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NeuroInitiative Applies Video Game Tech To Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Research

NeuroInitiative, Inc.

While video games may have a reputation as a mind-numbing form of entertainment, one local company is introducing gaming technology as a way to treat debilitating neurological diseases.

NeuroInitiative is a One Spark project that uses video game technology to help find treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It won the top jury award in in the science category at the 2014 festival, bringing in $10,000.

NeuroInitiative founder Dr. Spring Behrouz and lead tech advisor Andy Lee joined First Coast Connect guest host Charlene Shirk to discuss the project.

The NeuroInitiative team has combined efforts to make a virtual neuron, or brain cell, to help scientists discover cures faster and more efficiently.

This throws out the complicated diagrams that scientists normally use to form hypotheses of why cells die in the brain, and replaces it with a virtual model, allowing scientists to see what is happening in real time and change factors in the virtual cell to see what drugs might work best.

“Some of these video games that they have are absolutely phenomenal,” Behrouz said. “So why not use that technology and actually further our understanding of disease and be able to go in there and say ‘what if I applied this treatment, can I actually stop the disease process from happening?’"

"That sort of thing is very powerful and surprisingly not available in the biological field right now.”

Behrouz said that a lot of the science information is already out there.

“Right now we’re just importing all of that information and putting it into a system that actually makes sense so people can go in and manipulate and use it to actually work on those diseases," she said.

Lee said they’re building NeuroInitiative on top of a lot of the models that are already out there and with a slick, easy-to-use interface.

Behrouz said that at One Spark they explained their project best with a prototype of animation.

“I think the goal for us is to get it to the point where people can understand neuroscience,” Behrouz said.

“This is something that we all need to work together on. It’s really our time to actually all work together to invent the future of science.”

WATCH: An informational video describing the work of NeuroInitiative

You can follow WJCT on Twitter @WJCTJax and Lindsey Kilbride @lindskilbride.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.