Virtual reality labs, state-of-the-art functional MRI scanners, much needed office space – even windows – these are just a few of the features of UCSB’s newly inaugurated facility, Psychology East.

Initially planned as a five-year capital renewal project in 1997, the $14 million Psychology East addition, located adjacent to the Life Sciences Building, opened Summer 2006 to faculty and staff. The building was officially inaugurated in a Nov. 29 opening ceremony in which guest speakers, including Chancellor Henry T. Yang, shared their experiences planning and constructing the research facility.

The new three-story building brings with it a modern aesthetic design and windows on all sides. Psychology Dept. Business Officer Lynne Pritchard said the main building was built without windows in order to conduct certain kinds of psychology research.

“The original building was built in 1963,” Pritchard said. “One of the interesting things that people don’t realize is that the building did not have windows except on the north side where the offices are. At that point in time, my understanding is that psychology research was based a lot on sight and sound deprivation and that was a lot easier to do in a building with no windows. When this building was designed, [planning the construction of windows] was the most important thing.”

Housed in the basement of Psychology East, a new functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner will assist researchers from a wide area of disciplines in mapping out various areas of the brain and associating them with a multitude of corresponding actions. The MAGNETOM Trio’s unsurpassed technology and superior magnet provides clearer details in its brain scans as opposed to other, less advanced non-invasive brain imaging techniques.

Yang said different departments at UCSB will use the scanner in the study of human brain mapping.

“Our fMRI scanner is now operational and will involve research from many different disciplines and programs across the campus,” Yang said. “The scanner is the focal piece of our Brain Imaging Center and will be used primarily for human imaging to understand the relationship between cognition, structural anatomy and the functional organization of the brain.”

The psychology department’s Research Center for Virtual Environments and Behavior also received an expansion with the addition of the virtual reality lab. This complex aims at studying human behavior in different environments.

Additionally, Pritchard said the new building will benefit both the department and the faculty.

“It’s a great facility and it’s definitely been able to allow us to expand our research and instruction,” Pritchard said. “All in all, I know everyone I work with is really happy about it.”