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Brain Awareness Week is an annual global initiative designed to raise awareness among the public about brain-related research and the impact that neuroscientists are having on the world.

This year, NDCN was involved in several activities, each with a different target audience in mind:

Picturing Parkinson's

This project is run by neuroscientist Chrystalina Antoniades and Public Engagement Manager Jacqueline Pumphrey. This work is based on the Oxford Quantification Study (OxQUIP). It is part of a continuing collaboration on art and neuroscience with Dr Jim Harris, Teaching Curator at the Ashmolean Museum.

The project brings together artists, patients and neuroscientists to bridge the gap between objective research into Parkinson’s Disease and people’s lived experience of the condition. For the inaugural event during Brain Awareness Week, the team joined up with artist Yejeong Mutter to explore ways of thinking about Parkinson’s through a performance of 3D art. 

The event was supported by Max Brzezicki, Minchao Lai, Marta Freitas Pereira, Peta Jancek, Brenda Cooley and Lily (Zi Su). It was funded by the University of Oxford Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund.

The Learning Brain: Should you cram?

Holly Bridge and Stuart Clare from the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaing designed a fun game to play on your phone, which tested whether cramming is successful, or whether learning something over a longer period of time produces a better outcome. Participants were chosen either to take part in the quick learning, which is done in a single day, or for a week of learning, where you play the game every day.

In partnership with Oxford Sparks we produced three Facebook Lives:

  • An evening for teachers about the latest insights into learning involving Chris Harvey, Heidi Johansen-Berg, Kate Watkins, Mark Walton and Louise Auckland (5,900 views)
  • A demonstration of how we can re-learn after stroke with Jacinta O'Shea and Tom Smejka (5,600 views)
  • A 'big reveal' from the MRI scanner, showing the results of the cramming vs planning experiment.(5,700 views)

There was also a Twitter Takeover by one of NDCN's Public Enagement Ambassadors, Connor Scott, and Medium articles by colleagues in the Department of Experimental Pscyhology, Nadescha Trudel and Maximilian Scheuplein. Over 2000 people visited the microsite which pulled all the material together.

Big Brain Roadshow

A large number of researchers from our Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging were  involved in delivering another Big Brain Roadshow. This time the show went to Cherwell School, where we entertained 270 children with our play ‘21st Century Phrenology’ and interactive stalls on different aspects of our research, including the physics of imaging, the learning brain and the active brain. Our researchers worked really hard to make their science highly engaging, and they also gave the students a rich insight into life in science.

The children were very engaged and when asked to comment on what they thought of the activity, one student said: 'I loved all of it, it was sick!'

The teachers were amazed too by how their students engaged with the activities. One teacher commented: 'It’s amazing to see how the children are still engaged with this activity, even 25 minutes into it. The children are clearly rising to the challenge of being grown-ups!'

Hagbourne School STEM Day

Clare Mackay organised a stall for the STEM day at Hagbourne School in East Hagbourne. Her team of really enthusiastic engagers, most of them first timers, engaged with around 200 children. They played brain snap with the children, taught them about brain evolution with 3D brains and stuffed animals, and enthused them about brain plasticity with Suzie Scientist.The day was a great success!