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This week (11-17 March) is Brain Awareness Week. To celebrate, the Museum of the History of Science has teamed up with expert researchers from the Oxford Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute to present a series of activities, displays, talks and more, all on the subject of Sleep and the Brain.

A crack team of neuroscientists will take over the Museum’s Basement Gallery on Tues 12, Weds 13, Sat 16 and Sun 17 March, presenting brain-related activities for all aged 6+. Visitors will experience research that is currently underway in a series of interactive demonstrations to see their own brain activity and investigate the links between sleep, health and diet.

Oxford has been an important centre for neuroscience research for centuries since Thomas Willis coined the term ‘neurology’ here in 1664. A collaborative exhibition, Revealing the Brain, has been put together with Oxford University’s Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and The Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. The Museum’s Entrance Gallery will display brain-related artefacts, from models and special knives for cutting sections of brains, to a novelty snuff-box decorated with a phrenological scheme of the brain, from 12 March to 2 June.

Professor Russell Foster, expert in chronobiology – the study of the circadian rhythms that govern our waking and sleeping patterns –  is giving a public lecture on Thursday 14th March at 7pm explaining the role of light in regulating our bodies, and discussing the implications of today’s almost constant exposure to illumination.

“Understanding the workings of the human brain is one of the last great frontiers of scientific research and a field in which Oxford is particularly strong,” said Professor Christopher Kennard, who chairs the University’s neuroscience strategy committee. “Research in this area has moved forward enormously over the past 300 years and is now yielding new hope for some of the most debilitating diseases. The exhibition and interactive activities are a wonderful way to explore these developments and bring them to the public in an exciting and easily understandable fashion.  This has been a fantastic opportunity for researchers to work with the Museum and bring science to the public.”

Professor Zoltán Molnár from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, said: “The exhibition gives a flavour of Oxford neuroscience since the time of Thomas Willis in the 17th century  and Nobel Prize winner Sir Charles Sherrington in the 20th century, right through to the latest discoveries made today by leading groups at University of Oxford. The exhibits show publications and objects that helped establish some fundamental concepts behind our understanding of the brain. I very much hope that this is just the beginning of future interactions between the Museum and scientific researchers.” 

For more information, please see The Museum of the History of Science