Time to celebrate the brain: Third graders visit DIfE during Brain Awareness Week 2023

During this year’s global Brain Awareness Week 19 children from a local primary school in Saarmund visited the DIfE to be scientists for a day. The team of Neurocircuit Development and Function were excited to welcome the curious young minds and arranged an entertaining Tuesday morning around the topic brain and food.

A researcher of the team of Neurocircuit Development and Function explains how a microtome works and how brain sections do look like. (photo: Ina Henkel/DIfE)

Dr. Rachel Lippert shows microscope images to the pupils. (photo: Ina Henkel/DIfE)

Junior research group leader Dr. Rachel Lippert introduced the structure and function of the brain before addressing the main question of her talk: why are we hungry and which parts of the brain are involved when deciding what to eat. She vividly illustrated her research at the DIfE. In a suitable way for children she explained that her research group answers central nutritional questions by using mouse models because the human brain is very similar to a mammalian mouse brain.   

Eagerly the boys and girls listened to the statements of the Dr. Lippert and felt like real students in a lecture hall. After the talk they asked lots of questions regarding the brain: How do headaches develop? How can I train my right brain half if I am a right-hander? Is sport good for the brain?

A girl colouring her research poster. (photo: Ina Henkel/DIfE)

After the theoretical part the pupils took a deep dive into the academic research world. As small groups they visited the lab where they had to don lab coats and lab gloves before actively engaging at different learning stations. The junior researchers learned how to prepare a dilution series by pipetting their own colored reaction tubes of solutions. They watched a researcher preparing ultra-thin sections of brains by using a microtome. Afterwards they had a closer look on brain slides through microscopes including bright-light and fluorescence microscopes.  

The children enjoyed a short break before getting creative and preparing their own research poster amongst the inspiring posters depicting the actual research taking place at the DIfE. Using colored pencils and lots of creativity they developed special brain-related graphics. The new knowledge was further topic once the third graders got back to their classroom.

Dr. Lippert and her team are planning to continue such events during Brain Awareness Week in 2024.

Background information

The annual Brain Awareness Week takes place since 1996. The global campaign is a week-long celebration of the brain every year in mid-March, coordinated by the Dana Foundation and Federation of European Neuroscience Societies. It aims at increasing public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. During the last decades the event has developed as a worldwide education initiative.

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