When Stanford neurobiology professor William Newsome’s kids were in middle school, he had a smart idea. What better way to get young students interested in science than showing them some real preserved brains? Brain Day has been an annual event for more than twenty years now. On February 3 Stanford neuroscience students Ivan Millan and Sammy Katta packed up some brains at Newsome’s lab and took them to middle schools in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.
From its beginnings as a visit to one school, Brain Day has expanded to serve ten area middle schools. The graduate students ask the middle schoolers to be respectful of the brains that have been donated to science, and then they all get a chance to observe them. They compared human brains to the brains of monkeys, dogs, and sheep, and learned about their functions.
Amy Adams writes for Stanford News Service that one student was so inspired by Brain Day that he went on to study neuroscience in college. The student wrote to teacher Terry Noeth, “After adjusting to the awful smell of the brain slices, all I could think was: Woah. This strip of tissue used to be someone. This piece of brain used to think and love. I was so fascinated that I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to do something, anything, that related to the brain and how it makes us who we are.”