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

Mind Reading on Our Changing World

Radio NZ Our Changing World will feature the science behind Mind Reading tonight at 9pm.

The live MRI analysis event took place in Brain Awareness Week, and featured scientists Associate Professor Brett Cowan and Dr Donna Rose Addis. As part of ‘Mind Reading’ the experts were given the task of detecting the difference between a lie and a memory using Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Could they do it? Find out more on Radio NZ tonight!

Did you miss any part of Brain Awareness Week?

All the lecture videos and photos are now online! See our website:

You can find lecture notes and videos from Brain Day here.

The theme for Auckland Brain Day 2012 was ‘brain fitness’. It featured an exciting range of lectures, discussions and workshops to keep your brain in top condition!

Leading scientists and clinicians from the Centre for Brain Research presented the latest information on topical brain issues. Discussions with community experts provided the opportunity to discover practical tips on living with brain disorders. Meanwhile interactive workshops and hands-on demonstrations revealed the wonders of the brain.

As part of the Mind Reading event, Dr Donna Rose Addis and Associate Professor Brett Cowan were asked to spot which pattern of brain activity looked most like a true memory using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) brain scans.

The event was organised by the Centre for Brain Research and the Centre for Advanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging (CAMRI) at The University of Auckland. Promising to reveal the science of brain imaging, ‘Mind Reading’ offered an entertaining look at the capabilities of brain imaging thanks to MRI technology. View the event online here.


Winners announced for Brain Day competitions

Children from across Auckland were the lucky winners of fantastic prizes at Brain Day, organised by the Centre for Brain Research.

12 year old Laura Donovan won the Brain Day iPad competition

12 year old Laura Donovan was drawn as the winner of an iPad – her prize for taking part in the science labs passport tour and the Brain Day research questionnaire. The research questionnaire aimed to find out what information people want from Brain Day, as well as public knowledge about stroke. Meanwhile the passport tour weaved around the varied science labs on offer on the day, ranging from anatomy demonstrations to hearing decibel checks for ipods.

Laura says that she found Brain Day fascinating; “The hands on experiments were fun and touching a real brain and listening to the people talk about the brain was very interesting. I would like to come back again next year and take part in some of the workshops.”

Laura lives in the countryside and says she made a special trip to Brain Day. “I hope to be a vet one day and have an interest in how the human body works,” she says. “I attended Brain day mainly because my younger sister is doing a school project on the brain at the moment and also my mum was interested to find out some information about ADHD.” 

Meanwhile 11 year old Amanda Ford was crowned the winner of the children’s drawing competition. Judges PhD students Jerusha Naidoo and Jane Evans thought her diagram of the brain, which children could wear as a hat, was the most artistic. Amanda is from Parnell, and was very excited to win a $50 book voucher.

Honourable mentions for the drawing competition went to 12 year old Jes Godward, 7 year old Jackie Cao and 5 year old Te Mahara Tipuna.

Auckland Brain Day took place on 17th March 2012, and is part of the annual international Brain Awareness Week.

Public given a brain workout at Brain Day 2012

Over 3000 people took part in brain fitness activities at Brain Day 2012. Expert lecturers, brain health workshops and interactive science labs provided an insight into the latest research on brain health. 

The public open day on Saturday 17th March was organised by the Centre for Brain Research in association with the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand. Held at The University of Auckland Business School in the Owen G Glenn Building, the day was packed out from start to finish. The large capacity at the venue meant that over 1000 people attended lectures every hour, on topics ranging from drug use in pregnancy to internet use and our brains. 

Centre for Brain Research Communications Manager Laura Fogg says she was astounded by the public interest on the day. “We had children aged 2 years old right up to grandparents in their 80s attending the day – it was fantastic to see. It just shows how much interest there is in the brain, and how keen the public is to learn more about keeping our greatest asset in top condition.”


Over forty different community groups also attended the day, ranging from support groups like the Stroke Foundation to fitness clubs like Laughter Yoga. This Community Expo provided an excellent opportunity for members of the public to find information on many neurological disorders, as well as to learn exciting new ways to exercise their brains.


Children were encouraged to make ‘brain hats’, which they could use to explore brain anatomy. Alongside this, many also took part in the anatomy laboratory demonstrations, where human brain tissue was displayed in a sensitive manner. The anatomy lab was provided by the Faculty of Medical and Health Science Medical Learning Centre, in conjunction with the Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank.


