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Working in partnership to share University of Oxford research with local communities in Banbury

Black and white lines on a floor creating a visual illusion of a black hole © Medium / Jacqueline Pumphrey

The ‘Your Amazing Brain: A User’s Guide’ exhibition is the result of a close collaboration between Banbury Museum & Gallery and the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, University of Oxford. Funded by the Wellcome Trust.

A labyrinth of puzzles and illusions

Stepping into the exhibition at Banbury Museum & Gallery is a bit like stepping into the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. A kaleidoscope of colours and patterns assaults your senses. The overall effect is momentarily disorientating and simultaneously intriguing. Are those horizontal lines on that black and white tiled wall really straight? Why does the stripy floor look as though it’s got a massive hole in it? And what’s going on in the orange room with the pink slope that makes children look as tall as adults?

This almost psychedelic experience is just the start of a whole suite of illusory exhibits and puzzles that are fascinating visitors of all ages. The first part of the exhibition demonstrates how the shortcuts that your brain has learned in order to make sense of the world sometimes backfire, resulting in a confusing optical illusion. In a different zone, you can have a go at drawing a star reflected in a mirror (harder than it sounds); pick up two different sized cubes and work out which is heavier; and, for the brave, plunge your hand into covered boxes to feel what is inside. These activities provoke curiosity about the brain’s role in our senses and emotions.

Read more about the exhibition in a Medium article, written by Jacqueline Pumphrey, Communications & Public Engagement Manager in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences