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@Bristol Brains Night

Game being controlled via a NeuroSky headset

Alex Milton presenting Neurocog computer game

Emma Robinson dissecting sheep brains

24 October 2014

At-Bristol opened its doors after hours for a special "Brains" evening. Visitors were offered the chance to take part in sheep brain dissections, watch brain cookery demos and much more.

At-Bristol’s After Hours evenings offer adults plenty of interactive fun and hands-on activities as they have free rein of the science centre. The theme of last night’s evening was “Brains” and was well attended by PsychSoc members (Bristol University's Psychology society) as well a variety of University staff who were assisting with displays.

One display run by PhD student, Alex Milton, used a commercial single-sensor headset to demonstrate the concept of visualising and recording electrical brain activity (electroencephalography). Members of the public were invited to view their own brain activity in real time and witness how it altered in response to variations in their thinking, movement and general state of arousal. They also took part in computer games which relied on participants actively changing their brain activity to control the game.

A few displays along, Dr Pete Etchells demonstrated his point light walker research which was first developed in the BVI motion capture lab within Experimental Psychology. Humans are highly sensitive to the unique movements of animate things - or in other words, 'biological motion'. Research has been conducted over the years to try and tap into the brain processes that allow us to see biological motion. Much of this research has used stimuli called point light walkers - dot motion videos where people are represented by points of light located at major joints. As part of this demonstration, people put on a black boiler suit with the limbs labelled with fluorescent squares and entered a UV-lit blackout box with a random pattern of fluorescent squares in the background. Other visitors could look inside the box, and watch the person when they were either moving on the spot, or staying still. The idea being that when the 'point light walker' was stationary, they become invisible against the backdrop.

Downstairs, Bristol Neuroscientist Dr Emma Robinson, ran a demonstration involving the dissection of sheep brains. The surface of the brain is very folded, similar to the brains of primates and humans, suggesting there's a lot of processing power.  Emma’s demonstration showed people the key anatomy and brain regions, as well as giving people the chance to discuss some of the different functions and diseases.

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