Sunday, 17 March 2013

Brain Awareness Week

by Julie Lee

From the 11th to the 18th of March, At-Bristol held its annual 'Brilliant Brains Week'. The event is supported by Bristol Neuroscience, and is helped along by volunteers from a variety of backgrounds: undergraduates, postgraduates, neuroscientists, psychologists, and so on. Over 50 volunteer experts take part from around Bristol, including from University of Bristol, University of the West of England, and local NHS hospitals. At-Bristol's event is part of The Dana Foundation's 'Brain Awareness Week' (BAW). BAW is a global event which celebrates the brain through week-long public awareness events for families, schools, expanded to over 2800 partners in 82 countries.

Brain Awareness Week with volunteers from @Bristol
'Brilliant Brains Week' at At-Bristol is geared for older children, with three main 'activity stations' for children to experience throughout the week. Visitors have the opportunity to make a neurone out of pipe cleaners, try the 'Stroop' interference task (timed!), and draw sections of the brain on swimming caps to take home. In addition, on some days there is a 'Live Science' lab with a dissected pig's brain, which visitors are allowed to look at and even touch. Some tiny visitors were so enthusiastic about the real pig's brain that they poked it out of shape. All in the name of science! There are some 'passive' brain-related exhibits, such as a 'Neurobot' that lights up at a handshake and pulls back at a thumb pinch. Visitors can guess at the size of various mammal brains using play-doh, then weigh the 'brains' to test their predictions. Finally, there are some models of brains around the museum floor, as well as a real human brain in a case.

The children, even the young ones, were interested in learning about the three-pound lump inside their heads. Some of them had a surprising amount of knowledge already about the lobes in the brain. Whatever their initial knowledge base, every child, some holding pipe cleaner neurones, walked away having learned something new about the brain. All in all, a successful mission.