Brain Awareness Campaign

You can visit our Facebook page at the link below to contact us and view our current community involvement!

Brain Awareness Week is described by its founding organization, the Dana Foundation, as "the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research". Every year, organizations worldwide reach out to the community to educate and celebrate the brain and brain research. Since 2013, the Neuroscience Graduate Program has participated in Brain Awareness Week by visiting local elementary schools where we do fun and educational activities with students. Our volunteers consist of students (undergraduate and graduate) and faculty from the Neuroscience department and the Brain and Cognitive Sciences department at the University of Rochester. So far, we have reached almost three thousand children and have consistently received excellent feedback from teachers, with many requesting revisits or recommending the program to fellow teachers.

Our activities are designed to encourage children to think about the importance of their brains and how their brains help them interact with the world. Our topics range from perception and the senses to memory and learning. We have incorporated activities proven to be fun and effective by other organizations, as well as designed many of our own original activities; some of our favorites include:

  • Prism Goggles (sensorimotor learning and adaptation) — Children take turns trying to toss beanbags into buckets, but wearing prism goggles distorts their perception and makes the task very difficult. However after some practice, they see how their brains adapt to the distortion, improving their accuracy.
  • Yoga and Walk-the-Line (sensory integration) — Children try to see how long they can stand on one leg, both with and without their eyes closed. Then they try to walk along a line after being spun around and getting dizzy. Both activities demonstrate how the brain automatically integrates visual and vestibular cues to maintain our balance.
  • Optical Illusions (inference in vision) — Children experiment with several optical illusions including hole-in-the-hand and the checker shadow illusion. These illusions demonstrate that what we perceive is not always true to what is in the world, so the brain often has to fill in missing information.

In 2016, we expanded the program to the Rochester Museum and Science Center, where volunteers participated in activities with museum-goers. We have also presented posters describing our outreach at the annual, national Society for Neuroscience conference.