20.09.17

Interactive, 3D brain images support neuroscience teaching

Vancouver’s University of British Columbia (UBC) has joined forces with Microsoft to use its HoloLens product to visualise the brain through a 3D, interactive image.

Parker Holman, a PhD candidate in neuroscience at UBC, said: “The first time I put on the HoloLens, I was blown away by what I saw.

“To be able to walk around and fully explore a detailed hologram of the brain from every angle is an experience that you can’t quite put into words.”

To achieve the effect, UBC worked with a group of interns from the Microsoft Garage to develop an app for HoloLens. The app, called the Holographic Brain Project, will be used as an interactive teaching tool to guide students through a virtual exploration of the brain.

Dr Claudia Krebs, a professor of anatomy in UBC’s faculty of medicine, said: “There’s no denying that the human brain is extremely complicated and that makes neuroanatomy difficult to learn and teach. We’re very excited to be introducing the world of mixed reality into the classroom.”

Holman and Krebs worked together with postdoctoral fellow Tamara Bodnar to help inform the development of the Holographic Brain Project application at Microsoft. The app allows for the overlay of 2D MRI scans on corresponding sections of the brain and the developers believe it could be a game changer for neuroanatomy instruction at the university.

“As a young student studying neuroanatomy, I only had two-dimensional images in textbooks,” said Bodnar. “It was difficult to get a true understanding of the spatial relationships that existed.”

Krebs, Holman and Bodnar will now undertake a research study to assess the educational value of the Holographic Brain Project in neuroanatomy education. The application will be used in conjunction with other educational resources at UBC to help make neuroanatomy more approachable.

“Microsoft’s HoloLens is another great tool for our teaching toolkit,” said Krebs.

According to Gail Murphy, vice-president, research and innovation at UBC, the faculty of medicine’s Holographic Brain Project represents the first of many HoloLens applications that will enhance education and research underway at the university. Last year, UBC received 10 Microsoft HoloLens devices, donated by Microsoft.

“UBC is a growing innovation hub and we’re eager to explore how new partnerships and technology can help us continue to advance and transform our education and research space and methods,” said Murphy.