A peek inside your brain – Science Summer in Munich

Recently, MLFPM fellow Lucas Miranda from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, participated in an outreach event where he got to inspire kids and adults for science and raise awareness for mental disorders. Read his report below.Lucas Miranda

“On August 22, 2020, I participated in the “Science Summer” organized by the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany. The outreach activity, which lasts until the end of September and is open to the general public free of charge, displays a daily program with lectures, exhibitions, and practical activities related to biology, physics, chemistry, and the history of science, among others.

Persons looking at poster
(c) Srivaishnavi Loganathan, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry

I joined alongside Anna Fröhlich, Elena Brivio, and Srivaishnavi Loganathan, members of PSciComm, the science communication initiative of IMPRS-TP (the International Max Planck School on Translational Psychiatry, in which I’m enrolled). The group, of which I’m very excited to be part of since mid-2019, focuses on popularising many aspects of neuroscience, with a main focus in prevention, treatment, and stigma reduction of mental diseases among children and adolescents. In the more than two years since its establishment, PSciComm has organized many outreach activities and even published an article in Frontiers for Young Minds.

Person look into microscope
(c) Elena Brivio, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry

Our participation in the event at Deutsches Museum consisted of an open-air tent with a linear activity circuit. After passing through a disinfection stand in the entrance to comply with the current COVID19-regulations, visitors were introduced to basic neuroscience concepts with a short poster speech. After a short presentation about the basic structure of the human brain and its comparison with a mouse model, the children and adults could move on to staining mouse brain slices in situ using Cresyl-violet, and watch the result of their work in an actual microscope! A mouse-brain atlas was also provided, alongside previously mounted Golgi stainings which allowed them to see individual neurons and gain some insight into how they’re connected in a real brain. We also had real fixed human brain samples on display (a significant source of awe for many visitors) and a small game inspired by the DANA foundation in which young children could build and connect toy neurons using pipe cleaners. Finally, visitors were given a short speech about mental well-being on their way out and received a miniature copy of the posters on display, including our contact and a hotline for mental health information.

Persons at science fair
(c) Srivaishnavi Loganathan, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry

It was extremely inspiring for us to participate in such an event, and we hope it was the case for our visitors as well. Being able not only to talk to young kids about science but to show them and let them play with real samples and tools was an incredible experience. Besides, as mental disorders tend to be more prevalent than many people think, using the opportunity to raise awareness of their existence was very fulfilling as well. On a personal level, and even though I had to use English or rely on colleagues for answering complex questions, this was also a nice occasion to practice my German!”