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Travel within an exciting human brain made for you, on the Internet. Play a game within love circuits..and learn how the brain works!
Travel within an exciting human brain made for you, on the Internet.  Learn how the brain works!
Travel within an exciting human brain made for you, on the Internet.  Learn how the brain works!
145 backers pledged $75,006 to help bring this project to life.

About

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The Virtual Giant Walk-Through Brain

$75,006

145

We made it!!  But that doesn't mean we don't have stretch goals.  If we raise more money in the last few hours, we can do more!  More tours, or imagine being able to walk through the brain with a virtual reality headset like Oculus (http://www.oculusvr.com)!  

We want to make a gorgeous, exciting video game, and also tours of the brain, on a website for all curious people, from kids to adults.  

Join two famous scientists on a dramatic journey through the brain. Help others navigate the new brain science. Have a world-wide impact on science-literacy through this Internet series. Learn about yourself, and love.

We're more than halfway there-- 95% funded!  Just a few hours left.  Every dollar pledge counts!  Make your mark-- for brain science and brain games.  You'll have fun with it.

We will develop a highly entertaining, virtual experience. This is a never-before-attempted way to teach about the brain.  It will be fun, and use the talents of artists as well as educators.  This is a science and art collaboration.  Along the way, it will show people how the brain works. 

We will take visitors through the brain's many pathways, factories and circuits-- including those that produce our emotions and thoughts.  There are circuits for memories, vision, taste and touch, our feelings of love, happiness and empathy, even for our drives to get food and water. We want our website visitors to have a good time playing games in the brain…as they learn what makes them tick.  

Sometimes we think of this project as an interactive feature film. 

The project is going to help people understand themselves, and science in general.  Bring a friend, a kid, your family along with you on these tours and enjoy learning together.  We know that all age-groups will benefit from this.  It can even be used in a classroom.  Teachers would appreciate this kind of help for their students to understand neuroanatomy.

Outside of a Giant Walk-Through Brain by David Macaulay
Outside of a Giant Walk-Through Brain by David Macaulay

Quick Summary

We will create journeys through the brain for different types of visitors. There will be the fast-track “Highlights” tour, the longer “I’m Curious” tour, and “The Experts’” tour.  We might start with a bike or sports car tour of the systems underlying romantic love, because romance is our expertise. 

Our website http://www.TheAnatomyOfLove.com gets visitors from every country.  Our motto is Know Thy Brain, Know Thyself, Know Thy Partner-- Better Loving Through Brain Science.  This sister website, the Virtual Giant Walk-Through Brain, expands the "Know Thy Brain" part of our motto.

David Macaulay of the hugely sucessful book series "The Way Things Work" made imaginative, technically correct drawings for a Giant Walk-Through Brain building, back in 1978. Lucy has always used these drawings to teach neuroanatomy. 

You can imagine how excited we are that David has agreed to be a design consultant for this project. Just look at his concept of the outside of the brain (above).  See David's TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/david_macaulay_s_rome_antics.html. It is a charming view of Rome, which is not so easy to navigate, normally!

Look at David's image called “Inside the base of the Brain”—the Grand Atrium where we would meet a visitor.

The Grand Atrium  Entrance Hall    by David Macaulay
The Grand Atrium Entrance Hall by David Macaulay

Equally exciting to us, Company3's New York design group has agreed to do our 3D animations. They will be doing the drawings for the animations.  See their Range Rover Evoque Test Facility reel on their website, as well as their Facebook page: Company 3.  They are, of course, expensive to hire; but they are the experts and the top-of-the-line. And we are determined to do this well (http://www.company3design.com).

Scene from Company3 Design ad for a Range Rover
Scene from Company3 Design ad for a Range Rover

 They have the expertise we need! Just think what they can do with the inside of a brain-- maybe you'll zoom along the inside of a blood vessel in a sports car, dodging red blood cells carrying oxygen to the cortex?

Scene from a Company3 Design Range Rover ad
Scene from a Company3 Design Range Rover ad

We plan to have a game like FreeRider3, one of the most popular games of 2013 (http://www.addictinggames.com). It uses a bicycle to leap up, around and over enchanting virtual landscapes.  We might have a bicycle zoom along curved brain pathways for love and leap across synapses, just like FreeRider3.  Listen to this short video about what we might do with a synapse:

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Our aims are to educate people about the brain so they can understand more about themselves; we also hope to increase the public understanding of brain science.  Backers of this project are likely to be those who want to invest in neuroscience, psychology and education on the Internet, as well as anyone who is curious about who they really are and how their brain works.

