EducationMedical Additive Manufacturing

How a 3D printed brain model is teaching UK students about mental health

Chanua Health, a healthcare innovation company working out of Liverpool’s technical innovation center Sensor City, recently turned to 3D printing technologies to help educate young students about the importance of mental health. Working with support from Sensor City, Chanua Health 3D printed an interactive brain model that teaches students about different parts of the brain and about mental health in a stigma-less way.

While students learn about the body and about physical health in school, the importance of teaching mental health has, at best, been overlooked and, at worst, stigmatized. In recent years, however, a push to stop taboos surrounding mental illness has become stronger, and people of all walks of life are realizing the importance of checking in on one’s mental state and of seeking treatment and help if needed.

As part of this larger movement, Chanua Health has developed an engaging way for students to learn how the brain functions and how physiological and neurological elements can impact one’s mental health. The 3D printed brain model, created as part of Chanua’s “Neuro Champions” program, gives students the ability to visualize concepts that may have previously been complex to grasp.

The ultimate hope is that the 3D printed brain model will give young students the tools they need to “become effective leaders in mental health.”

3D printed brain

“This project is a powerful example of how incorporating advanced technologies into education and healthcare can create an impact with the potential to change lives,” said Alison Mitchell, executive director at Sensor City. “It’s fantastic to see innovative health organisations, like Chanua Health, working so effectively with our business support and technical team here at Sensor City.”

Sensor City was started as a joint venture between the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University with the goal of providing a fruitful environment and high-tech facilities for startups and businesses in sensors. The innovation center is an important partner of LCR 4.0, an ERDF-funded initiative aimed at bringing Liverpool businesses into Industry 4.0., which has collaborated closely with Chanua Health.

Chanua Health has already experienced some traction since developing the 3D printed brain model: it has been offered a place at Bethnal Green Ventures in London where it is currently developing an augmented and virtual reality game (AR/VR) that will educate young people about mental health in a dynamic way. The healthcare innovation company has also partnered with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Trust (part of the UK’s NHS) to initiate co-design sessions with kids, parents and clinicians.

Excitingly, Chanua Health will also be further pursuing and developing its Neuro Champions Young Leaders program thanks to a public engagement grant from the Wellcome Trust, a UK-based biomedical research charity. The Neuro Champions Young Leaders program is aimed at teaching young people about neuroscience and mental health with support from researchers, youth workers and neuroscientists.

Naomi Mwasambili, co-founder of Chanua Health commented on the recent achievement, saying: “Harnessing the technology at Sensor City and working with LCR 4.0 has enabled us to create a product that encourages young people to be more active in understanding their thoughts, behaviours and emotions. We have worked hard to put young people at the core of what we do, and we’re thrilled to be expanding into new sectors and creating programmes that can benefit their health and emotional wellbeing.”

Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault moved from her home of Montreal, Canada to the Netherlands in 2014 to pursue a master’s degree in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. It was during her time in Amsterdam that she became acquainted with 3D printing technology and began writing for a local additive manufacturing news platform. Now based in France, Tess has over two and a half years experience writing, editing and publishing additive manufacturing content with a particular interest in women working within the industry. She is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM industry.

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