Institute of Neuroscience

Brain Awareness Week 2013

Brain Awareness Week 2013

In 2013 the Institute of Neuroscience collaborated with artist David Lisser to explore how increases in advertising and technology may affect our ability to process information.

David Lisser graduated from Newcastle University with a Fine Art degree in 2009, he is interested in our relationship with technology and how it affects our lives. He specialises in creating interactive exhibits that resemble artefacts from the Victorian period. For this project, David worked predominantly with Dr Quoc Vuong but also met with other researchers such as Dr Jenny Read and Dr Kai Alter. David focussed on how an increase in technology in the modern world and the increase in complex visual information we are exposed to may affect our brains ability to process information.

David used the information he had gathered to create an exhibit called ‘The Distraction Machine’. This consisted of a wooden chair and a number of moving panels of text and images that were reminiscent of a tri-sided rotating billboard. The ‘billboard’ was turned via handle so people could sit in the chair and look at the pictures and others could rotate the boards at varying speeds using the handle. The images on the board were a mixture of text, images, and scientific symbols some of which were quite obvious and others that were more difficult for the observer to see.

Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th March: Meet the Scientist (and Artist) at the Centre for Life

Our main event for 2013 was to exhibit David’s Distraction Machine at the International Centre for Life as part of their ‘Meet the Scientist’ series. In addition some of our IoN ambassadors were on hand with activities to encourage people to start thinking about how their brain works and how it perceives the world around them. We had lots of willing volunteers to try out our Electroencephalogram (EEG) headsets which allow you to see your brain activity! You can then attempt to harness it to move objects abound on the computer screen. Also a big hit were our prism goggles which alter your visual perception either shifting everything to the left or turning it completely upside down. These make the simple task of throwing a ball into a bucket a real challenge. Another interesting exhibit were Praying Mantises, these are an unusual group among insects as they have binocular vision which allows them to judge distances very accurately in order to catch their prey. Humans also have binocular vision and research is currently being conducted to see if the mantis visual system works in a similar way to our own.

We also handed out badges, stickers and work books that were kindly donated by the DANA foundation. Thanks must go to Sheela Joy and all at The Centre for Life for allowing us to use their venue. Approximately 1000 people visited Life over the weekend and hopefully we helped many of them be a little more Brain Aware.

Some quotes from the weekend

"It was a good experience for me to engage with a different audience and visitor background to usual, and I had a couple of really fruitful conversations with staff at the CfL, one of which has helped with another project I’m currently undertaking." David Lisser

"I really enjoyed the experience. The Centre for Life really looked after us" IoN ambassador

"Taking part in the brain awareness days were brilliant. The adults were as captivated as the children when it came to trying our prism goggles or seeing their brain waves, and one of the most satisfying moments for myself was explaining a bit about colour vision to a local artist. Understanding more about how her visual system was working suddenly shed light on why she was struggling to mix the correct colours for certain lighting conditions and I hope this will now help with her future work." IoN ambassador