“MRI can help us map connections and learn how different regions of
the brain communicate with each other,” said Jennifer Legault, also a
postdoctoral researcher at UD.
Hands-on team activities like planning and building a tower using
dry spaghetti, a large marshmallow and tape, helped the students
understand that research isn’t just one person working in a lab. It
takes many people working together, failing and starting over again in
order to learn, grow and further research on a particular problem.
During a discussion, one fifth-grader asked, “How does the brain
control the whole body at once?” It’s a big question. Schneider
explained that the brain sends electrical currents throughout our bodies
using neurons, tiny messengers that quickly ferry information back and
forth. Researchers can measure this electrical activity in the brain
using a technique known as electroencephalography, or EEG.
She described how researchers can “clean up the EEG data” with fancy
math algorithms to remove results that come from natural things like
blinking our eyes or breathing. Some students in the room groaned and
said things like “I can’t do math.”
“Sure, you can,” said Schneider, “We need mathematicians — and
engineers — to help us with these complicated research questions, like
understanding how people learn new things or how brain signals change
with age or developmental disorders like autism.”
Understanding how the brain works is difficult, even for adults.
Sometimes seeing is believing and one memorable experience can inspire a
“I thought the field trip was really fun and interesting. Our visit
to the lab makes me think about becoming a neuroscientist when I grow
up,” fifth-grader Brinton Harra said.
Article by Karen B. Roberts; photos by Kathy Atkinson