About the Exhibition

Part of the Brain: The Inside Story exhibition.

Brain: The Inside Story

November 20, 2010--August 14, 2011

The human brain--the result of millions of years of evolutionary history--uses molecular, chemical, and electrical signals to interpret information, weigh decisions, and learn at every stage of life. Drawing on 21st-century research and technology, Brain: The Inside Story offers visitors a new perspective and keen insight into their own brains through imaginative art, vivid brain-scan imaging, and dynamic interactive exhibits for all ages. The exhibition, which is on view at the American Museum of Natural History from Saturday, November 20, until August 14, 2011, brings visitors up to date on the latest in neuroscience, highlighting the brain's surprising ability to rewire itself in response to experience, disability, or trauma, and showcases new technologies that researchers use to study the brain and treat conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

"The human brain is the most complex and fascinating biological structure known, and we are delighted to explore its many facets in Brain: The Inside Story," says Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. "This exhibition illustrates how our remarkable brains work and what makes them so special, while featuring what is currently one of the hottest and most promising fields in science today--neuroscience. Visitors will not only learn what's in store for our brains in the 21st century, but will come away with an enriched perspective on the extraordinary brain, the vehicle for all of the things that makes us human."

"Brain: The Inside Story combines Museum research focus on evolutionary history and the diversity of life with the recent explosion in technology that is giving scientists a deeper understanding of brain chemistry and function," says Michael Novacek, Senior Vice President and Provost for Science at the Museum. "For instance, we illustrate how some of the basic components of the human brain, such as the limbic system that allows communication and social behavior, are also found in other mammals."

Brain: The Inside Story begins as visitors walk past a 3-pound preserved brain--a modest, small white mass--then step into the exhibition through an exhilarating "tunnel" of firing neurons, an installation created for this exhibition by the Spanish artist Daniel Canogar, who used lines of light projected onto hanging recycled wires to represent the brain's connectivity and to highlight its electrical impulses.

After immersing visitors in the electric firings of the human brain, the exhibition unfolds with engaging illustrations, vivid brain scan images, and brain-teaser games and interactive exhibits that will entertain and enlighten visitors of all ages. A stunning array of visuals brings the brain's myriad functions into view: a dramatic 6-foot-tall homunculus, a human figure with abnormal proportion that highlight how much of the brain is devoted to the sense of touch in different parts of the body; a multimedia video piece with a clear resin brain that lights up the functional areas used by a student dancer as visitors view a video that follows her while she auditions for Juilliard; an engaging neuron gesture table that shows how brain cells connect and communicate with each other; a glowing 8-foot-tall model of the subcortical brain (the region that includes evolutionarily "older" parts like the brain stem and cerebellum) that, by connections to exhibits, illustrates how the brain processes language, memory, and decision-making; and a deep-brain stimulation implant, the first of its kind on display in a museum. The exhibition also features a "brain lounge" where visitors can watch scans of the brain of a New York Knicks shooting guard as he reacts to the whoosh of the net and the roar of the crowd, and see how the brains of musicians light up to classical and rock music.

"I see this exhibition as a coming-out party for the 21st-century brain," says lead exhibition curator Rob DeSalle, a curator in the Museum's Division of Invertebrate Zoology who conducts research at the Institute for Comparative Genomics. "I think visitors will be fascinated with the complexity of their brains. Brains change with every bit of information that is taken in, and the stimulating information and stunning exhibitry of this exhibition will engage the brains of every visitor."

Brain: The Inside Story utilizes two creative and innovative ways to present scientific information: artistic interpretations and interactive exhibits. In addition to the Canogar installation, the work of visual artist Devorah Sperber plays with visitors' senses and memory by turning spools of thread into a work of art. The exhibition also features a second installation by Canogar that illustrates the rapid development of the human brain in utero. Finally, the Museum's exhibition team has developed a wide range of exciting games, videos, and interactive educational exhibits to enhance and deepen visitors' understanding of the brain and its functions. In addition to the neuron gesture table and the brain lounge, highlights include a build-a-brain puzzle and brain-exercising games.

An installation at the beginning of Brain: The Inside Story will immerse visitors in the nonstop communication that occurs among the brain's tangled forest of 100 billion interconnected neurons, or brain cells. Throughout the rest of the show, visitors will explore how the nervous system processes information from the senses and how the brain creates perception, how brain imaging and advances in biochemistry are deepening the understanding of the emotional brain, and how the highly developed neocortex allows humans to make plans and predictions as well as engage in symbolic thought. Visitors will also learn how the brain's plasticity allows changes at different stages of life and how 21st century science can repair and improve the brain.

Throughout the exhibition, challenge your brain with interactive puzzles and games that probe neural connections and pathways. Gallery 3, third floor.

Brain: The Inside Story is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with Codice, Idee per la cultura, Torino, Italy in association with Comune di Milano - Assessorato Cultura, Italy, in collaboration with the Guangdong Science Center, Guangzhou, China; and Parque de las Ciencias, Granada, Spain.