On Monday 13 March, the Oxford University Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB) invited local primary schools to visit the control room of its Ultra High Field MRI scanner as part of Brain Awareness Week.
Over the course of the day, 150 local school children got the opportunity to see the MRI scanner in action and learn more about how the brain works during interactive sessions.
The school children watched demonstrations of the kind of research that is carried out in this part of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. FMRIB researchers volunteered to take turns in the scanner to complete finger tapping and visual tasks. The students saw the researchers' brain activation appear on the screen and saw for themselves the functional regions associated with these tasks.
The audience then got the chance to devise their own experiment. This involved predicting which brain areas would be active and light up on the screen when certain tasks were undertaken in the scanner. During the day, the audiences asked the volunteers to do a range of tasks including imagining eating their favourite foods, visualising what was in their fridge, singing a favourite song and going to their 'happy place'.
The interactive sessions engaged the children in thinking about how the brain works and how it can change due to ageing and disease. Researchers demonstrated a range of topics including how neurons communicate, the brain's blood supply and using MRI to understand pain in babies. Highlights included the children acting as neurons and sending impulses to each other with neurotransmitters, and exploring a 3D printed model of mother and child with brain regions highlighted with coloured LEDs.
We would like to thank the following for volunteering their time to making the day a success: Ivan Alvarez, Holly Bridge, Matthew Cherukara, Stuart Clare, Naiara Demnitz, Nadine Graedel, Sezgi Goksan, Ainslie Johnstone, Emma Lawrence, Joseph Nour, Caitlin O'Brien, David Parker, Michael Sanders, Tom Smejka and Joseph Woods.