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.

For 2019 the Institute took part in two events, details below

Palace of Science, Wylam Brewery

The Institute took part in the annual Palace of Science event at Wylam Brewery, Exhibition Park. There are many events to encourage children to engage with science, however there are less opportunities for adults to get involved. The Palace of Science festival is designed as an evening of interactive science demonstrations for over 18s. It is also a showcase for scientific research taking place in the North East and a chance to talk with researchers directly. This year's event saw the addition of a 'meet the scientist' area where visitors could chat informally with scientists about any topic - including their research. Research groups taking part in the event were Dr Yuki Kikuchi explaining the importance of rhythm and music in brain waves using 'raspberry pi' computers and helping people to code music on them. The CANDO group is a cross disciplinary group of scientists and engineers, working on a brain implant to control epileptic seizures. Members of the team were demonstrating a fun virtual reality headset which allows people to learn more about the project whilst walking around inside the brain. A popular stand on the night was from Professor Stuart Baker and his group who were testing people's reaction times. You may well have taken part in a reaction time test - pressing a button as fast as you can. In this demonstration you had to press the button as fast as possible if a green light appeared but stop yourself from pressing the button if the light was red. This seems to involve quite different brain areas. The Baker team were testing people throughout the evening to see if these abilities changed. Another motion task was provided by the Brain and Movement Research team headed by Professor Lynn Rochester. This group investigates how our walk changes as we age and if this can be an early indicator of problems in the brain. Many people took the chance to strut their stuff on the motion sensitive 'cat walk'. Our visual neuroscientists were also entertaining the crowd on the night. Dr Gabrielle Jordan and her students were testing people's colour vision whilst Dr Quoc Vuong was inviting people to try out some new state of the art 'haptic' tablet computers. Haptic tablets are like a touch-screen' computer but also provide touch sensation feedback to your fingertips. These products have a range of applications but may be of particular use to people with vision problems. For more information about the evening and to sign up to hear about next year’s event visit the Palace of Science website.    

Bizarre Love Triangle, Northern Stage

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD is a mental health condition which affects approximately 1.2% of the UK population. To many people the stereotype of OCD is organising everything in your house by colour or size, perhaps being very tidy or washing your hands multiple times. These stereotypes really only describe the very surface of this condition. Vivid theatre company developed the the play Bizarre Love Triangle to delve deeper into this condition. This is the second play from the company on OCD after 'Just Checking' in 2015. That focussed on the break down of a relationship as actor David Edward's character struggles to cope with his increasing OCD symptoms, in particular his intrusive thoughts in which he worries he will hurt a loved one. 

Bizarre Love Triangle is a one-man show, again, featuring Vivid's David Edwards whom we join as he is packing up his belongings as he prepares to move home. Through the piece we learn more about Edwards story and the unique profile of his OCD symptoms. There are also 'talking-heads' which periodically appear to provide verbatim testimonies from others who experience OCD. Vivid worked on this project with OCD Action a national charity which helped them to gather the experiences of others with OCD to put in to the play. Professor Daniel Nettle worked on the play and also took part in the post show discussion.
For more information on OCD you can visit OCD Action and OCD UK


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 on the interplay between mind and brain.

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 intrusive 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

Newcastle is The Alzheimer's Research UK Network centre. Each year in association with the organisation Alzheimer's Research UK (ARUK) we put on an information day to tell people about the latest research being done in this area. For those who cannot make the event we publish details of the presentations here. 

2018 Event

2019 Event

The 2019 event took place on Tuesday 14 May at Newcastle Civic Centre. If you could not attend this event you can view some of the presentations below

Turning discoveries into breakthroughs for dementia    Dr Katy Stubbs, Alzheimer's Research UK (2.9MB:PDF)

How can we model dementia in the lab?    Dr David Koss, Newcastle University (3MB:PDF)

What can walking tell us about dementia?    Dr Riona McArdle, Newcastle University (2MB:PDF)

How we use human brain tissue in the fight against dementia    Dr Lauren Walker, Newcastle University (2MB:PDF)