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Your Brain

your-brainIf you’ve ever wondered “how expectations affect perception” or “dopamine enhances focus,” the Franklin Institute has answers, reports Julia M. Klein in The Wall Street Journal (6/18/14). Housed in Philadelphia’s $41 million Athena Karabots Pavillion, the Institute’s 8,500 square-foot new exhibit, Your Brain, offers “about 70 ‘interactive experiences’ that range from antediluvian knob turning and panel flipping to more cutting-edge touchscreen and virtual-reality technology.”

Some exhibits foster “social interaction,” such as one that requires people with “shared history” to compare how their memories differ. Another encourages visitors to compete “to see who is able to recall a longer string of numbers as they struggle to open a safe.” A “neural climb” involves “a series of glass platforms encased by webs of netting … simulating a journey through a neural network.” The “pathways” exhibit “explores aspects of brain function, such as why we see stars after a concussion.”

Visitors are invited to use Ping-Pong balls, fired through tubes, “to show how chemical changes and electrical signals combine to transmit information.” A “piano suspended from the ceiling” tests the visitor’s “decision-making and capacity for risk.” Then there’s the electric chair: “Once seated, the participant places a finger on a sensor that detects pulse rate as an ominous voice predicts a frightening occurrence. The payoff is a visual representation of the fear response.” Your Brain runs through September.