New to Brain Day this year were workshops designed to offer interactive demonstrations of brain fitness activities. As well as fascinating science experiments, people also took part in a singing workshop, physical exercise information sessions, and a Mobility Dogs demonstration. School children from across Auckland also showed off their science fair experiments to collect data from the public, as part of a LENScience collaboration with the Liggins Institute.


Science lab coordinator Dr Cathy Stinear is pleased that brain fitness is being highlighted. “People used to think that your brain couldn’t be changed, but now we know that you can do so much to keep it healthy. One of the best things you can do for your brain is to take it for a walk – so get out and pound the streets for just 30 minutes a day! I think that’s what’s so great about Brain Day, as we can really get these critical messages across to the public.”


Lectures from the day will be available online at:

Brain Awareness Week – read all about it!

Over 3000 people gave their brain a workout at Brain Day on Saturday March 17th. It was a fantastic end to an amazing Brain Awareness Week for us!

The Centre for Brain Research revealed the science behind MRI technology, with the promise of ‘Mind Reading’ as a future possibility. You can view the event here:

Brain Day was an amazing opportunity to meet the experts and hear all about the latest brain science. Videos from the lectures will be up on the web in a week, but in the meantime you can learn more about the event in these articles.

NZ Doctor previewed the event:

Drug researcher Dr Trecia Wouldes appeared on BfM in Brain Awareness Week, talking about her research on women using drugs in pregnancy.

Communications Manager Laura Fogg talked about brain fitness on Bfm, discussing how people can keep fit and give their brain a workout throughout life. 

Stroke rehabilitation and exercise researchers Dr Cathy Stinear and Professor Winston Byblow appeared on Good Morning talking about brain fitness and plasticity.

Dr Cathy Stinear’s research on brain plasticity also appeared on 3news online. Our brain is constantly changing, and so technology may influence our ability to concentrate.

Our Changing World is also due to go on air soon. We will keep you updated!

Mind Reading event video now online

Mind Reading featured MC Russell Brown, A/P Brett Cowan and Dr Donna Rose Addis.

If you missed this awesome event, you can now view the live brain scan analysis online.

We have four videos showing the different sections of the night:

  • Introduction to MRI
  • Mind Reading in Motion
  • Memorable Experiences
  • Truth or Lie

Let us know what you think and enjoy!

Truth or Lie?

This was the critical question answered in the ‘Mind Reading’ event on Wednesday. Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) brain scans, Dr Donna Rose Addis and Associate Professor Brett Cowan were asked to spot which pattern of brain activity looked most like a true memory.

The event was organised by the Centre for Brain Research and the Centre for Advanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging (CAMRI) at The University of Auckland, as part of Brain Awareness Week. Promising to reveal the science of brain imaging, ‘Mind Reading’ offered an entertaining look at the capabilities of brain imaging thanks to MRI technology.

So could they do it? Well the answer was a hesitant yes! At the live event held at the Auckland Museum Events Centre, MC journalist Russell Brown pushed cognitive neuroscientist Dr Addis to make a choice, and it turned out her pick was indeed the scan taken while participant Reece Roberts was remembering a true experience.

The central premise of the event revolved around psychology student Reece being put through an exciting experience – in this case a whiz around a race track – which he then had to remember. In the alternate scenario, he then had to ‘remember’ an event which never happened. In other words he had to lie and try to fool the scanner.

Memory and imagination actually use overlapping brain regions and so the scans from each scenario looked remarkably similar. The packed out public audience of 400 held their breaths while the choice was made, and finally the correct answer was revealed. It turned out that increased activity in the hippocampus, which organises memory, was the clues which gave the game away for Dr Addis.

So does this mean that MRI scanners could be used for lie detection? Well the answer was still a resounding no. The technology shows increasing promise for understanding human behaviour and thought, but is not reliable when scanning just one individual. This is because scientific experiments are usually conducted with a large group of people and repeated many times so that the responses are averaged out. 

However MRI technology, like the 3T Siemens scanner at CAMRI, is still hugely exciting for the future. With international research revealing that thoughts can be turned into words, and that people in comas still imagine moving, the sci-fi scenario of mind reading isn’t too far away.