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New Edition of “How Your Brain Works” at Brain Awareness Week 2024

Backyard Brains in Serbia - Brain Awareness Week 2024

Schools, museums, libraries, community centers and other public venues in over 75 countries— last week, the entire planet was firing spikes in honor of the brain during Brain Awareness Week 2024! An annual event organized and partly funded by Dana Foundation and International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), it’s the biggest joint scientific outreach in the world whose goal is to get more people to think, talk, make, partake in experiments and get generally excited about the brain.

And just like every previous year, we were part of it too, personally or in spirit through our gear! This time around, our SpikerBoxes have conquered five countries (that we know of): from our own to Canada, the UK, Serbia and Austria.

But the Serbian high school teachers and students were in for a special treat.

“How Your Brain Works” Now Speaks Serbian Too

"How Your Brain Works" Serbian edition

After Spanish and Italian editions, our book “How Your Brain Works” (MIT Press, 2022) got its first expanded edition. The good news is, there are several more experiments that we worked on with our fellows since the 2023 Summer Research Fellowship. The bad news, the book is in Serbian, so the new experiments aren’t available to our US audience for the time being! We hereby extend our gratitude to Nordeus Foundation, Center for Promotion of Science and the US Embassy in Serbia, who have made it all possible.

But the book launch, several workshops and media appearances weren’t the only way we popularized neuroscience in Serbia. We also donated neuroscience combos (the book + Neuron SpikerBox Pro + Human SpikerBoxO) to 23 schools around the country. These schools are now joining the ranks with a couple Serbian universities, two primary schools and a grammar school that have already received our gear over the past years. It will translate to thousands of students getting a chance to do hands-on neuroscience in the classroom!

More BYB Neuroscience at Brain Awareness Week 2024

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High Schooler Becomes Educator: Young Fencer’s Neuro-Revolution Goes International

High schooler brings neuroscience to a fencing tournament in Paris.
Neurofencing in Paris. (All photos Supriya Nair)

[Updated February 2024]

There’s one thing that beats inspiring kids to take up neuroscience: Watching them not only catch the spark but pass it along! High schooler Supriya Nair is our case in point. Through scientific outreach using our SpikerBox, she has already ignited the interest of hundreds of her peers who got to see and feel the power of action potentials for the first time.

Her latest outreach triumph happened just this month at the 2024 Marathon Foils Tournament in Paris! There, she sparked the NeuroRevolution in dozens of young fencers from France, Italy, Germany, UK and other parts of the globe.

The reception in Paris was warm, and there was quite a lot to be learned too. “Most of my fellow fencers at the event were impressed with the data behind the adage that warming up is good,” Supriya tells us. “When we discussed a reduction of over 50 milliseconds in a 6ft lunge, there was a lot of excitement and cheering. I was humbled and really appreciated their time, everyone of the fencers from these countries were friendly, receptive and welcoming.”

Neuroscience workshop on a fencing tournament in Paris

The young neurofencer thus kick-started a string of international appearances where she is to empower fellow athletes to take up science and use it to level up their performance on the piste. And it’s not just fencers who may get interested in neuroscience. It’s also the other way round, as she’s about to prove in her next workshop in July, on the sidelines of Japan’s biggest annual neuroscience conference Neuro2024!

She has conquered much of America too, conducting upwards of 15 neurofencing workshops in California, Oregon, Arizona, Minnesota and at the SfN 2023 in Washington, D.C., where we met her in person.

Neurofencing at SfN 2023: High Schooler Becomes Educator
Supriya Nair with BYB co-founders Tim Marzullo and Greg Gage at SfN 2023

Quite a meeting it was, and not just because we love cake! It was the annual Society for Neuroscience conference with over 25,000 attendees where she got to present her neurofencing poster in front of PhDs and postdocs.

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5 Brain Awareness Week Ideas (Apply Now to Get up to $1,250 in Grants!)

Brain Awareness Week Ideas

Second week of March is always a special time of year for brain buffs. That is when educators from around the world join in for neuroscience outreach in schools and local communities!

Money’s always scarce, but your organization doesn’t have to tap into its own funds. If you write up and submit a proposal within the next couple of weeks (through October 31), you may get up to $1,250 to fund your Brain Awareness Week (BAW) activities for next March. This year, the IBRO/Dana Foundation Grants Program was expanded by 60%, so your chances of winning are bigger than ever!

But where to begin? You don’t need to break your head over activity ideas. We have a lot of wildly popular, effective and customizable hands-on experiments that have already made many an appearance during previous BAWs. Or, if you prefer something new, you can always scour our blog for inspiration from our fellows and interns! All of our experiments were designed to be conducted in makeshift labs, classrooms or public spaces. Being attractive and appealing whether you’re reaching out to middle-schoolers, college students or the general public, they all stand for democratization of neuroscience.

But what if you can’t make the second week of March? No worries. You’re not in any way required to stick with the exact BAW dates (March 11-17, 2024), nor will it affect your chances of getting awarded. Do it whenever you want, as long as you use the official Brain Awareness Week branding.

5 Brain Awareness Week BYB Classics

The foremost reason why these experiments strike a chord with so many people is that they break down very complex and sophisticated concepts in a way that looks and feels lo-fi enough not to intimidate anyone. Being featured on TED doesn’t do them a disservice either!

Another reason why we chose them is that they don’t take a lot of time or equipment.

1. BAW All-Time Favorite: Human-Human Interface

Required: Human-Human Interface + Guide

What does it take to achieve control over another person’s arm so that it moves because you wanted it to move? In its essence, this is an experiment in advanced neuroprosthetics that’s cooked up for audiences as young as 5th grade!

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