About The Exhibit
ABOUT THE EXHIBIT
In “BRAIN: The World Inside Your Head,” which opened at the Arts and Industries Building at the Smithsonian and is made possible by Pfizer, a 3-pound organ that most closely resembles a cauliflower is the main attraction. How does it work? What does it have in common with the brains of other creatures? When does it rest? What happens if it gets sick? This exciting exhibit answers common questions, offers little-known information and leaves visitors enlightened about the organ that is often taken for granted and misunderstood. Colorful, eye-popping effects and components absorb children and grown-ups in an environment that entertains as it teaches. Fascinating sections include:
1) Your Dynamic Brain: This organ is alive, always changing and never rests. It is the essence of every human’s being. See human and animal brain specimens. Compare sizes, shapes and other characteristics.
2) Lightning Storm: Everything the brain does is due to electrochemical activity. Walk into a model of the brain and see this activity in a lightning storm. Board an inner-spaceship to explore the brain. Learn how a synapse makes the connection between neurons. Work with controls to see how the brain operates reflexes, autonomic functions and balance. View neurons from different species. Play a video game to see how sleep “recharges” the human battery.
3) Wired: The dynamic brain begins wiring neurons together during a fetus’s development. This process determines who people are and how they behave. Trace the brain’s function and physiology from infancy to old age. Hold an infant up to a mirror to check for recognition response. Babies don’t recognize themselves in a mirror until they are 18 months to 24 months old. View a video illustrating neuron activity.
4) A Hole in the Head: Man’s knowledge of the brain is relatively new. See the history of amazing clues and myths about its function. Follow the evolution of understanding to the present day. Perform tasks to see real-time EEG measurements and simulated imaging of corresponding brain activity. Crank open a model of a head to reveal the human cortex, the limbic system, and the brain stem and cerebellum, and see how these areas have evolved over millions of years.
5) The Living Brain: Brains are as individual as the people they operate. Differences are a biological fact. Brain disorders make up five of the 10 most common health complaints in the world. Find out how to keep the brain healthy, and what makes it sick. Learn about Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, depression and brain disorders. Explore the extremes of behavior, and see how they’re all a result of electrochemical irregularities. Use the senses to see how memory works. Simulate “phantom limb syndrome,” the sensation of feeling in an amputated or nonexistent limb. Use a gamma knife simulator to excise a brain tumor. Find out if the size of the brain matters and if bigger is better (clue: not if Einstein’s brain is any indication).
6) Mystery of the Mind: The mind involves perception, learning and memory, consciousness and self-awareness. It also involves dreams. Much has been learned, but little is actually known about how the mind works. See how the brain interprets the world according to built-in biases. Answer questions about computer illusions used by scientists to understand how the brain’s biases affect our view of the world. Use a mirror and peephole to see how the brain attends to movement first, a sign of the survival instinct.
7) Next Steps: Visit the resource room for free, educational literature on brain health, diseases and disorders.
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Source: Mike Kempf