Neuroplicity: Leveraging New Media and Digital Storytelling to Connect Society to Neuroscience (2016-2017)


Scientists are infamously inept at communicating the importance of their research to nonexperts. However, most of the questions they study are of fundamental interest and relevance to society, and it is the responsibility of academics (and ultimately, to their benefit) to effectively translate their research to as broad an audience as possible.

Project Description

This project’s objective is to leverage new media and digital storytelling to improve the connection between basic neuroscience research and society’s understanding of this research—its rationale, significance, consequences and limitations. We aim to achieve this by developing creative and effective means of communicating key issues and developments in memory and disease-related brain research to a broad, nonspecialist audience. 

The team is guided by the combined, interdisciplinary expertise of two PIs: a neuroscientist specializing in understanding the inner workings of neurons in normal and diseased nervous systems; and an expert in new media technologies, digital storytelling and visual culture. A postdoc in Biology and an MFA student in Experimental and Documentary Arts provide additional mentoring, but the undergraduate students are the major “interpreters” of the team. 

Through digital video, the team will continue expanding our website,, furthering the goals of communicating neuroscience fundamentals, the pleasures and challenges of conducting research and the daily practice of “doing science.” Through this medium, we hope to dispel public misunderstandings of neuroscience and connect our audience to resources for additional learning. We hope that our end product will be a unique and meaningful online platform that, through videos, interactive animations and learning games, excites the public about basic neuroscience research and its crucial importance in addressing some of the most pressing human health issues today.

This project team will focus on gamification, with the development of an alternative reality game, and explore formal partnerships with Duke interdisciplinary entities such as the Science & Society Initiative and the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Anticipated Outcomes

Alternative reality game; further development of website, videos, materials, graphics, animations


Summer 2016 – Spring 2017

Summer 2016: training in videography, fundamentals of animation, web platforms and scripting, interviewing, new media storytelling; identify and recruit 2016-17 interviewees; Fall 2016 – Spring 2017: explore partnerships, expand content base with additional scientist interviews; develop a neuroscience-based alternative reality game.


Independent study credit available for fall and spring semesters; summer stipend

See earlier related team, Neuroplicity: Leveraging New Media and Digital Storytelling to Connect Society to Neuroscience (2015-2016).

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Mark Olson, Trinity - Art, Art History & Visual Studies*
Nina Sherwood, Trinity - Biology*

Undergraduate Team Members

Michael Li, Neuroscience (AB), Economics (AB2)
Amon Khalid Williams, Neuroscience (AB)

* denotes team leader