Brain Awareness Week kicked off Monday with activities by the UF Neuroscience Club.
The UF Neuroscience Club is hosting activities on the university’s Plaza of the Americas Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Participants can taste African miracle berries, which are dissolvable tablets that trick taste buds into thinking sour foods are sweet.
The berries are often used for patients undergoing chemotherapy. The treatment alters patients’ taste buds, and the berries improve food taste, said UF Neuroscience Club Brain Awareness Week Co-Chair Ana Galvan.
Tony Sadiku contributed audio reporting.
Other activities include optical illusions and a Mindflex Duel game.
Wearing a headband that clips to the ears and places a sensor on the forehead, the Mindflex Duel senses EEG waves and brain activity. It uses the activity to power a fan and lift a little blue ball. The more brain activity used, the stronger the fan blows and vice versa.
“It’s not actually super complex,” Galvan, a UF psychology sophomore, said. “It’s something you can visually experience with brain activity.”
Participants can also look at a sheep’s brain, which is significantly smaller than a human brain.
Candy Ganyo used the Mindflex Duel. Her brain waves were working strongly, and she was able to keep the ball in the air. Unfortunately, the levitating didn’t last long because of the wind.
Ganyo also tried several of the optical illusions.
“I could see the number five, so I know I’m not color blind,” she said referring to the colorblind test optical illusion.
The week, held in honor of the only organ that named itself, is part of an international campaign to increase public awareness of brain research. The Dana Foundation, a private organization that supports brain research through grants, publications and educational programs, started the week in 1996.
The ‘90s was the decade for the brain, said Neuroscience Club Advertisement Chair Stephen Tapia-Ruano. He said the field flourished with the mapping of the human genome.
But still, Tapia-Ruano said brain research has hardly scratched the surface.
“It’s the most complex thing in the known universe and there’s plenty more to learn and understand,” he said.
Four ways to increase brain function, according to the Dana Foundation:
- Increase your levels of mental activity. This could be done by playing games like chess or looking at optical illusions.
- Increase your physical activity.
- Increase your level of social engagement.
- Eat well and control vascular risk factors, like blood pressure, cholesterol and stress.
Five facts about the brain:
- Dreams are a result of the brain’s cortex region trying to interpret random electrical activity
- Caffeinated drinks and decongestants stimulate some parts of the brain and can hinder sleeping.
- Déjà vu sensations happen in the medial temporal lobe. There is a misconception that these sensations happen before an event, when in actuality, it occurs during an event.
- The brain accounts for only 2 percent of a person’s body weight, yet it consumes about 20 percent of the oxygen person breathes.
- Hallucinations can be produced naturally by depriving the body of sensory input. For example, people who deprive themselves of oxygen in a dark room might end up seeing lights and colors.