Amazing Brain, Amazing Scientist

11 09 2009

gouldLiz Gould is one of the many scientists studying the way our brains and minds work. She is a famous scientist who pursued her observations and experiments even though other people doubted her. Her groundbreaking research has inspired other brain researchers, and has even become its own scientific field!

One day, Gould was in her lab counting the neurons (brain cells) in an adult brain. She kept counting more neurons than there should have been. This didn’t make sense because most scientists believed the brain stops making new cells in adulthood. She kept experimenting and continued to get the same result. Too many cells! Through her experiments, she was able to show that the adult brain does grow new cells! This conclusion changed the whole field of brain research.

Liz Gould now works at Princeton University, where she studies the brains of marmosets (small monkeys). Even here she has made changes from the way scientists traditionally work with animals. Instead of keeping the marmosets in cramped cages, they live in a large habitat where they can play and live more naturally. Gould discovered that when animals are kept in cages, their brains don’t grow new cells. But when they live in a natural environment, they do!

marmosetIt’s important to keep an open mind when exploring the world. Asking questions and experimenting can lead to new discoveries that change the way we look at everything. Maybe you’ll find something no one has ever discovered before!

 

 

Neurons are very small and difficult to see. Scientists stain them with color so that they are easier to view under a microscope. Their slides are beautiful little works of art that become research. In this activity you can pretend you are a neuroscientist, preparing neurons for experimentation!

 

You will need some white construction paper, food coloring, white crayon, and a shallow tray (or a spray bottle).

neurons 001

Fill the tray with water and mix in the food coloring of your choice until the water is a uniform color.  You can also mix the water and food coloring in a spray bottle.

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Use the white crayon to draw a “neuron” on the paper. The drawing will be very hard to see at this point.

neurons 005

Lay the paper on the surface of the colored water (or spray the paper using the spray bottle) until the white paper turns the color of the water.

neurons 007

The stain will reveal your white crayon drawing. Now you can more easily study the “neurons”!

neurons 009

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