Brain Awareness Day 2011 Wrap-up

Wow! What a night!

Brain Awareness Day 2011 was a roaring success. I had a bit of a rough night’s sleep on Tuesday evening, sweating over the impending event, thinking about all the things that could go wrong. But you know what? I needn’t have worried. It all ran seamlessly. The organisations all arrived, they set up beautiful stalls, my committee and my volunteer stewards were all WONDERFUL and waaaaay more calm than I was.

We had an audience of over 300. I was thrilled, as was Ash. The last time he ran this event (two years ago) it was to an audience of about 200.

We began with Ash’s lecture – a whistlestop tour of the brain, and the history of brain research. Cognitive neuropsychology is the love of Ash’s life, and his enthusiasm for the stuff came over wonderfully. We started off with the basic FAQ style fun facts (the brain is 77% water, it weighs only 2.5% of our total body weight but uses 20% of our body’s energy while we’re at rest). Next came a potted history of brain research – from a brief mention in a 3000BC papyrus scroll, through to a sudden flurry of activity at the end of the 19th century.

But the most interesting parts of Ash’s lecture came towards the end, when he discussed brain damage, and subsequent neurological research (i.e. his area of interest). The effects of brain damage can completely alter people’s lives – and this introduction lead us wonderfully into the drinks reception and info stalls.

Downstairs, two rooms had been beautifully set up with promotional materials for our various organisations and charities, as well as drinks and nibbles to keep everyone going. We had wonderful charities turn up: SANE, Encephalitis Society, Epilepsy Action, the Epilepsy Society, UKABIF and Headway East London. We also had some promotional material sent through by the Stroke Association and Mind to put on display and some great goodies from the Dana Foundation to give away – which were much loved by all!

This session allowed members of the public to find out more about the charities, and possibly offer their support by way of donations, or even volunteering. I know from my friends at SANE that they had a great number of people sign up to receive more info about volunteering – so a brilliant night for all those involved.

Finally, we had a great panel discussion, lead by Ash, with three of his study participants (and friends). All three have suffered some form of brain damage (with two of them surviving herpes simplex encephalitis, and one surviving a massive brain hemorrhage), which has completely changed their lives. Whereas Ash’s lecture gave us a clean cut text-book definition of prosopagnosia (or face blindness), here we had a chance to hear firsthand the life experiences of people with severe facial recognition problems. They related beautifully how their experiences had changed their lives, but how it had also changed their outlooks – it made them realise not that life is cruel (described as the “why me, why me” mentally by one of our guests), but more made them be grateful that they were alive. That you have “one life – live it”. An important message for everyone.

All in all, a fantastic, enlightening, thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have some sleep to catch up on…

Did you come to Brain Awareness Day at UEL? What did you think? Please share you thoughts, and photos if you have any! We’d love to hear your feedback.

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