Want to Learn About Neuroscience? There's an App for That

Updated: 06/15/2013 11:46 AM KSTP.com By: Josh Rosenthal

Seventeen-year-old Madi Hahn sat at a desk tapping on an iPod.

No, she wasn't tweeting. She wasn't Facebooking either.

The Andover High School senior was playing a game of sorts, but it wasn't your typical game.

Instead, it was the educational app iNeuron, developed in Minneapolis under a National Institute of Health grant. It aims to teach Madi and other high school students neuroscience.

Alicia Moore, a teacher, tested out iNeuron in two of her advanced psychology classes at Blaine High School. She said students not only learned the material better than with a textbook, but they also loved doing it.

"In the beginning, I think for about twenty minutes it was silent," she said with a smile, "but in a magical way."

Martin Michalowski is the technology leader at Andamio Games, a division of the company Adventium Labs, the developer of iNeuron.

In one demonstration of the app, he showed how a biceps contracts. Just like a student using iNeuron, Michalowski tapped the screen and connected the virtual inner neuron to the virtual brain, the motor neuron to the inner neuron, and then everything to the muscle.

So far, the app has been tested at four different metro schools by more than 300 students.

During previous testing, the app was given to schools at no charge. Other educational apps are available to schools, but teachers say it's a real mixed bag as far as finding good ones.

iNeuron developers hope the number of students using the app keeps growing. The company has started a KickStarter website, where supporters of the project can donate.

"There's a real need for it," Michalowski said. "There's a lot of demand, and this doesn't really exist. So the KickStarter was meant to accelerate the process."

If the KickStarter goes as planned, iNeuron could be in U.S. classrooms by the fall.