Young students test the public’s brains

Māori and Pacific school students from across Auckland have taken on roles as scientists thanks to the Centre for Brain Research and the Liggins Institute. The results from their data collection at Brain Day were recently presented to impressed family, whānau and university staff attendees at the LENScience BrainWaves Seminar.

The LENScience Students as Researchers programme aims to introduce high school students to structured thinking around science questions. The students are mentored by scientists from The University of Auckland’s Centre for Brain Research, and are supported by teaching staff from the LENScience programme and their school teachers.

Maori and Pacific students presented their results to whanau and university colleagues at the LENScience BrainWaves Seminar

Maori and Pacific students presented their results to whanau and university colleagues at the LENScience BrainWaves Seminar

The 18 Year 10 Māori and Pacific students were from Tāmaki College, Aorere College and Southern Cross Campus. The learning programme enabled them to conduct their own research projects based on simple psychological tests looking at attention and creativity.The tests were carried out on the general public at Brain Day, with the theme of ‘Your Creative brain’. The experiments measured how the brain works, with the students designing hypotheses to see if colour, shape or music interfered with verbal skills.

And what did participants and attendees learn? That music doesn’t affect your ability to concentrate; that musicians are less affected by background noise; that any reading (fiction and non-fiction) improves your vocabulary; and that visual aids (rather than verbal prompts) are more helpful in triggering verbal skills.

The programme was a fantastic opportunity for students from low decile areas to experience science, and will hopefully encourage more Maori and Pacific students into scientific careers. The pilot project was created by LENScience Director Jacquie Bay and CBR Communications Manager Laura Fogg, and was developed in collaboration with Rosabel Tan and Associate Professor Donna Rose Addis. It is hoped the programme will expand to investigate ways to develop science literacy, providing students with the skills to analyse the questions that they will be confronted with in an increasingly challenging world of science and technology.

Meet the CBR Brain Day tweeter, Lucy Goodman

On March 16th 2013, scientists at the Centre for Brain Research engaged their ‘creative brains’ in an effort to raise interest in the brain and brain research.

Auckland Brain Day is a free public event and relies on CBR scientists to help the day run smoothly. The opportunity to contribute to Brain Day gave me the opportunity to engage my own creative neurons and think about brains outside of my own.

I am a PhD student at the CBR, where I am studying how neurons in the hippocampus talk to each other. I spend a lot of time thinking about neurons. However, rarely do I need to engage my own neurons and talk to other people about my research.

I was fortunate enough to be offered the role of ‘Social Media Coordinator’ for Brain Day 2013. This meant I was responsible for promoting the CBR and generating interest in our research via Twitter and Facebook. This gave me an excuse to read more about science and brain research, and think of creative ways to make this interesting to other people.

I was introduced to a whole new world of neuroscience that is not available to me in the lab. I discovered a group of journalists, science communicators, and scientists who just like talking about science. Most importantly, I looked beyond my own tiny area of research, and read stories about other types of neuroscience research very different from my own.

I personally believe that communicating about science is a useful exercise for any scientist. As a scientist-in-training, any opportunity to discuss neuroscience and research helps me potentiate my own thoughts on the topic. As you may know, ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’.

But I also believe that a successful scientist requires creative thinking skills and the ability to write a good story, and this years’ ‘creative brain’ theme was a great place for me to start. I feel that taking part in science communication events such as Brain Day has helped me strengthen these creative skills for my future career.

But as Saturday March 16th rolled around, I was pleased to step outside the online social media world and experience science communication in real life (or RL, as they say online).

You can follow the CBR @cbrnewzealand or look at our Facebook page Centreforbrainresearch.

Brain Day 2013 videos online

Information from Brain Day can now be viewed all year round with the Centre for Brain Research lecture repository.  All the videos from the day are now online including the lectures and discussions.

The videos can be viewed here:

Emma Morris won an iPod for taking part in Brain Day research

Tamati Hohepa won an iPod for completing his Brain Day passport

Tamati Hohepa won an iPod for completing his Brain Day passport

The winners of the Brain Day competitions have also been announced. Emma Morris from Glenfield took part in our Brain Day research and Tamati Hohepa from the Te Atatu Peninsula completed the passport competition. They each won an iPod for taking part and the results of the research will be published in


Emma Morris won an iPod for taking part in Brain Day research

Videos from Brain Day online now!

brainday2013Videos from Brain Day have been delayed by computer problems at The University of Auckland. Look out for the presentations online next week at

Videos from Brain Day are now available and may be viewed by following the link below!

