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Kids study brain science at UCLA day camp

UCLA researchers let kids in the laboratory study how the brain works for their science summer camp session.

July 30, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
How to get more kids interested in studying science? Bring them into the lab. That's the idea researchers at UCLA came up with for their science summer camp session. The kids in the laboratory got an up-close and personal lesson in how the brain works.

A group of 12- to 17-year-olds is taking part in a hands-on UCLA summer course for budding neuroscientists.

"They're basically using skills that a neurologist would use in trying to assess a patient without actually being able to see their brain," said Dr. Mayumi Prins, UCLA Department of Neurosurgery.

Like testing reflexes with a hammer and learning how to take blood pressure measurements.

Kids got to experiment with two types of goggles. One pair simulates how the brain reacts to being drunk.

The other goggles simulate what it's like to have a brain concussion: you feel off-balance, you can't walk in a straight line, you have double vision -- it's an exercise that truly teaches you to appreciate your brain.

"By seeing the whole picture from the disease pathology to understanding the basics of the brain composition, that they really do leave with a better understanding and appreciation of wanting to protect their brain," said Prins.

The two- to three-day courses, co-sponsored by the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery and the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center, cost $250 to $350. Scholarships are available. And even if these kids don't all become neuroscientists, they leave with a head full of helpful information.