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Visual technology enables brain to learn in new ways
Date:3/21/2008

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. -- New technology at Tufts University's Center for Scientific Visualization is enabling researchers to translate the most abstract, complex scientific concepts into clearer, more precise 3-dimensional images than conventional visualization systems can create.

Funded by a $350,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Tufts' new 14-foot by 8-foot visualization display offers a combination of advanced features found nowhere else in New England and in only a few other installations in the country. Its application will further Tufts' research and educational programs in diverse disciplines, from mathematics and physics to human factors engineering, and even drama and dance.

Brain's Untapped Capacity for Visuals

"Users will be able to manipulate, simulate, touch and literally immerse themselves in data in a way they never have been able to before," said Amelia Tynan, vice president and chief information officer and co-principal investigator on the grant.

Visualization is built on the age-old premise -- borne out by modern cognitive science -- that pictures say as much as, or even more than, words.

The human brain has a powerful, often underutilized capacity to process visuals, noted Robert Jacob, computer science professor and co-principal investigator on the project. A large portion of the brain processes visuals, and visualization technology puts that ability to work. "The brain absorbs a lot more information when it's presented in pictures rather than in stacks of data from a computer," Jacob said. This, he says, enables researchers and students to recognize things more quickly and also develop insights about what's going on with the data.

Unusual Combination of Technologies

While visualization is widely used in science, Tufts' "VisWall" offers unusually robust capabilities by combining advanced features not typically found together.

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Contact: Alex Reid
alexander.reid@tufts.edu
617-627-4173
Tufts University
Source:Eurekalert

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