Fascination Brain Mechanics: EBM at #NDW23

Symbolic picture for the article. The link opens the image in a large view.

On October 21, 2023, the Collaborative Research Center CRC 1540 “Exploring Brain Mechanics” (EBM) participated in the Long Night of the Sciences in the Erlangen, Fürth, and Nürnberg region. In a captivating presentation, EBM opened its doors to the interested public, providing insights into various facets of its research. The event spanned across five locations:

At the main event venue, the Institute of Applied Mechanics (LTM), EBM provided a diverse range of stations in addition to the BRAINIACS group:

  1. Interactive Activity: Touch Boxes – “Can you guess where we hid the brain?” Visitors had the opportunity to touch and guess the nature of the brain. It was a hygienically packaged brain, not of human origin but from a pig. Correct guesses were rewarded with gummy brain candies. This station illustrated the complex mechanics of the brain and how it behaves differently when pressed or pulled.
  2. Engineering of Artificial Brain Tissue for Organ Phantoms: EBM explained how they imitated the extracellular matrix of soft tissue using hydrogels, which can create various levels of firmness. Visitors could touch the manufactured brain phantoms to determine which best imitated a real brain.
  3. Brain Models from Anatomy: A 3D model of the human brain provided an opportunity to explore the fascinating complexity of this organ. Visitors were invited to disassemble and reassemble the model.
  4. Horizontal Sections of a Real Human Brain: Visitors were particularly fascinated by the opportunity to view and touch real sections of a human brain and compare them to a 3D model.
  5. Histological Stains of the Central Nervous System: Paraffin sections of the nervous system, treated with various stains to make specific cells and structures visible, were presented. Visitors could explore these sections under a microscope and study the different tissue structures.
  6. 7T Neuro MRT Scan of the Human Brain – 3D Rendering: A fascinating glimpse into the latest technology in neuroimaging with a 7T Neuro MRI scan that displayed the human brain in 3D.
  7. From the Neural Plate to the Brain: Visitors could trace the astonishing development of the brain from the neural plate to its full maturity in a video. This station illustrated how the brain changes during its development.

In addition to the main location, EBM was also present at four other locations at FAU:

  • Institute of Biomaterials
  • Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine
  • Max Planck Institute for Physics and Medicine
  • Department of Neurosurgery (University Hospital Erlangen)

At the last location, EBM, under the expert guidance of PD Dr. med. Stefan Rampp offered seven informative tours. More than 100 participants had the opportunity to visit the Magnetoencephalography (MEG) laboratory of the Department of Neurosurgery. MEG is an innovative tool used to detect subtle cortical lesions, such as focal cortical dysplasias, by pinpointing the location of epileptic activity in the brain. Visitors had the unique chance to observe the MEG device in its magnetically shielded room and examine the technical equipment used to study speech networks, motor functions, visual and auditory systems. Additionally, they witnessed a live demonstration of the MEG device’s sensitivity. An information booth allowed visitors to gain exciting insights into clinical applications and ongoing research projects. Here, it was explained how functional measurements are combined with structural data to enhance our understanding of brain mechanics and mechanisms.

The presentation of CRC 1540 EBM attracted considerable attention throughout the night. The EBM (post)doctoral researchers impressed with their creative ideas and fresh presentations, effectively conveying the topic of brain mechanics to a wide audience.