Networks in the brain: mapping connections and measuring damage
The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, 1-6th July 2014
This summer, our laboratory hosted a stand at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. Our exhibit was very hands-on and engaged people of all ages.
Our laboratory investigates how connected networks of brain regions support thinking, and how these networks are damaged by a head injury.
Visitors to our stand will learn about our research with the help of an enthusiastic team to bring the exhibit alive:
- Test yourself on challenging and fun concentration and memory tests
- Play a game with your friends and family that measures your brain waves
- Watch a 3D video of a state-of-the-art brain model, which demonstrates how the brain is wired together
Watch the video about our stand and read more about it below!
How is your brain wired?
Using MRI to visualise the connectome
The wiring of the brain is made of white matter, which connects different brain regions. This complex “hard wiring” is called the “connectome”. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can be used to scan the human connectome.
The structure of the connectome determines how different brain regions, connected over long distances by white matter, communicate with one another. A collection of brain regions that work together to perform a function, such as concentration and memory, is called a brain network.
After a head injury, damage to the connectome can disrupt the normal communication between brain regions, resulting in impairments in thinking like problems with concentration and memory.
Brain waves and concentration
Measuring the electrical activity of the brain
The function of brain networks can be measured using electroencephalography (EEG), a non-invasive way to measure electricity from electrodes placed on the scalp. EEG can provide a real-time measurement of brain state.
At our stand you can play a computer game, where players control the action with their brain waves! Mobile EEG headsets are worn by competitors, to provide a real-time measurement of concentration. The person who is able to focus their attention the most wins! The game is fun, but through playing you’ll learn about the principles of brain network function.
Measuring your concentration and memory
In our research we use simple neuropsychological tests to measure brain function and relate this to brain networks.
At our stand, visitors can perform tests and pit themselves against their friends and other visitors to the exhibit. We will chart visitors’ performance and, over the course of the exhibition, we will build up a distribution of scores. This will illustrate how brain function is tested and also statistical principles important to psychology.