Check out the  photos from the day here!

Latest issue of CBR magazine Connections out now

CBR Connections Issue SixIn this issue we look at creative thinking at Brain Day 2013, our plans for expanding neurosurgery research in Auckland, and review the new structure of the CBR.

Released as part of Brain Awareness Week 2013, our glossy magazine-style newsletter aims to communicate the excitement of neuroscience to the wider community, and is written for the general public. It contains articles on our researchers and their latest research, as well as updates and reviews on brain research events and activities in Auckland.

Read our ebook here, or download the PDF from the Centre for Brain Research website.

More lecture tickets available for Brain Day 2013!

Due to popular demand we are moving Brain Day to a bigger venue!

The event on Saturday 16 March will now be held at the University of Auckland Business School, 12 Grafton Road.

Event tickets remain valid at the venue and more free tickets are now available. Register here:

Hundreds of parking spaces are available for a $5.00 flat rate underneath the Business School. Mobility parking is available beside the lifts and all floors are easily accessible.

For full information on the timetable, visit the Centre for Brain Research website

Brain Day Auckland 2013 lectures announced

The theme for Brain Day 2013 is ‘your creative brain’. Join us to experience lectures, presentations and creative works to enrich your world.

Lectures announced for Brain Day 2013Every amazing work of art, literature or music in the history of civilisation has been generated by the human brain. This incredible organ not only makes us who we are but also creates and perceives an in-depth world for us to appreciate. We will explore how our mystifying supercomputer makes this happen!

Leading scientists and clinicians from the Centre for Brain Research will explore how our brains create and perceive the environment around us. Workshops with community experts provide an opportunity to experience what your creative brain is capable of. Meanwhile interactive art, music and neuroscience demonstrations will entertain the whole family.

Brain Day Auckland is a free public event, held in the new venue of the University of Auckland Grafton Campus. We aim to provide information on the brain in health and disease, along with exciting developments in brain research.

The full timetable can be found on the CBR website

Please note seating is strictly limited and registration is required to attend the lectures and discussions by booking through Eventbrite.

  • Venue: Main Building, 85 Park Road, Grafton, Auckland
  • Time: 9am-4pm
  • Cost: Free event
  • Facilities: Full disability access, with onsite cafes
  • Parking: Mobility parking under the building. All other parking on street in local area.
  • Public transport: By bus to Auckland City Hospital or by train to Grafton. For more information look at Maxx transport.

CBR hosts 2012 Brain Bee Competition

On Wednesday 27th June, the Centre for Brain Research hosted approximately 200 eager and talented year-9 high school students from all over the North Island, and their teachers.  They had come here to take part in the New Zealand finals of the Australia/NZ Brain Bee – a neuroscience quiz for high school students which leads the finalists to compete in the International Brain Bee.

196 students from 40 high schools took part in this year’s event, most of them competing both as individuals and on a school team.  All those who attended had gained high marks in a previous, online test.

Students spent a whole day at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, and in between high-intensity competition rounds, were given the opportunity to do some hands-on lab work, and to interrogate current students and staff from the Centre for Brain Research about their work and their passions, and what brought them to CBR.

This year’s winner was Shen Jianto, from Mt Roskill Grammar School, who was followed closely – very closely – by Claire Wang from Westlake Girls’ High School, and Sang Ho Kim, from Palmerston North Boys’ High School.  Shen will now have the opportunity to travel to Melbourne early next year to compete against the finalists from the Australian States and the South Island.  We wish him all the best!

Pictured above: Shen Jianto, 2012 winner, pictured with (l-r), his science teacher, Professor Richard Faull, CBR Director, Professor Louise Nicholson, NZ Brain Bee Challenge Co-ordinator.

CBR features in worldwide Brain Awareness Week news round-up

The latest edition of the newsletter for members of the European Dana Alliance for the Brain (EDAB) the movers and shakers behind Brain Awareness Week worldwide, features a photo from our 2012 Auckland Brain Day, in amongst offerings from Spain, Croatia, Nigeria, and Turkey, to name but a few!

EDAB chose to showcase the attendance at our Brain Day of Mobility Dogs, who provide essential support for people living with epilepsy, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and spinal cord injuries.  Visit the Mobility Dogs website to find out more about this extraordinary initiative.