Making Neuroscience Fun

At Mount Sinai Hospital, visitors had a chance to find out how the brain works

Neuroscience is complex, but a group of scientists and doctors tried to make it easy to understand at Mount Sinai Hospital on May 5.

In celebration of Brain Awareness Week, organizations include Mentoring in Neuroscience Discovery at Sinai, the Friedman Brain Institute, and the Center for Excellence in Youth Education at Mount Sinai hosted its 5th Annual Brain Awareness Fair for local students, their parents, and community members to help them learn about neuroscience. The event took place at Mount Sinai Hospital. 

(Photo by Zhiming Zhang/ NY City Lens)

(Photo by Zhiming Zhang/ NY City Lens)

There were more than 30 booths with games and informational activities on topics like memory, perception, traumatic brain injury, and more. More than 500 people filled the decorated Guggenheim Pavilion of the hospital to interact with scientists and doctors who study and treat the brain.

(Photo by Zhiming Zhang/ NY City Lens)

(Photo by Zhiming Zhang/ NY City Lens)

One of the most popular booths was a 3D Virtual Reality Brain Surgery Simulator, shaped like a colorful, giant brain. The exhibit showed visitors what it’s like to perform brain surgery on patients. Holly Oemke, program manager of Neurosurgery Simulation Core, said the 3D prints children received were examples of real people. The prints aimed to show children how patients’ brains look like, in order to help them learn the information better.

“I hope that the kids learn about more than just what a normal brain does, but the intricacies within the head,” Omeke said. “More importantly, be excited by science.”

(Photo by Zhiming Zhang/ NY City Lens)

(Photo by Zhiming Zhang/ NY City Lens)

Many children who attended did get excited. It was Jonathan Vasquez’s first time attending the Brain Awareness Fair. The 10-year-old fifth-grader from PS 171 said the experience he had at the virtual reality booth was his favorite because it made him feel like that he was in a brain, which he found, in his words, cool. He said he would recommend this event to his friends. “There’s a lot of cool science stuff,” he said. “You can go VR, you can control someone else, and you get candy.”

Another popular booth was something that involved of all things, dropping eggs, wrapped in plastic, from a three-foot height. The activity was intended to help visitors learn how the parts of the body protect the brain.

(Photo by Zhiming Zhang/ NY City Lens)

(Photo by Zhiming Zhang/ NY City Lens)

Lucy Bicks, 25,  a volunteer at the Egg Drop booth,  said the visitors are instructed to think of the eggs as their brains and told to construct a helmet with packing materials. After finishing the helmet, they can test its effectiveness by dropping the wrapped egg to the ground to demonstrate the importance of wearing a helmet to prevent people from traumatic brain injury and concussion.

“We hope that the people really understand the importance of protecting their brains through helmets, and also the dangers of concussion,” Bicks said.

(Photo by Zhiming Zhang/ NY City Lens)

(Photo by Zhiming Zhang/ NY City Lens)

The event was originally scheduled to take place during Brain Awareness Week in March but had to be rescheduled due to inclement weather.

Alyson Davis, program director for Mount Sinai’s Youth Education Center, said that she hopes that people, especially kids, will be fearless when it comes to science after attending this fair. “We really want them to experience something hands-on and first-hand, and that’s what gets them excited,” Davis said. “Hopefully, these kids are the future graduates of our medical schools and graduate schools.”

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