Neuroscience Fair Offers a Look Inside the Brain

March 18, 2023

Have you ever wondered how a brain really looks and feels, or what happens to your brain when you hit your head? Hundreds of curious minds came to the MSU Neuroscience Fair last weekend to answer those questions.

The Department of Translational Neuroscience hosted the event at the Grand Rapids Public Museum as an opportunity for kids of all ages to meet scientists and discover the marvels of the brain. 

With the help of community partners and more than 30 volunteers, Neuroscience Fair participants experienced 17 hands-on activities like performing deep brain stimulation on a gelatin brain, extracting DNA from a banana and viewing neurons under the microscope. 

One of the biggest hits for attendees was seeing human brains in real life and having someone there to explain it,” said Joseph Patterson, PhD, assistant professor of translational neuroscience. 


This year, the department added a new exhibit – the MEGA Brain®, a larger-than-life inflatable brain that participants could walk through.

“The MEGA Brain® grabbed everyone’s attention and was a fun way to teach both kids and adults about how different brain regions impact our thoughts and functions,” said Caryl Sortwell, PhD, Edwin A. Brophy Endowed Chair in Central Nervous System Disorders. “Hearing kids exclaim, ‘Wow, this is so cool!’ as they walked through the brain exemplifies everything we were trying to accomplish with this event.”

Person walking through the MEGABrain(TM).Brain health was an important topic at several exhibits. Attendees participated in interactive stroke activities with Trinity Health St. Mary’s, experimented with egg drops to learn about concussions and the importance of wearing a helmet, and explored diseases of the brain including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The Neuroscience Fair was held during Brain Awareness Week, a worldwide celebration of the brain, focused on increasing public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. It’s a major outreach event for the department, Patterson said. 

"It's important for kids to broadly see what neuroscience has to offer and let them experience it first-hand.”

The Department of Translational Neuroscience plans to host the Neuroscience Fair again next year during Brain Awareness Week (March 11-17, 2024).