Controlling everything we do and think, the brain is the most amazing thing. However, diseases that affect the everyday workings of the brain affect millions of people. Come and join us to learn more about how diseases like stroke and Alzheimer’s affect the brain and what scientists are working on to stop this happening.
Fun activities:
Try out a real brain surgeon’s drill – on an egg! ● Have your blood pressure measured ● Experience how stroke can affect your vision ● Measure the electrical activity in your own muscles ● Guess how much blood flows through your brain every minute ● Learn how messages are sent across the brain


Discovery zone 1: Brain Attack

Brain Attack

Look at stroke brains under the microscope.

Our brains need a constant supply of fuel to keep them running, just like any car. However, rather than petrol running through pipes in a car, our brains are supplied by oxygen and sugar running through blood vessels. If this blood supply is cut off then the engine begins to fail, and the brain is in trouble. In a stroke, this happens when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off for some reason. This can happen if a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain becomes blocked (ischaemic stroke) or bursts (haemorrhagic stroke). When this happens, brain cells do not receive the essential oxygen and glucose that they need and begin to die. When these brain cells die the abilities controlled by that area of the brain, such as memory and muscle control, are lost.

How a person is affected by their stroke depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged. For example, someone who has a small stroke may only have minor problems such as temporary weakness of an arm or leg. People who have larger strokes may be permanently paralyzed on one side of their body or lose their ability to speak. Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than 2/3 of survivors will have some type of long-lasting disability.

Join us at Brain Attack to learn more about stroke, how it happens and what areas of the brain are affected. Find out just how much blood flows through your brain any minute. Have a go at pulling out a blood clot from a model blood vessel. Find out how your vision, sense of touch and ability to move your fingers can be affected by stroke. Have your blood pressure taken and learn about the research being done to find ways to lessen the impact of stroke.

Discovery zone 2: Action Potential – The MND Dance Group

Using dance to explore nerve impulses in health & disease

Using dance to explore nerve impulses in health & disease

Action potential is an exciting new dance work in which performers delve inside a motor neuron to explain how scientists think they work. This interactive performance combines a unique mix of contemporary, urban dance and martial arts to explain how the brain initiates movement to then illustrate the devastating disease MND (Motor Neurone Disease) and its impact on the body and affected and their families. Join the performance and talk to the scientists involved – and get the chance to hear your own action potentials and see what your muscles look like! Watch performances at 11.30, 2.30 and 4.30 in the big hall. Read the MND Research Blog here.

Discovery zone 3: Building blocks of Alzheimer’s disease

Stem cell-derived neurons under the microscope. Image by Helen Rowland.

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia affecting how the brain’s nerve cells communicate with each other eventually leading to loss of brain cells. The main hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease is the build of two proteins – amyloid and tau – which act together to cause cells to die leading to symptoms such as memory loss, confusion and trouble with perception. Come and see how we use Lego, microscopes and videogames to show how these proteins build up in the brain and have a go at some of the techniques scientists use to research dementia.

Discovery zone 4: Modelling Mental Health

One in four people will experience a mental health condition in any given year. For many of these people, the current treatments don’t work adequately. See how researchers at the University of Manchester are using animals to model different aspects of mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). See how symptoms like poor memory, low mood or communication skills can be tested in both rats and humans. Learn how researchers test potential new medicines. Then have a go at testing your own brain with our myth-busting quiz or memory tests!

Discovery zone 5: Brain Surgery

Using real surgeons' tools to cut open test skulls and eggs.

Using real surgeons’ tools to cut open test skulls and eggs.

On occasion the only option to help treat a disease of the brain is to perform surgery. In such situations the brain surgeon has to open up the skull to allow them to carry out whatever procedure is required. This could be to inject stem cells to help treat stroke, it could be to insert a special device (deep-brain stimulator) to treat Parkinson’s disease or it could be to remove a brain tumour. Come along to our brain surgery stand and get to meet real-life brain surgeons and see what special instruments they use to carry out their delicate job. Learn about how the brain surgeon works out which part of the brain they need to operate on. Have a go at using real neurosurgery drills to cut out parts of an eggshell – without breaking it!

Discovery zone 6: Testing motor performance in young and old (flies!!)

Plot your own graphs and statistically compare young flies and their grandparents performing at the climbing wall [LINK] – a simple yet powerful experiment used in contemporary fly research to study the genetics of ageing and neurodegenerative diseases. Want to know why it is done and how it can help understand those diseases: read on here.

Discovery zone 7: Dementia Friends

Dementia Friends [LINK] aims to give people a better understanding of dementia and the small things we can all do to make a difference to the lives of people affected by dementia. A Dementia Friends Information Session is a fun, interactive way to learn a little about dementia and how it can affect people’s lives. Led by a volunteer Dementia Friends Champion, the session lasts 45-60 minutes and covers five key messages that everyone should know about dementia, through activities and discussion. At the end of the Information Session, participants have the opportunity to turn their understanding into action by committing to a dementia-friendly action. No action is too big or small – from wearing a Dementia Friends badge to spreading the word on social media. Come along and join in on a Dementia Friends session as a part of Manchester Day. Registration can be made by following the links given below or by signing up on the day (providing sessions are not full).  Sessions will take place in the Town Hall, Committee room 3, at:
Discovery zone 8:  STROKE – Stories of Self Through Art and Science    &    The Stroke Choir

See more information about these two contributions in our Arts section [LINK].
  • The stroke  exhibition can be seen in the hall way in front of the Reception and Banqueting Halls.
  • The NW Stroke Community Choir will perform at 5.30 pm in the Great Hall.

Contributing research groups, clincians, societies & associations:


  • Stroke Research Group, Univ. Manchester — [LINK]
  • Brain Inflammation Group — [LINK]
  • The Stroke Association — [LINK]
  • Yuval Shezaf (email), Seal Medical — [LINK]


  • Rickie Patani & the Stem Bell Neurobiology Patani Lab — [LINK]
  • Emma Hodson-Tole, Manchester Metropolitan Univ. — [LINK]
  • Combination Dance — [LINK]
  • Access Dance — [LINK]
  • The MND Association — [LINK]
  • The Physiological Society — [LINK]


  • Alzheimer’s Research UK — [LINK]
  • Nigel Hooper, Univ. Manchester — [LINK]


  • Psychopharmacology group — [LINK]
  • b-neuro — [LINK]


  • Julian Evans (email), Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust — [LINK]
  • Paul McGuire (email), Medtronic — [LINK]


  • The Manchester Fly Facility, Univ. Manchester — [LINK]


  • Alzheimer’s Society — [LINK]
  • Catherine Lawrence, Univ. Manchester — [LINK]


  • Stephanie Snow, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Univ. of Manchester — [LINK]
  • Stroke Research Group, Univ. Manchester — [LINK]
  • The Stroke Association — [LINK]