As Andrea Miller, our business advisor, said to us, ‘To support this endeavor, you need to find people who care deeply about neuroscience, public education, and human needs.’

Who We Are

We are Lucy Brown, PhD neuroscientist at Einstein College of Medicine, and Helen Fisher, PhD Biological Anthropologist at Rutgers University. We are among the first in the world to study the brain in love, with 15 years of brain scanning research on romantic love, rejection and long-term attachment. Helen’s five books sell worldwide; and her personality questionnaire has now been taken by 13 million people in 40 countries. Lucy has headed the Functional Neuroanatomy Laboratory for Movement Disorders for over 10 years and carried out NIH grant-funded research on neuroanatomical connections in the brain for 30 years.  We have experience with engaging people in science through teaching undergraduate, graduate and medical students; presentations at corporations and science meetings; and Helen has won the Anthropologist in Media award from the American Anthropological Association (2011).  Helen has been on the national and international lecture circuit since l983 discussing the evolution of human sexuality, romantic love, marriage and divorce, gender differences, and the future of men and women in business and family life. During 1994-95 she lectured on college campuses as a Visiting Scholar of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.  We love to teach about exciting ideas and scientific findings.

MORE ABOUT OUR PLANS

We will feature brain basics for audiences as varied as those in high school, or medical school, or curious adults of any educational background. We begin with the brain circuits for romance, attachment and lust, as these are likely to intrigue people of all ages. As Eric Kandel recently wrote in the New York Times, "In years to come, this increased understanding of the physical workings of our brain…will give us new insights into who we are as human beings."

Why will individuals take the brain tour? Because they are curious to learn about themselves--their thoughts, feelings, cravings and motivations--and how the brain works.

What will people learn? 1) Basic neuroanatomy: the lobes and major divisions of the brain; terms, including neuron, glial cell, gyrus and sulcus; and different types of neurons. 2) Basic physiology and pharmacology: what synapses and receptors look like and how they function, as well as the names and locations of the major neurotransmitters, including dopamine and oxytocin. 3) Basic brain functions: the reward/motivation system; the systems for memory, cognition, vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch; and the systems for the basic drives, including hunger and thirst, and voluntary and involuntary movement. 4) The neural origins of some diseases, addictions and disorders.

We plan to make our brain tours beautiful, entertaining, exciting, and memorable. And with our knowledge and the imagination of David Macaluay and Company 3, we think we can.

We are thinking big. For this project to be top-of-the-line we need the best animators and website developers out there.  The entire project will probably cost $500,000. That's why we went to Company 3.  To develop the first version, we need $75,000.

This project is in memory of Robert Muller, PhD, Professor of Physiology at the State University of New York, Downstate.  We will feature his research about the hippocampus.

Our advisers:

Company 3 Design in New York (see them on Facebook: Company 3). http://www.company3design.com

Paul Glimcher, PhD, Professor in Neuroscience, NYU Washington Square http://www.decisionsrus.com

Paco Link, General Manager of Creative Development / Senior Media Producer Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York http://www.pacolink.com

Andrea Miller, MBA Columbia University, CEO YourTango http://www.yourtango.com

Financial considerations:

Lucy and Helen will not use any of the funds for the time they spend developing the project.  Funds will be spent on website and virtual brain model development by established professional companies.

EVEN MORE ABOUT OUR PLANS

Your Avatar begins with:

1. An elevator ride up the internal carotid where they will stop at a bony ridge below the optic chiasm--providing a view of much of the brain from front to back. The view will include the major arteries heading into the temporal lobe and forward to the prefrontal cortex, giving your Avatar a vivid sense of blood flow and how glucose, water and drugs enter the brain. This will be the Grand Atrium or Entrance Hall to many brain tours and rides.

