Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mikey's Brain Exhibition: Wires

Alzheimer’s Disease: The Broken Circuit
This is my second time writing about a Michael Paskus Exhibition, which means I got to enjoy another delightful and interesting presentation by Mike!

Mike started by introducing himself and the topic of his exhibition which was How does Alzheimer’s affect the brain? He also had set up behind him an amazing board showing all the parts of the brain and the different ways that they are affected with Alzheimer’s disease. When he talked about each different part he would press a button on the control panel and the part of the brain and the corresponding part of information would light up. This was very helpful in understanding where he was talking about but also gave an interesting parallel of the brain and the circuit. When the wires (or the neurons in the brain’s case) are cut, the circuit stops working.

For the activity, Mike had made neurons and showed us what would happen to the neurons when Alzheimer’s affects them. The neuron was a cup with a ping pong ball inside, with yarn connecting it to a CD, which had string connected to it, which acted as the tendrils connecting one neuron to another. There was a cardboard tube that acted as the electrical impulse, which, when moved, sent the ping-pong ball flying to the next neuron. We passed the ball back and forth several times before Mike started to catch the ping-pong ball so the neurotransmitter couldn’t pass onto the the next one. Then, in a surprising twist, he cut the yarn, showing the that Alzheimer’s had killed the neuron!

Mike then opened up the floor for questions. He answered every question well, displaying his immense knowledge of the topic. I think I can speak for the attendees that we left with a better understanding of a disease that affects so many of the world’s aging population.

Elizabeth Fenton

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