Basics

THE BASICS
Come and discover fascinating facts about the basics of our nervous system. Find out what happens in the brain, spinal cord and your nerves when you move your arm. See simple animations and perform experiments to understand how nerve cells and the brain function.
Fun activities:
Guess the weight of brains from different animals ● create a giant ‘neuron’ live on stage ● Play some games to fool your brain ● Accompany us on a five-step journey to an action potential ● Manipulate nerve impulses in a computer simulation ● Experience epileptic flies in your own experiments ● Participate in the mind ball competition ● Take our “synapse tour” ● “Silence” the synapses of fruit flies ● Inspect mutant fruit flies in our fly clinic ● See and even touch some real brains of sheep, rats & mice ● Look at fascinating brains of different animals under the microscope ● experience “human behaviours” of fruit flies: aggression, learning, motivation and alcohol addiction!

 

Discovery zone 1: The organisation of our nervous system

Complex-brain

Comparing different types of nerve cells.

Sheep vs. rat brain

Sheep vs. rat brain

Can you guess how much the brain of a sheep weighs and how it compares to that of a pig or cow? We’ll test you and you can even weigh them with your own hands! Do you know the different parts of the brain and what they are good for?  Did you ever wonder why we have a brain, spinal cord and nerves? Do you know the difference between motorneurons, sensory neurons and interneurons, why we need them and where they are in the body?

Groovy Brains activity for kids

Groovy Brains activity for kids

Nerve impulses from the brain to spinal cord and muscles.

Nerve impulses from the brain to spinal cord and muscles.

Explore the answers with us – even create a giant ‘neuron’ live on stage – to illustrate the ways in which nerve cells send messages through the brain and body – and how interruption of this process causes different forms of paralyses, such as in spinal cord injury, motorneuron disease or brain damage (e.g. injury, tumours, stroke). Nerve cells are arranged into complex networks. Come and play some games with us to fool your brain telling us a lot about the properties of these networks. — [Read on here]

Exploring your senses in the Brain Bus

Exploring your senses in the Brain Bus

Discovery zone 2: What is a nerve impulse?
If you are asked to bend your arm, what happens in your nervous system? Nerve cells have cable-like, up-to-a-meter long (!!) processes, called “axons”. Through such axons, nerve impulses will flow from your ear to your brain, from your brain to your spinal cord, and from your spinal cord to your arm muscles.  But what are nerve impulses?

A nerve impuls running through an axon.

A nerve impuls running through an axon.

Accompany us on a five-step journey to explore their nature, and how this can explain diseases, such as epilepsy. See for yourself by manipulating nerve impulses in a computer simulation and carrying out experiments with epileptic flies!

MindBall

The mind ball competition

In our heads, action potentials  are coordinated into brain waves, so powerful that we can detect them on your scalp! Try it out in our mind ball competition, where we measure your “thought waves” and translate them into movements of a digital ball. The player whose neurons cooperate best will win!  —  [Read on here]

Discovery zone 3: What is a synapse?

A chemical synapse

A chemical synapse

The points where axons contact other neurons, muscles or gland cells to pass the nerve impulses on, are called synapses. Synapses are essential structures that help us learn and memorise. Let us take you on a “synapse tour” to explore how they function and why they are so essential for memory formation. “Silence” the synapses of fruit flies in an experiment illustrating what happens in “synaptic diseases”, such as myasthenia gravis.  —  [Read on here]

Discovery zone 4: Model organisms

BodyPlans-3

The same organisation principles

Certain aspects of brain function can be studied in humans. But many questions cry out for experiments that are prohibitive in humans. Therefore, most of our understanding of nerve cells and networks comes from studies in model organisms, such as worms, fruit flies, crickets, zebrafish, chicks, mice and rats. This knowledge is instrumental for understanding also the human brain, both in health and disease. Accompany us on our model organism tour, see and touch real brains of sheep, rats and mice, inspect mutant fruit flies in our fly clinic, look at fascinating brains of different animals under the microscope, and see for yourself that organisms as little as fruit flies show aggression, can learn, show motivation and cling to alcohol when rejected by females! —  [Read on here]

Fly laser quest - using modern "optogenetic" tools to study behaviour

Fly laser quest – using modern “optogenetic” tools to study behaviour

Contributing research groups:

  • Nicola Ray, Manchester Metropolitan Univ. — [LINK]
  • Stuart Allan, Univ. of Manchester — [LINK]
  • The Manchester Fly Facility, Univ. of Manchester — [LINK]
  • Gemma Louise Lace-Costigan, Salford Univ. — [LINK]
  • Ginny Smith — [LINK]
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