Thinking About the Brain

New York City students attend Community Brain Expo

Neuroscientists are trying to get New York City kids excited about the brain. Columbia University faculty members and students hosted a Community Brain Expo on Wednesday in Washington Heights, where parents, high schoolers, and elementary school students tried experiments and watched demonstrations aimed at teaching a younger audience about neuroscience.

The event was part of the campaign Brain Awareness Week, which is sponsoring events around New York to showcase brain research in fun ways.  

“When we give [kids] opportunities to trick or test the brain, they really respond to it, and they start asking questions to get deeper into things they want to know about,” says Kelley Remole, Ph.D., director of neuroscience outreach at Columbia.

One table that drew a lot of attention showed jars of different animal brains. A professor asked participants to guess which brains came from what animal.

“I felt a little disgusted, because I have a bunny,” said 10-year-old Alvanley Aguilar. On the other hand, classmate Alba Olvalles, also 10, considered the experience a badge of honor. “I think it was cool because if you want to be a scientist or something, you know a doctor, that’s a step up.”

Johanna Melenciano of Washington Heights, who brought her three daughters to the event, said the presentations were excellent.

“I don’t think they’re learning about the brain yet, but when they do they’re going to remember this,” said Melenciano.

Brain Awareness Week, organized by the Dana Foundation, sponsors events all over the world, but did not include New York City until this year. The campaign continues through Sunday, and features many events geared toward adults.