We are presenting at The Big Bang North West on Wednesday 26th June at St Georges Hall and the World Museum in Liverpool. Along with all the amazing activities that are already available we are presenting a look at basic DNA manipulation and neuropsychology.
What is DNA?
DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid which is a chemical found in the nucleus of cells in everything that: grows, runs, flies, swims or does a little bit of all of that like we do (flying with the assistance of a perfectly serviceable aircraft of course). Think of DNA as the instructions (like a blueprint) needed to build cells. The instructions are then divided into little segments called genes. Genes are hereditary subunits designed to code for the production of proteins, which control characteristics like skin colour, eye colour, body type and so on, they are even thought to influence personality; something for the psychologists to argue about. Sounds complicated doesn’t it? Just think of Genes as a bit smaller than DNA, and responsible for telling cells which type to be such as a blood cell, bone cell, or a neuron, and also how to do what they are there to do.
A short experiment will be conducted by our researcher involving attendees. Children will see how common household goods can enable them to see their own DNA. We will supply the reagents and protective clothing for the experiment: washing up liquid, alcohol and salt. Combined with a DNA swab, these reagents interact to produce the first step in DNA extraction. Further to this, attendees will have the opportunity to try and create their own DNA strand using various candy treats. The idea is to enable them to build a model representation of a DNA strand to reinforce what they observed in the demonstration.
A handy guide on the do it yourself genetics experiment can be found here, but please don’t raid your parents’ cupboards without asking permission first!
What is Neuropsychology?
Neuropsychology is the study of how we think, and also how the physical brain helps us to interact with the world. Neuropsychologists seek to find how behaviour can highlight problems in the brain, and also help to indicate if there is a biological or psychological basis to many conditions. As you can probably guess, neuropsychology is a cross between neurology and psychology. Neuropsychologists can work as part of a team involving amongst others: neuroscientists, biologists, neurologists, psychologists and many other “ists”. Many practitioners are invested in applying the science directly to help clinical patients, others help by developing new techniques to achieve this, and other neuropsychologists conduct research into many related areas. Neuropsychologists use many different tools from behavioural questionnaires to sophisticated scanning techniques at the cutting edge of technology. One such recent development in technology has been dubbed “clarity” and is truly mind blowing, having been covered in a very accessible video by the guardian.
Attendees at this stand will be able to view actual slices of different brain regions (not as gory as it sounds) through our student teaching light microscope. A presenter will explain what the different regions are responsible for, and how DNA codes for particular cellular development via local rules, ultimately leading to the formation of neurons with their particular functions.
The University of Central Lancashire – for providing experimental equipment
The Big Bang North West – for the opportunity to engage the public in Science