Updated 01/29/2011 05:00 AM
Tech Beat: High-tech brain exhibit
The American Museum of Natural History has a high-tech exhibit that challenges visitors to use their brains in order to learn about the workings of the brain. Technology reporter Adam Balkin filed the following report.
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New Yorkers can put their brains to work, in order to learn how their brains work. That is the theory behind "Brain: The Inside Story," on display through the summer at the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side.
Curators say there are, as can be expected, several sections with pictures, models and explanations on the brain. Yet there are also some high-tech interactive sections to help visitors see and experience elements of the brain.
"The interactives in this exhibit are unique, in that they really draw the visitor in," says Rob DeSalle of the American Museum of Natural History. "We have a very wonderful interaction, very simple. It's called the 'neuron table,' and what happens is your hands are transformed into nerve cells and you try to make connections between them."
Some interactive exhibits share whole stories.
"My favorite interactive in the exhibit is how our neurotransmitters work. It's a story of a young kid who's reading who smells a cookie, and the series of events that happen after this kid smell the cookie. They all happen in his brain and cause changes in his physiology," says DeSalle. "We also have interactives on how language works. We have interactives on memory and on decision-making."
Unlike most scientific exhibits, "Brain" also features artwork. One piece shows a shimmering network of lights that resembles the electric firings of brain cells.
"When I heard we were going to incorporate artwork in here, I kind of shuttered a little bit, but the art pieces that we've incorporated work really, really well," says DeSalle. "The introductory art piece by Daniel Canogar, it's beautiful art, but at the same time it conveys the sense of science, of synapses firing."
There is also a brain-bending piece made of spools of thread that is unfocused unless it is viewed through a glass orb -- when it becomes the Mona Lisa.
YNN's parent company, Time Warner Cable, is promoting through its "Connect A Million Minds" initiative similar programs that are designed to highlight education through science, technology, and engineering. To learn more about such programs in your neighborhood, visit ConnectAMillionMinds.com.