“If I only had a brain,” Scarecrow says in The Wizard of Oz, he could “unravel any riddle” and explain why the “ocean’s near the shore.”
The complex and evolving organ — the nucleus of our central nervous system — controls how we think, feel, sense, and examine the world around us. The brain also has the ability to adjust and alter following disability and trauma.
A new exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre, which opened on Wednesday, explores the inner workings of the brain and how it has evolved over time through the use of art, brain imaging, and interactive elements.
Brain: The Inside Story is on tour from the American Museum of Natural History and runs at the science centre until March 29, 2015.
The exhibit aims to capture the latest innovations in the field of neuroscience. It features cutting-edge technology and research being explored by the scientific community to study and treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
“The exhibition brings visitors up to date on the latest neuroscience and highlights the workings of the brain and how the brain, when it’s injured, is able to rewire itself,” said Bhavleen Kaur, a senior scientist at the Ontario Science Centre.
The exhibit will draw on artistic, innovative and interactive approaches to tell the story. For example, visitors will also be able to walk through a tunnel of firing neurons, created by Spanish artist Daniel Canogar.
“[It] feels like you’re walking through the brain and the electrical and chemical signals are firing back. That’s just an amazingly sensory experience, and I think people are really going to enjoy that,” Kaur said.
A preserved human brain will also be on display, as well as the brain of someone who was living with Alzheimer’s.
“You get a visual view of what happens to the brain when someone experiences Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer symptoms,” Kaur said.
Some of the other exhibit elements include:
- Brain lounge: watch brain scans of a professional basketball player as he/she scores a basket and reacts to the crowd’s cheer
- See how a musician’s brain lights up to different genres of music
- Check out a glowing 245-centimetre model of the subcortical brain and a deep-brain stimulation implant
- Research Live: visitors can contribute to scientific studies such as concussion research
- Wild, Wild World: experts discuss animal communication with live animals
Visitors will also be able to try interactive games, puzzles, brain-teasers, and other activities at BrainFest, to test their brain and improve memory.
“I think visitors will be fascinated with the complexity of their brains. Brains change with every bit of information that is taken in,” Dr. Rob DeSalle, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, said in a release.
Kaur said the exhibit also gives people an opportunity to learn about research taking place in labs, adding, “this is not something you’re going to learn in your textbook.”
She said researchers have also been involved in curating the exhibition. The Ontario Science Centre partnered with the Ontario Brain Institute – which sponsors research projects involving the brain — to help develop the exhibit’s programming.
Brain: The Inside Story is free with general admission to the science centre.