Institute of Neuroscience

Public Engagement

Public Engagement

Brain Awareness Week

Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is a global initiative created by the DANA foundation to increase public awareness about brain research. Each year the Institute of Neuroscience tries to think of fun ways to engage people in the exciting world of brain science.

In 2017 the Institute took part in a number of events to celebrate Brain Awareness Week that covered a range of our research areas. Firstly, the Institute collaborated with the Newcastle branch of the British Science Association to put on a screening of the animation Finding Dory followed by a discussion with animal behaviourst Dr Tom Smulders and memory expert Dr Sinead Mullally. Secondly, highlighting the subject of schizophrenia and the subjective nature of its diagnosis the Joe Penhall play 'Blue/Orange' was staged at Northern Stage by the theatre company Straw Bear. Thirdly, the Northern Centre for Mood disorders, a collaboration between the university and and local NHS trusts to raise awareness of mental health issues hosted a public event on the topic of suicide.

Sci-screen: Finding Dory at the Blackfriars Ouseburn Cinema in collaboration with the British Science Association Newcastle
We teamed up with the British Science Association Newcastle to put on a special screening of the Disney Pixar film Finding Dory at the Blackfriars Ouseburn Cinema. The sequel to Finding Nemo this film focuses on Blue Tang fish Dory as she searches for her parents whom she was separated from at a very young age. A task that is made all the more difficult as Dory suffers from short-term memory loss. After the film there was a discussion with Dr Tom Smulders an animal behaviour and animal memory specialist from the Centre for Behaviour & Evolution, and Dr Sinead Mullally a specialist in child memory development from the Institute of Neuroscience.  

Blue / Orange, a Straw Bear production at Northern Stage
Our final event for Brain Awareness Week was a production of the Joe Penhall play, Blue / Orange by the theatre group Straw Bear at Northern Stage. The play focuses on Christopher, a young black man living in the UK. Christopher has been placed into psychiatric care and has some strange thoughts. He sees oranges as blue and thinks he is the son of the ex-Ugandan president Idi Amin. However the question at the centre of the play is whether Christopher should be diagnosed with schizophrenia which will mean he is kept in the psychiatric facility or a less serious diagnosis which will allow him to be released. It is worth remembering that there is no biological test for schizophrenia or any other mental health condition. Diagnosis is made with behavioural assessments and interviews conducted by a mental health professional. The play looks at mental health provision in the UK and whether race plays a part in the diagnosis of mental health problems. In many countries around the world it has been noted that being an immigrant doubles the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia. There is no biological reason for this, rather it seems to be linked to the level of discrimination an ethnic minority experiences in that country. A special programme which discusses the various issues raised was produced for this production by Daniel Nettle, professor of behavioural science who also starred in the play and Nicol Ferrier, professor of psychiatry. 

Northern Centre for Mood Disorders (NCMD) public event: Suicide, not just a man thing but always a mood thing
The NCMD is an academic clinical collaboration between Northumberland Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University. The major goal is to improve the care of patients with mood disorders. The NCMD puts on a number of public meetings throughout the year to raise awareness of mood disorders. During Brain Awareness Week they held a special public meeting: ‘Suicide: not just a man thing but always a mood thing’. It featured a talk from Steve Taylor from NTW NHS trust who has spent 30 years working in psychiatry and mental health. He has delivered workshops locally, nationally and internationally on assessment and management of suicidal behaviours. Also speaking was Shirley Smith from the If U Care Share Foundation. Shirley and her family set up the charity after their son Daniel took his own life. The charity supports those who have been affected by suicide. 


Demonstrating the real-world impact of our research and explaining why it is important is an essential task for all today's scientists. As a civic University we want to tell people about the cutting-edge research happening here on their doorstep.

It is essential that our researchers can explain their work to any audience whether young or old, scientists or non-scientists. We want to enthuse people of all ages about brain science and perhaps inspire the next generation of Neuroscientists.

We encourage all our early career researchers and postgraduate students to become IoN Ambassadors and get involved with our outreach and engagement programme. Whether this is going into schools, visiting after school clubs such as scouts and brownies. Giving talks to adult learning groups, art workshops, or setting up drop in stands at the Centre for Life or the Great North Museum. We are always looking for new ways to interact and new groups to work with.

Further information

If you would like to work with us please contact Ann Fitchett,, 0191 208 8320.


