Now kids can learn about the brain in an equally fun way as they ascend through the jungle-gym-like "Neural Climb," a two-story climbing structure that simulates the activity of a neural network with lighting and sound effects triggered by footsteps.
The Neural Climb is the centerpiece of "Your Brain," a new permanent exhibit in the institute's new 53,000-square-foot
The pavilion also houses a traveling exhibition gallery that currently features a icurrs a circus exhibit, an inventions exhibit and a photo exhibit, a state-of-the-art conference center and an education center.
He adds that the pavilion's climate controlled galleries will allow the museum to hold exhibitions that have not been seen in
Outside the museum, the pavilion can be spotted instantly thanks to a dramatic Shimmer Wall that graces nearly an entire wall and reacts to the air currents for a constantly changing effect. Also new is an outdoor sustainable rain garden.
"This will transform the
Wint says that the addition was designed to keep the style of the building's original neoclassical design and uses
Visitors will enter the new pavilion from the museum's rotunda, and officials say it will improve movement inside the building. The pavilion is named in honor of the Karabots, who contributed
Here's what's inside.
WHAT THE BRAIN LOOKS LIKE
Upon entering "Your Brain" you see a plasticized human brain and spinal cord to help visualize the real organs. You can reach into a "head" and see what the brain feels like. Nearby five artists display their creative interpretations of what the brain looks like.
A video screen that uses Xbox Kinect sensor technology shows your silhouette and superimposes a brain and nervous system on the image. As you move, you can watch the brain and nervous system move with your body, giving a sense of how the nervous system and body are connected.
You also can use a mock scanner on a plastic head to see MRI images that show the interior of the brain, as well as the skull, eyes, nose and teeth.
Younger visitors will likely head right for the 18-foot-tall Neural Climb, which is a companion of sorts to the museum's Giant Heart.
The mesh-like structure has pathways for both smaller and larger visitors. Inside visitors are immersed in a web that simulates the activity of a neural network. Your steps trigger floor sensors that spark sudden bursts of light, which represent electrical messages in the brain, and sounds that include recordings of actual neurons firing.
"One of the things that we discovered people love is the immersive, playful experience," says Jayatri Das, chief bioscientist.
The structure is made of tempered glass and has more than 100 lights for visual effects and 16 speakers for auditory effects.
LEARN ABOUT NEURONS
After the Neural Climb, you will come face-to-face with neuron, representing the smallest building block of the human brain, and learn about the function of the brain at the cellular level.
You can see a magnified dissected neuron inside a case and then use a touch-screen displaying a digital projection of points. When touched, the points light up and start a branching sequence of connected lights, demonstrating how chain reactions of signals spread throughout the cells in the brain.
To show how a signal crosses a brain synapse, you can launch ping pong ball "neurotransmitters" across a gap by sending an electrical signal, represented by a sequence of lights.
You can also test neural speed in your body in an experiment in which you see how fast you respond to a vibration in your hands or feet.
A "pathways map" of the brain shows how vision, touch and fear follow different paths in the brain.
You can watch a projected image and can pull out slices of a model brain and see how the picture changes to represent what that specific part of the brain processes, from color to contrast.
You also can explore your sensitivity to touch by touching warm and cold metals and seeing if you can identify by touch the number of metal points that are set close together in a box.
Gauge your fear response by sitting in an ominous looking chair with your finger in a heart rate monitor as you wait for "something unexpected" to happen.
LET YOUR MIND BE FOOLED
Walk through a street scene that shows how the brain combines information from different pathways to process the world. Things that send conflicting messages include a large, heavy piano suspended from the ceiling that looks like it might fall, a bench that gives you a surprise vibration, smell boxes that emit odors and a microphone that gives a surprise puff of air.
In a mock movie theater, the world literally turns upside down when the room starts rotating, confusing your visual and balance systems.
REAL LIFE BRAIN FUNCTION
A series of MRI images show how your brain changes from infancy to old age, and experiments let you see how your brain helps you comprehend the world.
Listen to a spoken sentence that sounds like gibberish, but once you hear the sentence spoken normally, your brain begins to decipher the sounds. Also you can try reproducing the sounds of foreign languages or see how well you can track the buzz of a moving "bee."
Play a game of virtual tennis and try to watch changes in the background while counting the number of times you hit the ball. Or sit in a driving simulator and see how reading text messages affects your driving ability, showing the brain does not multitask but switches back and forth between tasks.
Test short-term memory by trying to remember a code to open a safe. The test starts with three numbers and increases until you fail and tells you how well you've done against other visitors.
-- "Circus! Science under the Big Top" explores the science behind many popular circus acts. Test the laws of physics by launching cannon balls, walking a tightrope, flipping like a trapeze artist and juggling. The exhibit is on display through
-- "101 Inventions That Changed the World" teaches about inventions that helped guide human history, from the light bulb to the discovery of penicillin and the creation of the World Wide Web. The exhibition is centered on a 5,000-square-foot multiscreen high definition video display of the inventions at work. The exhibit runs through
-- "Ocean Soul" features 50 photographs by underwater photojournalist Brian Skerry that show the ocean as a place of beauty, mystery and a place in trouble. The exhibit by
The first of its kind in
FRANKLIN INSTITUTE EXPANSION
-- What: 53,000-square-foot,
-- What else: Current special exhibits: "Circus Science Under the Big Top" and "101 Inventions That Changed the World," both through
-- Info: 215-448-1200, http://www.fi.edu
(c)2014 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
Visit The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) at www.mcall.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services