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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

‘The World Inside Your Head’ On Display In New Exhibit At Fleet Science Center

 February 4, 2020 at 10:09 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 If you've ever wondered what goes on inside our brains, there's now an exhibit that gives people a chance to stroll inside the human brain to learn how it works. Brain the world. Inside your head is a new exhibit at the fleet science center in Balboa park. Steve Snyder, president and CEO of the fleet science center joins us to talk about the exhibit which is opening just in time for museum month. Steve, welcome. Oh, thanks for having me. So I understand that in one part of the exhibit, uh, guests will go inside of a brain, paint us a picture. Can you describe what, what guests will see when they're walking through the brain? Speaker 2: 00:37 Exactly. They take their brain in a tour of their brain. Exactly is. So it's a, it's a reproduction of a creation of this notion of what do those neurons actually look like? What are those cells that are inside our head that make us those billions of cells that make us who we are? What do they look like, how do they connect? And that notion of sort of a, our brain is a, an an ongoing lightning storm of energy. When you're walking through the brain, that's actually the entrance to the exhibition. And it's a space where we have created a large scale reproductions of these neurons, these multi-section sectional kind of somewhat alien looking cells, uh, that actually fire electricity, enlightened glow, uh, as your brain processes. So you'll actually walk through this kind of mixed web of neuron cells, uh, at large that you can actually walk through and explore. It gives you some introductory questions to the exhibition. Some of the questions scientists are trying to answer and get you kind of geared up for what's to come. Speaker 1: 01:27 Hmm. All of the synapsis and everything. Speaker 2: 01:29 Everything that's there. Yes. So it's going to look, this is really about from the cellular level, how does this actually build up into our experience of the world? Speaker 1: 01:36 Uh, in many ways the brain is still an unknown entity. Uh, how is that handled in the exhibit? Speaker 2: 01:41 Well, I think that's the exciting thing about the brain, right? That's the exciting thing about neuroscience research and of course being in San Diego because there's so much incredible neuroscience research going on here. Is that this most important thing? The thing that makes us us is one of the things we know the least about. So this exhibit really goes into exploring how do we go through and understand the brain, what do we know about it? And also raises questions about the things that we don't know right now. Uh, I think the neuroscience is in some sense sort of a waiting for its Galileo moment. That moments could just completely change our understanding of how the brain works and who we are and our place in the universe. Speaker 1: 02:13 Hmm. Some of the latest research into the brain is also presented to visitors. And what are some of those new discoveries that people can learn about? Speaker 2: 02:20 Well, I think the, the interesting thing about, uh, about the exhibit, about some of the new information that's coming out is we're learning more and more about how we kind of go from these individual cells up to these large concepts. We still have, no, I'll be honest, we don't really understand what consciousness is yet. It's hard to even define that, but it's a lot of steps between that and our, our understanding of consciousness. So for example, we know a lot about how we see and how we start perceiving the world and that'll actually part of another exhibit. We're opening also this month called illusion, which looks at using illusions to understand how our visual processing centers work, how we go from seeing edges to shapes, to using our memories to creating an entire picture of the world inside head and dimensions even. Oh, absolutely. All of these things, you know when you really think about it, the amazing and number of things that have to happen for us to go from the solid world around us to these images inside our head is really amazing and astounding, and so this is what the, these exhibitions are going to let you do. Speaker 2: 03:14 Wow. Part of the exhibit allows visitors to compare a human brain with the brains of different animals. What do you expect visitors to take away from that? I think what's really cool is just the variation, the incredible variation. All of these do work in the same idea that we've gotten these neuron cells, these cells are slightly different in different animals that come together and come together in different shapes. They come in different sizes. And the question really becomes as well, what does that mean? What does it really mean for what's going on inside those animal brains that might be different or the same as ours? So what kind of animal brains are included in this? Well, some of the ones that you most might expect, some household critters and things like dolphins and things that you know, so a whole range of different sizes and scales of animals and also, you know, the importance of sleep to the brain is also something visitors can learn about from the exhibit. Speaker 2: 04:02 How does the exhibit address that? Well, and so I think that's really looking at what's the role of sleep. And this is a really interesting question for science is, Oh well why do we need to sleep? You know, we've talked about energy, we would talk about this, but what is important about our brain cells and some of the notions that might be going on, that while we're sleeping, we're actually processing things and some really interesting research that won on about how well you remember after taking a rest, looking at something and taking and sleeping and why it's so important for as a, let me just stress this to my own kids, teenagers before a test, get a good night's sleep. Um, our why. So why is it and what's so important about that? And so the exhibit gives you an opportunity to kind of explore what do we know and what do we know don't know about it. Speaker 2: 04:40 Sleeping on it may be the best thing someone can do. It sounds right. That's right. All right. The exhibit also explores that thin line between genius and mental illness and even some disorders. Again, sounds fascinating. What can you tell me about that? Well, I think the, again, this is one of the interesting things. A lot of what we've learned about the brain is by looking at what, how brains are different, right? And those include somethings that might have some disorders or injuries that uh, by understanding what was damaged or what's different, we can understand how things are being processed in the brain. So I think that's one of the interesting things about it. We talk about this a kind of range of how we experience the world. Our brain determines that and our brains are all different. And so what does that mean? Right? And the relationship between depression and creativity is also explored. Speaker 2: 05:23 Walk me through that. So that's an interesting one there, right? In terms of what parts of the brain are involved, what parts of the brain do we think about what creativity comes from, what processes are involved, and then what's going on. We talk about depression, right? What are the sort of those neuro chemical transmitters and what happens when they are acting differently and what does that mean for someone's experience? And I think that's where the key things that's interesting about this exhibition is that it gets down to the end of the day is your experience of the world is different from my experience in the world. And the reason is that is that's because of the nature of our brains. And that's a wonderful, amazing thing. Uh, that's a really drives to understand more. And you know, this is a traveling exhibit. So why did you want to bring it to the fleet? Speaker 2: 06:02 Well, we were looking at what's a good exhibition to bring in. And certainly there is nothing more personal to each of us than ourselves and ourselves are sitting up there in our brain. So what a great way to bring this in. And we wanted to bring it in because we also have these two other exhibitions that go along with it. A mind bender mansion, which is about applying your brain to brain teasers and puzzles. So using and working your brain and the solution exhibit, which is looking at how to scientists use illusions to understand our brain. So together, all three of these made this really wonderful experience about how do you understand our brain, what's our brain actually doing? And then applying it to solve real world problems. Is there a specific audience? This exhibit is geared toward a, you know, it's a really wonderful wide range as most of the stuff we like to do is as we expect this, as you know, what will we usually programming in mind with a family with a wide range of kids, which means we're programming for adults, for grandparents, for kids, and also even those toddlers all the way down. Speaker 2: 06:54 And I mentioned in the intro that this month is museum month. What does that mean for fleet visitors? So you can pick up some museum month passes, that's a libraries around town and those give you half price admission to the fleet and a whole host of other museums during museum month. And it's just another way of the museums getting together and saying, thank you all to San Diego for all the support you give us throughout the year and getting everybody to come in and see some of the really wonderful experiences that we have. I've been speaking with Steve Snyder, president and CEO of fleet science center. Steve, thank you so much. Thank you for having me. Brain the world inside your head runs through April 26 at the fleet science center in Balbo park.

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The all-ages exhibit is on display at the museum through April 26 and coincides with San Diego Museum Month.
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