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Vol. LXIII, No. 9
April 29, 2011
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Six NIH Institutes Host Exhibits
Brain Awareness Week Teaches Kids Power of the Human Brain

Students (l) at Brain Awareness Week get a lobe lesson from Dr. Daniel Stimson of NINDS.
Students (l) at Brain Awareness Week get a lobe lesson from Dr. Daniel Stimson of NINDS.

More than 300 students from the Washington, D.C., area participated in the 12th annual Brain Awareness Week celebration recently at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Students in grades 5 through 8 engaged in interactive activities sponsored by 6 NIH institutes that focused on brain health and research.

Brain Awareness Week is an annual international partnership of government agencies, scientific organizations and university and volunteer groups. It was begun 16 years ago by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, a nonprofit organization of more than 200 preeminent neuroscientists dedicated to advancing brain education.

NIH received positive feedback from both students and teachers. Each institute contributed activities from a unique perspective:

NIDA Offers ‘Derby’ Atmosphere

Teams of students competed in the “NIDA Brain Derby,” fielding questions about the brain, neuroscience and the neurobiology of drug abuse. Youngsters had the opportunity to learn basic brain anatomy and function as well as how different drugs—including nicotine (cigarettes)—can affect the brain and alter its normal function. Winning teams received a “brain scientist” certificate. NIDA also distributed student and teacher packets of print materials.

Students at this year’s Brain Awareness Week have fun at the Cool Spot Carnival. Students were offered a number of opportunities to learn basic brain anatomy and function. Some seemed to enjoy holding a real human brain.
Students at this year’s Brain Awareness Week have fun at the Cool Spot Carnival.





Students were offered a number of opportunities to learn basic brain anatomy and function. Some seemed to enjoy holding a real human brain.
NINDS Brings the ‘Lobe-oratorium’

NINDS’s “Brain Lobe-oratorium” featured neuroscientists who described the functions of the four lobes of the human brain using life-size brain models and a full-color, interactive exhibit. Visitors learned about the parts of the brain involved in perception, thinking, personality and behavior through a kid-friendly series of questions and answers, eye-catching photos and a pull-apart model of a human brain. In addition to the model, students could touch and hold a real human brain.

A student tries on the pull-apart model of a human brain for size. Students are fooled into thinking that a rubber hand is part of their own bodies.
A student tries on the pull-apart model of a human brain for size.

Photos: Melissa J. Brachfeld

Students are fooled into thinking that a rubber hand is part of their own bodies.


NIAAA Says, ‘Pick Your No’s’

NIAAA’s “Cool Spot Carnival” started with a presentation on alcohol and adolescent brain development. Students learned about the effects of alcohol on teen/tween brains and the lifelong consequences of underage drinking. When asked, “What can happen to your brain if you drink alcohol?,” one middle schooler answered, “Alcohol can impair nerve cell growth.” Students also played a football-toss game while wearing “fatal vision goggles” to simulate being under the influence of alcohol.

Another game, Pick Your No’s, demonstrated effective ways to say no to alcohol.

Students (l) at Brain Awareness Week get a lobe lesson from Dr. Daniel Stimson of NINDS.
Activities included a “Brain Derby” that elicited eager responses from the kids. Several youngsters earned certificates dubbing them “brain scientists.”

NIMH Talks Memory, Brain Damage

At the NIMH activity station, students were fooled into thinking that a rubber hand was actually part of their own bodies and they learned how mirror therapy can reduce phantom limb pain in amputees. Students also explored “Memory and the Brain,” learning how recollections are stored and what happens when even a small part of the brain is damaged.

NIA Describes the Brain as It Gets Older

NIA engaged students in a discussion about brain aging, focusing on how the brain and cognitive function—thinking, learning and memory—changes with age. Students learned about new evidence linking healthy lifestyle habits with prevention of cognitive decline, like Alzheimer’s disease, in later life.

NICHD Shows ‘Drunken Brain’

NICHD had a novel, multisensory exhibit titled the “Drunken Brain” where students saw firsthand the effects of alcohol on the brain and how alcohol exposure during pregnancy and adolescence can lead to possible brain damage and alcohol addiction later in life.— Cathrine Sasek NIHRecord Icon


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