NIMH Beams First Interactive Lab Tour to D.C. Convention
The first "live" interactive video tour of NIH laboratories was presented by the National Institute of Mental Health on July 15. NIMH director Dr. Steven Hyman hosted the tour for 400 members of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), assembled in the ballroom of a downtown Washington, D.C., hotel. The 90-minute broadcast from NIMH intramural outposts was made possible by the fiber optic network that normally connects computers on campus.
Standing before a large projection screen, Hyman guided the audience through visits to nine NIMH researchers in five locations in Bldgs. 10 and 36. Each made a brief presentation and took questions from the audience. The tour featured: the first public demonstration of near-realtime functional magnetic resonance brain imaging by Drs. Daniel Weinberger, Joseph Frank and Joseph Callicott; update on progress in schizophrenia treatment research by Dr. David Pickar; discussion of informed consent issues by Dr. Trey Sunderland; glimpse of the outpatient clinic, overview of the clinical program, and research on sex hormones by NIMH clinical director Dr. David Rubinow; and a variety of other items.
"This was a pioneering event that could be duplicated for other institutes that want to communicate directly with interested groups," said Ken Ryland, head of the Medical Arts and Photography Branch video section, which orchestrated the high tech event in collaboration with the Center for Information Technology and NIMH's Office of Scientific Information.
In all but one of the locations, analog signals from video cameras were first digitized and sent through CIT's ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) fiber-optic cable system to MAPB's control room in the basement of Bldg. 10. There they were converted back to analog video and sent to NAMI's convention hotel via another fiber optic link. The feed could also have been sent via satellite, but the extra expense was not required.
"Our members were thrilled," said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. "It was up close and personal. It's encouraging to know that the future of brain research is in such capable hands. We hope to do this again for next year's convention in Chicago."
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