Marvel at the mysteries of the human brain at the Brown Brain Fair on March 16

Free and open to the public, the annual family-friendly event invites Rhode Islanders to learn about brain science through interactive stations, creative art projects, lively games and engaging lighting talks.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Curious minds of all ages are welcome to explore the wonders of the human brain at the 2024 Brown Brain Fair.

Held on Saturday, March 16, at Brown University, the free, family-friendly event will offer Rhode Islanders the chance to learn about neuroscience and brain health through games, interactive demonstrations and hands-on exhibits.

Led by University students, including the Brown Brain Bee student group, in partnership with Brown's Carney Institute for Brain Science, the Brown Brain Fair will bring scientists and volunteers from more than 25 University laboratories and centers together with local health care and community organizations for a full day of brain science fun.

Organizers, including neuroscience graduate student Alice Lin design the event each year to welcome local community members to campus to learn about the inner workings of the human brain and the numerous neuroscience discoveries made by leading research, health care and educational organizations in the state.

“With the Brown Brain Fair, we hope participants have a chance to not only learn a new insight into how their brain works, but also gain an understanding of the groundbreaking research being conducted right here on campus — a place many may walk by every day, perhaps without realizing the discoveries within these buildings,” Lin said.

Visitors can delve into the mysteries and intricacies of the brain across more than 40 brain-themed stations, where they can touch a preserved human brain, measure their brain’s electrical activity, try on virtual reality goggles, control a state-of-the-art robotic arm and examine neurons under a microscope, among other exhibits.

One of the key aims of the fair is to ensure the interactive stations are engaging and exciting for kids and teens, said Lin.

“By participating in hands-on activities such as crafting ‘brain hats,’ tackling interactive puzzles or taking part in memory-testing games, we hope to introduce kids to the exciting world of neuroscience,” Lin said. “Ultimately, we hope to foster a sense of curiosity among kids that might open the door to a potential interest in STEM, research or engineering.”

Other exhibits will focus on brain health and present some of the newest brain research and treatments for disorders. One exhibit, for example, will provide the opportunity to observe phenotypes in specific worm strains used to study brain diseases, including ALS, dementia and insomnia. Other tables will allow participants to meet scientists and clinicians and gather information and community resources that help people reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, understand stroke signs and risk factors, and learn more about OCD, epilepsy, insomnia and other health conditions. Brown faculty and student researchers will also give 5-minute mini-lectures, or "Lightning Talks," on brain health and mental illness, among other topics.

Held in collaboration with Brain Waves Rhode Island — formerly known as Brain Week Rhode Island — the Brown Brain Fair is one of two flagship events organized yearly in celebration of International Brain Week, a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. Since 2016, Brain Waves has led school visits, fairs, presentations, performances and events each March to make brain science fun, educational and accessible for Rhode Islanders. This year, the cerebral celebrations will kick off on Saturday, March 9, at the Pawtucket Brain Fair and culminate at the Brown Brain Fair on Saturday, March 16.

Dr. Victoria Heimer-McGinn, co-chair and president of BWRI, launched the program in 2016 when she was a postdoctoral neuroscience researcher at Brown. She said these special events bridge the gap between scientific discovery and real-world applications and can help better the health and well-being of Rhode Islanders.

“Brain Waves Rhode Island aims to help people understand their bodies better — the brain is part of the body! — so we can live happier, healthier lives,”  Heimer-McGinn said. “Importantly, it aims to help people understand how research can save lives and bring us better quality of life.”

The Brown Brain Fair will take place on Saturday, March 16, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Brown’s Engineering Research Center at 345 Brook St. in Providence. The event is free and open to the public.