300 LAUSD students visit UCLA for Brain Awareness Week

No doubt about it: Brains are cool.

Just ask the 300 local K-12 students who visited the 10th UCLA Brain Awareness Week at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. They got a close-up look at a real human brain -- as well as the brains of mice, sheep and cats – and no one went “Ewwwww!” (Few people, anyway.)

UCLA undergraduate and graduate students in neuroscience organized and staffed the entire event, held March 12-16. The point of Brain Awareness Week, sponsored by UCLA’s Brain Research Institute, is to raise interest in research and get students thinking about careers in science.

It seems to have worked.

Vidya Saravanapandian, a graduate student in the UCLA Centre for Autism Research and Treatment, fielded many of the questions from the visitors and can vouch for the inherent fascination of looking at, and learning about, brains.

“The younger kids, just looking at a human brain, they were so excited,” Saravanapandian said. “They were like, ‘Oh my god! Is this actually from a real person? How do these people agree to give their brains to science?’”

Older students were curious about the different labs and the research conducted within them, as well as more prosaic matters – such as whether UCLA has dorms and where college students eat.

“These are all amazing questions, especially when you are trying to motivate kids to pursue higher studies,” Saravanapandian said.

Brain Awareness Week is an annual, worldwide celebration of research and progress in brain science, launched 23 years ago by The Dana Foundation, a philanthropic organization that supports brain research.

By Leigh Hopper

 Education in Neuroscience