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Motion capture put to work to unlock secrets of the brain

Motion capture technology is stepping out of the film studio and into the laboratory.

Motion capture technology is stepping out of the film studio and into the laboratory. A Dalhousie psychologist is using the technology to study the effects of sign language on the brain.

Dr. Aaron Newman and his team used animated videos to strip away the personal effects people have on sign language, like facial expressions, to reveal only the most basic movements.

Study participants watch the animated videos while an EEG monitors their brain activity.

“We see blips of activity coming from different areas of the brain, and that helps us better understand the processes by which people understand these gestures,” Newman said.

A grant allowed Newman to buy the motion capture equipment he needed for the study from Fredericton company Measurand, but his assistants were psychology students, not computer programmers.

The Centre for the Arts and Technology filled the void by partnering with the project. Twenty students from the centre prepared more than 80 video clips from Newman’s motion capture footage as part of a work experience project.

“The project exposed students to a career option they might not have considered before and at the same time lent a helping hand to our local education community,” centre executive director Martin Theiss said.

Newman plans to test the animated videos on both sign language users and those who don’t know sign language to compare their brain activity.

 
 
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