Brain Bits: Research, Demonstrations and Dissection

In another one of my exploits at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Insdustry last week, I stumbled upon the ‘Brain Bits’ event. This is another great event brought about by the fabulous organisers of this year’s Science Festival, which drew to a close yesterday. In ‘Brain Bits’, various researchers set up stalls at the top floor of the museum to talk about their research and/ or products to the public. As seen on the pictures below, these people talked about topics such as Alzheimer’s disease, vision, motor skills and coordination, seizures, and more. They explained, based on current research findings, which mostly were their own, how diseases spread, develop and can be slowed down. One group of researchers actually invited the public to take part in their experiment which looked at motor skills in flies (the actual names of which escapes me!). Some also presented fascinating equipments used in brain surgery.

As a psychology graduate and a neuroscience enthusiast, I have been impressed at how these researchers and volunteeers have been able to explain their topics in ways that were accessible to everyone. As it was a free public event, the audience were of mixed ages, gender and educational background. To be able to get most of them engaged and excited is not an easy feat, but the presenters managed just fine. Here are some pictures:

Equipment to aid brain surgeons during surgery that uses MRI and CT Scan techniques:

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IMG_0921Demonstration of how to drill holes in the skull (using a model, of course!):

IMG_0937Explaining the similarities and differences of brains across species:

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IMG_0922(From the left) Brains of a pig a rat and a mouse:

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Evidence of my participation in an experiment investigating motor skills :
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Researcher entering my data:
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Here are the other presentations and interactive activities:
For me, the most exciting part of the afternoon was when I got the chance to dissect an actual pig’s brain. Guided by Professor Stuart Allan of the University of Manchester, fellow attendees and I sliced and examined pigs’ brains in the laboratory. While we were doing so, Stuart explained to us the significance of each part of the brain was. What was also amazing is that pigs’ brains are structurally mostly the same as ours. Both human and pigs’ brains have two hemispheres (left and right), corpus callosums (the part that connects both hemispheres), brain stem and cerebellum. They differ, amongst other things, is the size of the frontal cortex (with ours being signifficantly bigger). Stuart also welcomed questions from the participants, who asked him interesting questions such as ‘whether there is a sense for gravity?’ The whole experience was educational, fascinating, unique and fun. Not only did it shed a better light in understanding the brain, but by bringing the science out to the public, it offered more chances of inspiring people (both young and old) to get into science.
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