about the patient’s condition and care, including the underlying neuroscience.
“Although this in not a ‘real world’ situation, as the (role-playing) medical student wouldn’t be asked to identify the brain injury or be part of the surgical team, we think that game players will get pulled into the game,” Hug said.
Students are asked to identify the type of brain injury that the patient suffered by looking at a CT scan of the brain. They also learn about how the specific brain injury is diagnosed and treated. The game is designed for middle and high school students; however, Hug said the game is suitable for anyone interested in the topic. Once completed, the game will be posted to Project NEURON’s Web site (http://neuron.illinois.edu/).
Project NEURON developed the idea for the video game based on research findings that suggest the use of serious video games that tie into educational and curricular goals require players to actively process information and act on that information, which creates a valuable and engaging learning experience. The game aims to provide an interactive computer environment where players investigate, learn, and reinforce their knowledge about traumatic brain injuries and basic neuroscience concepts.
Project NEURON (Novel Education for Understanding Research on Neuroscience) and the new BrainCASE project are funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the Science Education Partnership Awards program from the National Center for Research Resources.
Hug is quick to point out other essential game “players” on this project: co-investigators Donna Korol and George Reese, as well as graduate and undergraduate students who are helping to develop the game.