The Arts

Art and neuroscience share a fascination with the human mind.  We promote collaborations between artists and neuroscientists to yield new insights into how the mind and brain work.

Visual Art

Recent collaborations have included the 'Reassembling the Self' exhibition at The Hatton and Vane galleries in Newcastle. Curated by artist, Susan Aldworth, the exhibition was the culmination of a residency within the Institute of Neuroscience and explored the relationship between schizophrenia and human identity. This exhibition has since gone on to show at the GV gallery in London and the Waterside Arts Centre in Manchester.

Professor Anya Hurlbert, whose research interests include colour vision, has been involved in a number of exhibitions include Touching Colour which took place at the Hatton Gallery and recently Making Colour at the National Gallery. As part of the exhibition visitors could take part in an experiment to find out how the brain makes colours from surface and lights. This exhibition was also featured on BBC radio 2’s: ‘Colour on the Radio’ a special week of programming focusing on visual arts.

Performance Art

The Noise was a theatrical collaboration between the Northern Stage and Unlimited Theatre. A murder mystery set on an isolated island where all the residents hear a constant noise which affects their behaviour. Prof Tim Griffiths from our Auditory research group gave the theatre company insights on the effects noise can have on people’s mood and behaviour.

Just Checking was a theatrical piece created by Vivid Theatre Company; aiming to explore the condition Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It told the story of a young man with OCD and his difficulty maintaining relationships with those close to him as he struggled to control his instrusive thoughts. 

Cap-a-Pie are a theatre company based in the heart of Newcastle using performance to strengthen collaborations between universities and community groups. Working with Dr Vivek Nityananda and using his research on insects they developed free drama workshops for humans of all ages taking place in Summer 2015.



Alzheimer's Research UK

Each year in association with Alzheimer's Research UK (ARUK) we put on an information day to tell people about the latest research on dementia being conducted at Newcastle.

2018 Event

2018 Event

The 2018 event took place on Thursday 10 May at Newcastle Civic Centre. Around 140 people attended the event which was opened by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle Councillor Linda Wright. If you could not attend this event you can view some of the presentations below

Why research holds the power to defeat dementia Dr Katy Stubbs, Alzheimer's Research UK (PDF:2.5MB)

Why are some brain cells not damaged in Lewy body dementia? Dr Daniel Erskine, Newcastle University (PDF:1.05MB)

2017 Event

2017 Event

The 2017 event took place on Tuesday 13th June in the Kings Road Centre, Newcastle University. Over 100 people attended to hear the latest research into dementia. If you were not able to come to the event you can view the presentations below.

Funding world-class research 2017 Dr Katy Stubbs, Alzheimer's Research UK (PDF:1.6MB) 
What's new in dementia research? Professor Ian McKeith, Newcastle University (PDF:2.62MB) 
The white matter in Alzheimer's disease Dr Kirsty E. McAleese, Newcastle University (PDF:2.55MB) 
Walking: What can it tell us about dementia? Professor Lynn Rochester, Newcastle University (PDF:2.56MB) 

2016 Event

The 2016 public information day took place on Wednesday 14th September in the Kings Road Centre, Newcastle University. If you were not able to make it you can review the presentations below.

Funding World Class Research 2016 (PDF:1.6MB)
Can telling the absolute truth be unhelpful for people with dementia? Dr Roberta Caiazza (PDF:745KB)  
What happens in a memory clinic? Dr Charlotte Allan, Simon Jenkins, Kate Yiasemides & the Newcastle MAMS team (PDF:378KB)
A memorable cup of tea Dr Ed Okello (PDF:2MB)
The COGFAST study Sarah Barnfield (PDF:2MB)

2015 Event

In 2015 over 100 people came to 'The Core' in Newcastle city centre to listen to talks from researchers. We know that many people may not have been able to make the day so we would like to share the presentations with you here.

Do you want to know more about Dementia? (PDF: 1.2MB) Presentation by Professor Raj Kalaria, Newcastle University
Funding world-class Dementia research 2015 (PDF: 1.6MB) Presentation by Dr Carla Cox, Alzheimer's Research UK
Delirium: an up-date (PDF: 1MB) Presentation by Dr Elizabeta Mukaetova-Ladinska, Newcastle University
Using brain imaging to understand Dementia (PDF: 1.11MB) Presentation by Professor Andrew Blamire, Newcastle University
Diet, vitamin D and cognition (PDF: 4.04MB) Presentation by Dr Tom Hill, Newcastle University