Our brains can play tricks on us!’ What a fantastic talk from science presenter, Ginny Smith, for our Years 6-8 during the Trinity Term. Ginny astounded pupils with her detailed understanding and knowledge of our brains. For example she explained that the brain makes 100 trillion connections each day, which is more than the stars in our Milky Way and how ¼ of the calories we consume in one day are utilised by our brain!
Pupils, staff and parents were astounded by the experiments and examples Ginny showed them, like the illusion of colour that can trick us to be 100% confident in something that was then proved to be wrong. One final experiment surprised everyone; Ginny used a plastic hand to show how our brain can be tricked to feel sensations. One pupil jumped through the roof as a hammer hit what he thought was his hand, but in fact was a plastic hand placed where his hand should have been – it was quite amazing.  

In addition, earlier in the day some of the Year 7 pupils enjoyed a ‘Mastering Memory Workshop’. In the workshop they discovered how our brains learn by building connections with neurons. These connections are electrical signals and to strengthen the pathways a person must practise new skills or information. Any new learning goes to the hippocampus, which is small and cannot hold large amounts of information so eventually information must be stored in the cortex for longer term retrieval.

Studies of people with brain injuries help to identify which parts of the brain are responsible for which part of understanding. Pupils learnt that there are many ways to aide memory and recall. Such as using rhymes, songs, mnemonics (triggers); association (depth and schema); visualisation (depth). Spacing of learning is very important, as is the need to revisit learning regularly, especially at the time when a person might start to forget. Studies show that good learning can be done in half the time if it is well spaced. The environment in which a person also learns is important. Returning to the place information was learnt can help memory recall. Smell can also trigger memories. To keep brains healthy good quality sleep is essential and plenty of it! So early bed times all round!