Each day of UVA Brain Camp has a theme designed to teach students about some of the most important neuroscientific concepts. These themes are You and Science (Monday), Anatomy and Physiology (Tuesday), Genetics (Wednesday), Sensory Systems (Thursday), and Cognition and Emotion (Friday). Each day is split into morning and afternoon sessions with an hour long lunch break (lunch provided) in between. Additionally, optional after-hours care (with additional science-related activities) is provided to those who need it! For a detailed day-to-day program see below.
Monday (You & Science)
The first day of camp is all about getting to know each
other and the different types of science being done throughout the University of Virginia! The morning session will include science-themed icebreaker activities, introductions to the mentors and camp program and a short survey designed to assess the success of the program at the end of the week.
After lunch, students will take an active tour around science spaces at UVA to gain an appreciation of all the different types of science done throughout our community. These will include the newly renovated Rotunda Planetarium to learn about astronomy, the UVA greenhouse to learn about plant biology, the virtual reality suite to learn about human psychology, and finally Gilmer hall’s state-of-the-art neuroscience and genetic laboratories. We will end the first day of camp by discussing the different animal models used in science and will arrange for campers to observe several of these animals*.
* - Observing these animal models will require parental consent, a completed waiver and a completed allergy form.
Tuesday will focus on teaching students
about genetics and how our genetics shape our brains and experiences! In the morning session, we will conduct a simple experiment using PTC (Phenylthiourea) paper, which is bitter to some people and tasteless to others, to introduce the concept of genetics and explain why some students can taste the paper while others cannot. Students will also create craft models of DNA and play interactive games and activities to further teach them about genetics!
In the afternoon, campers will have the opportunity to isolate their own DNA from saliva* and conduct virtual PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to learn about common methods used by neuroscientists. The mentors will run the PTC genotyping assay on the DNA samples isolated after hours to confirm the paper test results, illustrating how our genome shapes how we perceive the world!
* - To participate in the experiment where we isolate DNA from saliva students will need parental consent and a completed waiver.
The third day of c
amp is focused on teaching students all about neuroanatomy (the shape and structure of the brain). The morning session will focus on teaching students about all the different brain regions. Using a 3D Brain Ipad App and a large paper cutout brain, students will explore and illustrate the structure and function of each of the lobes of the human brain. Students will also design and create their own brain hats to learn the functions of each brain region. We will also have real brain sections from various model organisms and human MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain scans that students will be able to explore; just like neuroscientists at UVA do everyday!
In the afternoon session, we will explore the structure of individual neurons throughout the nervous system. Students will learn about the different parts of a neuron by creating their own pipe cleaner model neurons and will learn about the incredible diversity of neuron types by looking at real brain slices. Finally, through interactive games like synaptic tag, we will learn how neurons communicate with each other.
Thursday's the me is neurophysiology, how neurons in the brain communicate with each other to control everything we do. In the morning session, students will use Spiker Boxes to record neural activity from a cricket leg as well as muscle activity from their own arms (for more info see). Through these experiments students will learn about how the brain receives sensory input from the body and also how the brain controls muscles throughout the body.
In the afternoon, students will be able to record their own brain activity using EEG*! Along with the mentors, students will process and analyze the data they collected from their own brains. To end the day, students and mentors will participate in an experiment that allows one person to control another persons hand with their own neural activity.
* - Using the EEG headcap to record and observe neural responses in one’s own brain will require parental consent and a completed waiver.
Friday (Sensory Systems)
Friday is all about the sensory systems that brains use to perceiv
e the world around us! The day will begin with an interactive discussion on the many senses the human brain uses to perceive the world. This will include but will not be limited to the most common five senses. In the morning session, we will use simple experiments and illusions to demonstrate the importance of each sense and how the brain combines information from multiple sensory systems. For example, students will learn about the different types of vision to see in light and dark conditions, test their blind spot, as well as illustrate the difference between central and peripheral vision.
In the afternoon, we will continue our discussion on sensory systems. We will experiment with the olfactory system and learn how our brain perceives smells. We will also learn about the taste system through an interactive experiment where students can change the way sour foods taste by using miraculin tablets*. Miraculin tablets (also known as miracle fruit) are safe tablets that when dissolved on the tongue make sour foods taste sweet!
* - To participate in miraculin experiments students will need parental consent and a completed waiver.
For more information on miraculin see...