2.    A recommended first tour will lead the Visitor from the bony ridge beside the optic chiasm to the amygdala, an almond shaped factory that helps to generate our strong emotions, including fear, anger and pleasure—traits common to feelings of intense romantic love and many of our other basic emotions.   Here your Avatar can pass through a window to stand on an enlarged neuron (nerve cell), with its many tendrils (axons and dendrites) that connect with nearby neurons to send messages of surprise, fury or joy. The Avatar will be able to run their hands along these huge projections, then jump into a raft that will take them across a gap (the synapse) to dock at a nearby nerve cell.   You will learn how neurons send chemical and electrical signals from one nerve cell to the next—the basic communication system of the brain. 

3.  Nearby will be a sign offering a stroll into the hippocampus (Greek word for seahorse) where aspects of memory reside.  Here the visitor could hold an electrode in a nerve cell and watch the electrochemical “potentials” change as the cell communicates with it’s neighbors about love.   The curious adult Avatar will learn about the development of the hippocampus, specifically how it got squished down into the temporal lobe during evolution.    

4. Taking a small train ride from the hippocampus along the fimbria (a brain pathway), the Avatar will see the hippocampus pick up more and more axons as it gets larger and transforms into the fornix. Next, the train will curve steeply up over the top of the thalamus and take a precipitous downward curve through the septum, then speed along past the anterior commissure into the hypothalamus and finally on to the mammillary bodies. Seat belt required!  This ride gives the Avatar a sense of the three dimensional organization of the brain and the many brain regions that become active when we love.

Climb into the brain and see the view with us!
Climb into the brain and see the view with us!

5.  From here, your Avatar can choose to continue along in the Limbic System, the network of pathways that give many of the emotional sensations that accompany intense romantic passion, as well as myriad other feelings.  This will involve more hair-raising curves and sitting upside down in the roller coaster.

Another choice will be to climb a ladder through a blood vessel from the Entrance Hall to the nucleus accumbens where the Avatar will walk past green pools of dopamine and see large disks of oxytocin and dopamine receptors which play a central role in our feelings of wanting, seeking, craving; the desire to attach, and settle down, forming a pair-bond with a partner. Standing in the nucleus accumbens, the Avatar will learn about love addictions—as well as all the other addictions this nucleus generates.

Or, from the entrance hall, the Visitor can take an escalator to the prefrontal cortex,the newest part of the brain (behind your forehead) to learn about the centers where we make decisions and evaluate rewards; here we also process our myriad thoughts about a beloved.

6. You can take an escalator from the optic chiasm into and through the optic nerve to whiz into the visual cortex at the back of the brain.This junket will provide basic information about vision.Here the curious adult and 12-yr-old Avatar can rest on an armchair-shaped cell to watch a movie about some of the first brain cell recordings ever made, in the visual cortex.

7. From the lateral ventricle (a stop on the fornix ride), the Avatar can slide down the internal capsule to the ventral tegmental area where they can watch cells manufacture dopamine—a primary substance that gives the lover focus, energy, and motivation.Nearby, the Avatar can look into the windows of factories that give us the urge to seek food and water too.The Visitor can then go on to the cerebellum--where voluntary movements get help to be coordinated, helping lovers to hug each other.

8.  There has to be a place to relax: that will be at the Caudate Cafe overlooking the giant gorge of the left lateral ventricle and the body of the caudate nucleus. The major input and output tracts of the caudatenucleus and basal ganglia (some major highways of romantic love) will be listed on the menu.Here, one will also be offered various walks through forests of neurons to visit places where feelings of intense romantic love are processed.

Caudate Cafe  by David Macaulay
Caudate Cafe by David Macaulay

9.  Or one can join a group of other Visitors to hunt for hidden treasures (dopamine), or play hide-and-seek in the brain’s secret passageways. Beginners are not offered this option, as the brain’s Lost & Found (located in the cortex) can retrieve only so many Visitors before closing time…when the Visitor can see the brain go to sleep.

10.  Perhaps the most popular tour will be the excursion to brain regions linked with happiness in love, as Lucy and Helen explain how the brain keeps love alive in long term partnerships.

Credits: We thank Zana Bochar for editing the video, and Leslie Converse for helping us light and shoot the video.  Thanks also to Paul Glimcher, Ralph Brown, Helena Blumen and Nancy Davis for their helpful suggestions.  The photo in the video of the older couple on a bench is from It's all about love, Candida Performa.

