Teach About the Brain Through Video
Each spring, students, scientists, and brain enthusiasts from around the world submit dozens of videos illustrating a concept in neuroscience to SfN’s Brain Awareness Video Contest. The contest engages and educates the public about the brain in inspiring and entertaining ways, and the top videos get worldwide reach through BrainFacts.org.
“The biggest challenge is to find an idea you’re interested in and present it in story form,” said Kenneth S. Dyson of the Université de Montréal, who worked with his young sons to submit “Using Your Brain,” a video that received honorable mention in the 2012 contest. “There are many online tools to work with, and it doesn’t take much time,” he added. The Dyson video was one of several produced by a scientist partnering with a non-scientist. Other partnerships are formed with high school classes and community centers using SfN’s Neuroscientist-Teacher Partner Program. In working with individuals outside the field, scientists are able to solicit advice about how best to explain complex topics in ways the public can understand.
The 2012 Brain Awareness Video Contest winners, graduate student Ariana Andrei, research assistant Anastasia (Stacy) Eriksson, and postdoctoral fellow Marcello Mulas from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, used sock puppets to explain how different regions of the brain work together to visually identify an object, name it, and translate the name. “The Carrot” exemplifies the creativity on display in all contest videos.
Video Impact and Reach
“In sharing videos online, hundreds and thousands of people around the globe can be inspired to learn about neuroscience and how the brain functions and drives our daily actions,” said Jim McNamara, chair of SfN’s Public Education and Communication Committee. “The Brain Awareness Video Contest is a great way to help share the wonders of the ‘universe between our ears.’”
The 2011 video award went to the producer of “Treasure Hunt,” a clever explanation of stroke and aphasia narrated by a 9-year-old boy. The winner, Shiree Heath, was, at that time, a graduate student in Australia at the University of Queensland’s Language Neuroscience Laboratory. She won $1,000 and a trip halfway around the world to Neuroscience 2011 in Washington, D.C. Heath is now a postdoctoral fellow at Macquarie University.
“These videos are vehicles to excite and engage future scientists,” said David Morilak, a former contest judge and director of the neuroscience graduate program at the University of Texas Health Science Center. “They provide an invaluable platform for established scientists to captivate the next generation of neuroscientists. These young people may be inspired to choose neuroscience as a career and move the profession forward.”
Educating About the Brain
Another benefit of the video contest is that it can be used by educators in the classroom as part of a health and wellness curriculum. Patricia A. Trimmer, professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and former contest judge, uses the videos as a teaching supplement. “When I talk to teenagers about the brain I show them the videos in addition to my lecture,” she said. “The videos teach terminology in a fun way and explain how neurons interact with each other.” Trimmer also notes that the science included in the videos enhances teenager’s respect for their bodies and inspires them to take better care of themselves. For example, they make clear why sleep is essential to brain health and how nutrition affects brain operation.
This international contest is one of the ways in which SfN and the neuroscience community participate in the Brain Awareness Week Campaign launched in 1996 by the Dana Foundation. The campaign engages individuals around the globe to learn about and become aware of brain health and discovery, often through partnerships with community groups, service providers, government agencies, schools, and other organizations.
How to Get Involved
To enter, contestants create a short educational film on a neuroscience topic of choice and upload it to the Brain Awareness Video Contest webpage. The first place winners will receive an all-expense paid trip to Neuroscience 2013 in San Diego in November. Producers of the top three submissions will receive cash prizes. In addition, each year SfN encourages online visitors to vote for their favorite video as a People’s Choice Award, for which more than 4,000 votes were cast in the 2012 contest. The winner of that category receives $500.