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A street fair of brains and wonder

April 8, 2013
Knitted neurons at Wonder season

Knitted neurons at Wonder season

Kate Arkless Gray reports from the first day of the Wonder street fair at the Barbican in London.

From brain surgery to knitted neurons, the Wonder season at the Barbican has something for everyone. The Wonder Street Fair, which runs from 7-9 April, is making neuroscience more accessible to the public by getting them involved in experiments, art, and demonstrations. It was hard to tell who was enjoying the first day of the street fair most, as children and adults alike excitedly learnt more about the network of neurons that keeps them alive.

‘Brain surgery live’ simulates the process from injury to operating table, complete with air ambulance paramedics and real brain surgeons. Members of the audience are invited to assist in theatre while Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow Professor Roger Kneebone commentates on the action. It’s not for the squeamish though. If the sight of realistic surgery doesn’t make you shudder, the sound of the drill used to get through the skull might! Despite this, as Professor Kneebone points out in this interview, it’s important that people get to see the level of skill that surgeons have so that they are reassured if this should ever happen to them for real.

Wonder Season at the Barbican

If surgery sounds a bit much to start with, why not try pitting yourself against other visitors with tests of your reaction speeds or verbal fluidity? Confuse yourself with the Stroop test – shouting out the colour of the words, rather than the name of the colours written down, as fast as you can.

Feeling a bit more artistic? Stare down a microscope and try your hand at drawing a neuron or persuade the children to make space at the table so you can decorate a brain, or make one from Play-doh.

Wonder Season Street Fair

Wonder Season Street Fair

You can contact your inner cave dweller with the Guerilla Archaeology team, who’ll provide you with a blindfold, some charcoal and a blank sheet of paper so you can explore your innate artist tendencies. The Cardiff-based collective is made up of archaeologists, scientists and artists, such as Paul Evans who told us more:

Wonder Season Street Fair

There’s the rubber-hand experiment, the chance to play music with your muscles or control a simple computer game via your brainwaves. One thing is for sure, your brain can’t fail to be stimulated by all the activities on offer.

Find out what the first day’s visitors enjoyed the most:

Wonder season and the BNA Festival of Neuroscience 2013 are now on at the Barbican in London. Our team of reporters is bringing you extensive coverage of the conference and events throughout the four days – including posts from Guardian neuroscience blogger Mo Costandi. Come along and get involved or follow our coverage on ThInk blog or on Twitter via the hashtags #BNAneurofest and #wonderseason.

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