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To highlight Brain Awareness Week (Monday 12th - Sunday 18th March 2018), the global campaign that supports public understanding and appreciation of neuroscience research, Oxford University will be running a programme of activities highlighting its contributions to the field. 

In collaboration with Oxford Neuroscience, Oxford Sparks, the University’s digital science platform, will host a microsite packed with learning resources including animations, podcasts, articles, interactive games and lesson plans for teachers. There will also be a series of public events ranging from a ‘left-brain/right-brain’ interactive evening, to a documentary screening of ‘My Love Affair with the Brain’ at the Ultimate Picture Palace, followed by a panel discussion with neuroscientists. 

The programme will be topped off with a Facebook LIVE event which will announce the winner of last year’s Big Brain Competition. Launched as part of the 2017 Brain Diaries exhibition run by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in partnership with Oxford Neuroscience, the competition asked visitors to suggest an idea for a brain experiment to be carried out in an MRI scanner. Selected from over 1,000 entries, the winning experiment was proposed by Richard Harrow. He wanted to find out how the brain makes sense of the voices that we hear and whether it can understand them when the sound is distorted or incomplete. You can watch the experiment as it happens LIVE over Facebook on Friday 16 March. 

Stuart Clare, Director of Operations at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, said: ‘We had such an incredible response to our Big Brain Competition last year.  I was overwhelmed by the imagination and creativity of the responses, and the brilliant questions that people were asking.  People have a real fascination with what is going on inside their brains, and it reminded me of the privilege I have working with the technology that can let us see the workings of the mind.

‘Choosing the winner was a really hard job, because there were so many experiments that I would have loved to do.  People had put a lot of thought into how their experiment should run.  The experiment proposed by our winner was so fascinating.’ 

Other Facebook LIVE events taking place over the course of the week, will include interviews with leading researchers who will be looking at a range of subjects from sport and the brain, to pain and the brain and the effects of alcohol on the brain and mental health. 

Stuart said: ‘The Brain Discovery Festival is going to be an amazing week of neuroscience.  Inspired by the competition entries, we have been asking neuroscientists across Oxford for answers to some fascinating questions.  We’ll be welcoming children and adults to see our state-of-the-art brain scanner in action during the week.  The winning experiment will then be broadcast live on the Facebook site. Real life experiments can be unpredictable, so I just hope it works on the day.’

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