Growing Brains Lab Group

This week’s featured scientists are PhD students from the Institute of Child Development at UMN! Growing Brains is a developmental neuroscience outreach program that aims to educate young people about their brain’s development and cognition. The program is led by volunteer Institute of Child Development (ICD) graduate students and serves schools, summer camps, after-school programs, and community groups. Through the program, they hope to inspire children and adolescents to value science and to give them a sense of agency in their own development – and inspire every student to be a scientist on their own! The graduate students leading Growing Brains study child development broadly. They love to pass on their love for science and knowledge of neuroplasticity to youth in the Twin Cities.

What is neuroplasticity: A video to explain

An activity to try at home!

Demonstrate the sensitivity of your fingertips by comparing how two pins feel against your fingers compared to your arm. Needs: eraser, 2-3 sewing pins. 10 minutes.

Insert one pin into one end of the eraser, and two pins about 1 centimeter (0.5 inch) apart into the other end. Have a partner close their eyes. Gently press each set of pins against their arm. Ask them how many pins they feel. They should say one both times. Now try with their finger. This time they’ll be able to tell the two apart.

Because our fingers are so important, we have more nerve endings closer together in our fingers compared to our arm and can sense the difference between two pins!

Another fun activity:

Download, cut, and fold a brain hat (or print in black and white and color) to show kids the regions of their brain. Also available in Spanish! Needs: scissors, tape. 15-20 minutes.

Q and A

Header Photo by Robina Weermeijer