The Brain Zone at Centre for Life

A new exhibition at the Life Science Centre will help us understand what’s going on inside our heads.

The Brain Zone, a new exhibition telling the story of the brain and how it works, revealing some of its secrets and exploring the techniques scientists use to study it, has opened at the Life Science Centre.

The exhibition was funded by the Wellcome Trust, one of the largest biomedical research charities in the world and was officially opened by its Chair, Baroness Manningham-Buller.

She said: “I am delighted that we supported the Brain Zone. It is an excellent exhibition. I learned a lot and I had great fun going round the imaginative and stimulating exhibits.”

Exploring everything from how messages are relayed in the brain to the role of emotions, the exhibition uses hands-on exhibits and activities to engage visitors. One of the highlights of the exhibition is a real human brain from Dr Gunther von Hagens’ Institute of Plastination in Germany.

Linda Conlon, Chief Executive at Life, said: “The brain is endlessly fascinating and there is so much that we have still to find out about it. What we do know, however, is that everyone’s brains are wired differently and this is what we have set out for visitors to explore in the Brain Zone.”

Life has worked closely with a Scientific Advisory Board comprised of specialists from Northumbria, Durham, Newcastle and York Universities who advised on the scientific content of the exhibition.

Linda Conlon added: “Thanks to our collaboration with the region’s universities, the Brain Zone is not only an exhibition, but also a working laboratory where scientists will engage with visitors on a wide range of brain-related topics. This will help inform their research and enable the public to find out more about the fascinating organ that is the brain.”

To celebrate the opening of the Brain Zone, Life is running a programme of special events. The programme kicks off with comedian Robin Ince on 3 May who will explore what kind of brain it takes to make a comedian, and whether shouting at people for money is really good for you.

On 7 September, magician turned psychologist and broadcaster, Professor Richard Wiseman will explore the psychology employed by some of the world’s greatest illusionists, how to detect lies, and demonstrating why the hand is rarely quicker than the eye. To book tickets for these events, visit life.org.uk

Funding of £650k toward the £1m Brain Zone project was secured from a Capital Award from the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation which aims to improve health by supporting bright minds in science, the humanities and social sciences, and public engagement. It is one of the UK's leading funders of public engagement with science activities.

Image caption: Brain Zone advisory committee: l-r: Andy Lloyd, Head of Special Projects, Life; Dr Quoc Vuong, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University; Anya Hurlbert, Professor of Visual Neuroscience and Director of the Centre for Translational Systems Neuroscience, Newcastle University; Dr Harriet Over, Anniversary Research Lecturer, University of York; Baroness Munningham-Buller, Chair, Wellcome Trust; Rob Barton, Professor in Evolutionary Anthropology at Durham University; Greta Defeyter, Professor of Psychology and Director of ‘Healthy Living’ at Northumbria University and Jenny Read, Professor of Vision Science at Newcastle University.

Quotes from members of the Brain Zone scientific advisory committee:

Anya Hurlbert, Professor of Visual Neuroscience and Director of the Centre for Translational Systems Neuroscience at Newcastle University, said: “We’re only just beginning to understand the complex workings of the human brain. This exhibition will be a valuable educational resource for people of all ages, helping them not only to understand how our brain works but also to have a clearer, more informed understanding of brain-related illnesses and developments in neuroscience research and medicine.”

Greta Defeyter, Professor of Psychology and Director of ‘Healthy Living’, at Northumbria University, advised on the psychology aspects within the exhibition. Her main research focusses on children’s understanding of objects and how they reason about their function and identity. She said: “The brain is our most fascinating and essential organ, responsible for every motion, every reaction and every thought”.

Rob Barton, Professor in Evolutionary Anthropology at Durham University, said: “This is an exciting time in the development of brain science, with new insights into how brains are organised and how they work coming from a battery of increasingly sophisticated kit for probing neural structure and function.

“The amazing images created by researchers using the new technologies also provide a great opportunity for this exhibition to showcase the discoveries being made in neuroscience.”


Notes to editors:

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. They support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine.

About Life

The International Centre for Life opened in 2000, born out of an entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to creating a self-sustaining science village.

Almost 600 people from 35 countries work here: researchers, doctors and nurses work alongside people in the fields of education, public engagement and business. What unites everyone is a passion for science.

At the heart of the science village is the Life Science Centre, which attracts around 250,000 visitors annually and is the largest provider of schools science workshops in Europe

On site partners include Newcastle University, whose Institute of Genetic Medicine is based at Life; the NHS Newcastle Fertility Centre; the NHS Northern Genetics Service and several young and vibrant biotechnology companies.


International Centre for Life

Science in the 21st century is proving to be fast moving, potentially life-enhancing and certainly controversial. Life has grown out of a desire to deliver a science centre for the North East that is forward looking and seeks to offer these leading edge ideas in a form that is easily accessible to everyone.