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When Good Mice Go Bad: New U of U Genetics Center Web Site Makes Science of Drug Addiction Easy to Understand

June 15, 2006 — Mice on drugs make a cheesy sight-but they also provide an entertaining and easy way to learn about the science of addiction at a new, interactive Web site developed by the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah.

“The New Science of Addiction: Genetics and the Brain” Web site uses the Learning Center’s new Exploragraphic™ Web Design, with pages full of engaging graphics and interactive experiences that explain how drugs affect the brain, the roles of genetics and environment in addiction, and challenges and issues related to the disease.

The Web site even features a “Mouse Party” video-complete with the little critters spaced out on marijuana, methamphetamine, and other dangerous and illegal drugs-to show the biological processes of drugs in the brain.

All this material is available for free at

“The goal of this Web site is to explain the science of drug addiction in a straightforward and jargon-free way, so that it is accessible to students and the lay public,” says Louisa Stark, Ph.D., Learning Center director.

Kevin Pompei, the center”s associate director, says high-quality graphics and interactive learning experiences are effective tools for Web-based education. “Research shows people don’t read a lot of text on the Web, and that illustrations can convey knowledge in a much more informative way,” Pompei says.

The Learning Center’s staff, with the help of high school and middle school teachers across the country, devoted three years to developing the Web site content.

“The teachers brought a wealth of experience to the Web site development process,” Stark says. “They provided invaluable information about how teens learn and what engages them.”

The new site also contains exclusive content for high school teachers, including lesson plans and print activities for use with the Web-based materials.

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About the Genetic Science Learning Center:

The Genetic Science Learning Center is an education program located in the midst of the world-class bioscience research being carried out at the University of Utah. The Center’s mission is to help people understand how genetics affects their lives and society. Its award-winning Web site ( is the most widely disseminated genetics education Web site in the world. In addition, the Center offers professional development courses and workshops for K-12 teachers to update their knowledge in the fast-paced field of genetics, as well as education programs for the public. The Center’s educational resources provide accurate and unbiased information about topics in genetics and bioscience. Designed for non-research audiences, the materials are visually rich, interactive, and jargon-free.

Support for “The New Science of Addiction: Genetics and the Brain” website was provided by a Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Award (SEDAPA), from The National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health.