The most complex biological structure we know weighs only about 3 pounds.
But it’s what makes us human, and it is the subject of an interactive exhibit that opened Saturday in the Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park.
“Brain: The Inside Story” was organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York and is sponsored locally by Saint Luke’s Marion Bloch Neuroscience Institute, which has augmented the exhibit with cutting-edge advances for dealing with strokes and other brain ailments.
That includes models of aneurysms from real patients created with a 3-D printer and a stent used to restore blood flow through vessels to the brain.
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“That’s what’s so exciting,” said museum president Donna Deeds. “We’re using state-of-the-art people and content to add to the American Museum of Natural History’s world-class exhibition.”
There are actual brains, plasticized, from healthy people and one from a person with Alzheimer’s disease. The latter is less compact, possibly affecting how the 100 billion or so neurons in a human brain connect with one another.
By the way, that’s about 100 times as many neurons as your cat has.
The exhibit winds through about 8,000 square feet and is packed with teasers and special effects. You might be surprised to learn that what sounds like falling rain is really something else. A special lens reveals that what looks like stacked spools of colored thread is really an image virtually everyone can recognize.
“You can learn about the different parts of your brain and how neurons work, or don’t work,” Deeds said Thursday. “You’ll be able to do all kinds of games and puzzles and technology interactives to learn how memory works, or how good you are at learning a new language.”
The content of the exhibit is challenging for adults but entertaining for children. About 95 percent of the field trip slots for the exhibit have been filled, with students ranging from kindergarten to high school.
Specialists from the neuroscience institute will give informal presentations on 11 Friday evenings throughout the exhibit’s run on subjects that will include concussions, cancer, epilepsy, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
“These are topics that really are taking center stage right now as we put more focus on brains and brain diseases,” said Len Lozada, chief physician executive with Saint Luke’s Health System.
There is still more that we don’t know about the human brain than we do know.
“We are discovering more and more and we’re making more correlations with how the brain affects the rest of our body and how the rest of our body affects the brain,” Lozada said. “We are learning things about the brain on a daily basis. Even things that were dogma before have been tested, tried and refuted in the last 20 years.”
‘Brain: The Inside Story’
▪ It runs through Aug. 28 at the Museum at Prairiefire, 5801 W. 135th St. in Overland Park.
▪ Tickets are $14 for adults and $8 for children ages 3 to 12.
▪ Friday presentations by doctors and scientists are $5 for members and $10 for nonmembers.
▪ Go to www.museumatpf.org for more information.