Institute for Mental Health Research to be in Bellmont Hall

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Bellmont Hall is undergoing major renovation as the second floor will become the Institute for Mental Health Research. The institute will serve as a place for research for disabilities and treatments.

Photo Credit: Aaron Berecka | Daily Texan Staff

Current renovations to Bellmont Hall will create a new research center, the Institute for Mental Health Research, which will be housed in the College of Liberal Arts.

The construction, which is scheduled to be finished Jan. 2, 2014, is renovating 8,000 square feet for the new center. The institute will be used to conduct human behavioral studies, and the space is built to accommodate the specific research.

Project manager Deborah Femat said some of the testing rooms being built have special sheetrock to mute outside sounds.

“The sheetrock is actually three layers — there’s plastic in the center and sheetrock on the sides,” Femat said. “It’s imperative that we have all sound deadened … They’ll be testing children for distractibility … so that’s why we have to make sure the sound is deadened.”

In addition, Femat said each testing room has its own individual air duct and special doors to minimize noise.

Institute director Christopher Beevers said liberal arts was able to customize the space to fit exactly the needs of the studies and create a space where participants feel comfortable.

“We tried to make sure you can’t hear through the walls, and no glass doors in the rooms with participants,” Beevers said. “We had concerns about privacy, and we were able to construct a space to minimize that concern.”

Beevers said the institute’s goal is to provide an environment for more innovative research and lead to more effective treatment for disorders such as depression.

“[They’re testing] what causes anxiety, what contributes to anxiety on all levels, from infants to adults,” said Amy Marshall, project specialist at the College of Liberal Arts.

Beevers said there will be different equipment used to collect data within the Institute including eye-tracking chambers, treadmills for exercise research and room that will create a virtual reality.

“It is a phobia research,” Beevers said. “This virtual reality can make someone feel like they’re at a great height, or someone who is afraid of flying on an airplane feel like they’re in an airplane.”

The design of the space will encourage collaboration between colleagues working on the projects, Beevers said.

“In the office space we used clear glass wall to make as much use of natural lighting,” Beevers said. “Having a nice, bright, airy feel is important for the people who are there every day. We also have all the grad students in one common area.”

Beevers said the workers aim to move into the space in mid-January and begin studies in mid-February.