Risks and challenges

Both Lucy and Helen have had experience getting a project done. The first big challenge was to find excellent designers and animators that share our vision. We have succeeded in that already. We have talked to the top-notch team at Company3 (www.company3design.com) and they are not only eager to help us, they have experience with medical imaging and we think we can work well with them. We have already "clicked" with them creatively and practically. We are certain Company 3 can help us overcome the major obstacles of getting a virtual world on the Internet, and that we will work well together. They have designed some amazing ads and virtual spaces already. Also, our other advisers and collaborators are creative people. David Macaulay can help us get through any creative, explanatory forest we may get lost in.

The major problem is how to raise more money to fully develop the Walk-Through Brain tours, and to keep the virtual brain museum going. It has to be able to support itself eventually. Our business adviser, Andrea Miller, has already helped us with suggestions, and we will continue to look at different ways to raise money, from "Angels" to Gold memberships with access to special material, to inexpensive "highlights" tours and games. But we need a first class version of what we can do.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 10 or more About US$ 10

    Unlimited visits to each pre-release version of the Giant Walk-Through Brain as we get them up and running. We expect to have at least three before we post it for the public. Bring a friend along with you to enjoy the experience together. Make a dent in the collaboration between art and science for education. Eternal thanks.

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    Pledge US$ 25 or more About US$ 25

    Unlimited visits to each pre-release version of the Giant Walk-Through Brain as we get them up and running. Bring a friend to enjoy it together. Also, a monthly newsletter about our progress: come behind the scenes at Company3 Design with us. We'll give you our experience as we brainstorm, including images. Your name in our newsletter as a special contributor to education that's fun for everyone (remain anonymous if you like). Eternal thanks.

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    Pledge US$ 50 or more About US$ 50

    All of the above, plus Lucy will send you her animated PowerPoint about how to draw a brain really, really easily! It's great for kids as well as adults. A way to doodle. Also, some never-before-seen images of the brain in love. Eternal thanks.

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    Pledge US$ 100 or more About US$ 100

    All of the above plus a digital image of the outside of The Giant Walk-Through Brain by David Macaulay. We can send you this as soon as we are fully funded on Kickstarter. Use it as a screen-saver! Also, copies of our favorite articles about romantic love from the history of love research to love addiction. Eternal thanks, of course, and your name on the website as a major contributor to public education about neuroscience (you can remain anonymous, too).

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    All of the above, plus a t-shirt with a signed version of the outside of the Giant Walk-Through Brain by David Macaulay. We'll also send you our favorite articles on how exercise and cognitive tasks keep your hippocampus healthy for memory. When you learn for yourself, you help others learn. Eternal Thanks.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    All of the above, plus we'll mail you a signed, printed copy one of our papers on love and one of Helen's books, signed just for you. Your name on a neuron in the Virtual Giant Walk-Through Brain! You will be a Gold Member contributor to fun, world-wide education. Eternal thanks.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    All of the above, plus a 30-min phone consult with Helen or Lucy about love, attachment, personality, neuroscience or whatever your questions are! Remember--Your name on a neuron in the Virtual Giant Walk-Through Brain! Eternal thanks to a world-class contributor.

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    Pledge $7,500 or more About $7,500

    A brain scan of you or someone you love, using our approved research protocol for any stage of love and attachment. Take home a picture of your own brain. Plus the newsletter and t-shirt, of course. You'll have to get to, or be in, NYC and stay for a day. We'll write a report for you with the results. If you don't want a scan, we'll Skype with you to answer questions about love and neuroscience. Or Lucy will give you a personalized anatomy lesson, tailored to your needs. Your name on a dopamine neuron in the Virtual Brain. Or choose something else to write on a neuron in the brain. You are an unusual and exciting contributor-- a creative explorer. Eternal thanks to get this going.

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    Pledge US$ 10,000 About US$ 10,000

    Two nights in New York City for a brain scan and personal interpretation with Helen and Lucy. If you don't want the scan, come talk to us! Or, just our eternal thanks and personal newsletters. A t-shirt, of course! Dedicate a neuron in our virtual brain to someone or some organization. Your impact on neuroscience education for others will be felt and acknowledged.

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Funding period

- (30 days)