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The Search for Genius: Einstein’s Brain

news editor15 March 2012

Dr Mark Lythgoe (UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging) took the audience of his Lunch Hour Lecture on 13 March on a journey to explore the greatest brain of the 20th century. The lecture to mark Brain Awareness Week drew in a large crowd; potentially explained by the promise of seeing a real brain!

The journey began with a video clip of Dr Lythgoe and Dr Jim Al-Khalili from the programme The Riddle of Einstein’s Brain (Channel 4, National Geographic USA, 2005). The two presenters were getting into a red convertible in southern California and setting off in search of the brain of Albert Einstein.

The presenters could not agree, however, on where genius originates from and consequently where it can be found. Is genius determined by biology and therefore can Einstein’s brain show us how? Or is genius a culturally dependent term that lives in the ideas produced?

Dr Lythgoe threw the question to the audience: “Did Einstein need to have published his work to be considered a genius? Or if he had done exactly the same amount of work and drawn the same conclusions, but never published, would he still be a genius?”

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Untangling the teenage brain

Clare S Ryan15 September 2011

Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is a cognitive neuroscientist who researches something many of us find mysterious – the teenage brain. She believes that our adolescent years are a period of great change in terms of brain activity and being able to untangle what is going on could have wide-ranging implications for education. I went along to her lecture at the British Science Festival to find out more.

An adult brainA newborn baby has nearly the same number of brain cells as an adult, an astounding 100 billion. The difference, as you might already know, are the connections between the nerve cells, or neurons, which change massively over the course of a person’s life.

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Neuroscience Symposium 2011

news editor6 July 2011

Ilaria Mirabile, a fourth year PhD student in neuroscience at the Institute of Neurology, MRC Prion Unit, and Savroop Bhamra, a second year PhD student at the institute, report on the UCL Neuroscience Symposium 2011, held on 1 July.

Think about him, that boring professor you struggle to follow on a rainy Monday morning lecture…Think about how you fight to stay awake at the monotonous sound of his voice. Think about those nebulous concepts that (“almost”) put you out of science. Now, breathe with relief. It all belongs to the past. UCL’s Neuroscience community is bustling and exciting with engaging professors that know how to captivate their audience.

Neuroscience Symposium

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Aufwiedersehen Cheltenham

Frances-Catherine Quevenco15 June 2011

Bags unpacked and a new stack of unread copies of Eureka magazine added to my collection, I look back fondly on my week at the Cheltenham Science Festival. From the beautiful scenery of the English countryside, to my fellow bursary students, to the many intriguing science talks and interactive zones, there is nothing I would not happily do again.

Alongside the many talks held at the festival there were also plenty interactive science activities for young, old, and those somewhere in the middle. My favourite in particular was the “Who wants to be a Science Presenter?” activity in the BBC Science tent, where the Brian Coxes of tomorrow could have a go at presenting a little bit of science of their own and to make things more realistic you were given props, a fake earpiece, and a camera filming you live.

The Discovery Zone in the Town Hall was also a haven of fun and learning. I recall standing wide-eyed amidst a group of fifth graders watching a scientist from Liverpool University demonstrate how to make water into dry powder. I also loved the idea of the Talking Point tent that allowed the audience members and the speakers to congregate, ask questions and lead discussions outside of the lecture. I felt that this made science seem more accessible, especially since the speakers were so open to answering questions.
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