Public invited to learn about how fish, magic and snails can be used to study the brain

Posted by ap507 at Mar 16, 2015 11:45 AM |
Free public event will be held at University of Leicester on Wednesday 18 March as part of Brain Awareness Week

Issued by the University of Leicester on 16 March 2015

Photo/ media opportunity: demonstrations start from 7.15pm onwards, Peter Williams Lecture Theatre, University of Leicester. Contact Emma Gisborn on

Have you ever wondered how scientists explore the brain, or what goes wrong during a stroke or in dementia?

If so, the University of Leicester is partnering with the DANA Foundation for the third year to celebrate Brain Awareness Week (BAW) with a free public event on Wednesday 18 March.

The human brain is the most complex arrangement of matter in the known universe. Through our five senses it ‘digests’ vast amounts of information, this allows us to see, hear, taste, touch and balance.

It commands our muscles, it learns, remembers, hungers, loves and hates.

Understanding how the brain works is a major research challenge, with thousands of scientists studying it in the expectation that through greater understanding we can eventually overcome many tragic diseases.

At the University of Leicester some of the world’s top scientists are engaged in research to understand the causes and genetics of brain disease, age-related hearing loss, motor neuron disease, testing potential therapies and working to understand how we see and read.   Also how psychology research can improve the quality of our everyday lives. 

During the free event, taking place from 6.00 – 8.00pm in the Peter Williams Lecture Theatre at the University of Leicester, members of the public will get the chance to meet and talk with scientists, view demonstrations of current brain research and listen to three short seminars on aspects of brain function and disease.

Talks will include:

  • ‘The brain’s largest secret’ - Professor Rodrigo Quian Quiroga from the Centre for Systems Neuroscience will show how to catch the brain in thought
  • ‘Targeting genes in brain disease’ - Dr Flaviano Giorgini of the Department of Genetics will illustrate the genetics of some brain disorders
  • ‘The eye: the window of the brain’ - Professor Irene Gottlob of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences will open your mind to diseases of the eye

The public will be able to view demonstrations on what snails can teach us about neuroscience, what magic can tell us about the brain and how a small tropical fish can be used to study psychiatric disorders, among many others.

A selection of posters created by Postgraduate Students and Intercalated BSc Students will also be on display at the event with the opportunity to speak to the students about their research.

Professor Ian Forsythe, from the Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology said: “It's a great privilege to explore how the mind works and it is a joy to share this knowledge with member of the public, especially when there is so much interest in finding ways to treat diseases of the brain.

“I hope people come along and we'll share our excitement with some of the newest discoveries from our Institution.”

Pat Loft, a former employee in the University’s Department of Genetics, suffers from Parkinson’s disease and explains why the research carried out by the University is so important to her. She said: “As a person who has been diagnosed with a chronic brain disorder, Parkinson’s, the research carried out by the University gives me hope.  Hope for a better understanding how the brain copes with damage and how it can be repaired so that the pathways for the nerve messages needed for control over normal, smooth movements such as walking, balance and speech can be restored. 

“To be able to type an email without ending up with ‘waaaaaas’ because of the trembles in my hands or to carry a cup of coffee without spilling it would be life changing. These may seem like small things to some but mean everything to me. 

“This research is important because every hour in the day someone is told they have Parkinson’s.  Which means one in every 500 people is diagnosed with Parkinson’s or a similar brain disease.  This in turn not only affects that person but their families and or carers for the rest of their lives and therefore it is important that the public are made aware of the symptoms that are associated with these brain conditions.”

Brain Awareness Day will take place from 6.00 – 8.00pm on Wednesday 18 March in the Peter Williams Lecture Theatre at the University of Leicester and will be followed by a cheese and wine reception.

The event is free and open to the public however you will need to register to attend via:


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Emma Gisborn on

Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research.

Share this page: