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For Brain Awareness Week 2018, our Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging got together with Oxford Sparks to present an immersive experience of some of Oxford's brain research.

The Brain Diaries Competition

The whole idea came out of a competition we ran last year in conjunction with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, as part of the Brain Diaries exhibition. We asked visitors to the exhibition what they would like to find out about the brain, if they could run an fMRI experiment in one of our scanners?

Questions answered via a special website

Over 700 people were inspired to make suggestions, and entrants ranged from the very young to the very old. Some people were interested in how food and drink affects our brains; others were keen to know if mindfulness or music were beneficial. Younger participants wondered where naughtiness came from and whether a brain scanner could detect when you were lying! All of this gave our researchers a wealth of material and fuelled the Brain Discovery Week in which many questions were answered.

Judging the competition was a fascinating process involving several WIN researchers, and you can find out a bit more about that in this podcast. The winning experiment, suggested by Richard Harrow, aimed to find out how the brain identifies voices, and it was broadcast live on Facebook at the end of Brain Awareness Week.

Over 3000 people visited the Brain Discovery Week website, with the series of Facebook Lives with researchers proving the most popular pages. The videos reached over 70,000 people worldwide via Facebook and YouTube. We'll certainly be doing something similar next year, to keep up this dialogue between researchers and the public!