Midbrains and Monkeys (Camp Monkey 2017!)

Post written by Jacob Schoen, Noggin Resource Council member for Portland State University

NW Noggineers had a chance to join “Camp Monkey” with dozens of middle school students on Friday at OHSU’s Oregon National Primate Research Center.

This summer camp includes a wide range of activities from testing DNA to comparing brains, and observing and recording monkey behavior. Workstations were set up all around the forested 165 acre campus.

The Noggin Brain Station was set up in one of the research buildings where we could display a wide variety of mammalian brains (including those from a few human primates).

We began by asking students to guess which brains were in each of the containers. The size and shape varied quite a bit, and we pointed out how the “grooves” (sulci) on the brain’s surface (cortex) generally became more numerous and complex with bigger creatures.  Larger animals require more cortex:  larger maps of sensory input from larger bodies, and motor output to bigger muscles to generate behavior.

Then we prepared for sheep brain dissections…

First we needed to know where and how to cut:  Sagittal, Coronal, or Horizontal..?


LEARN MORE:  Directions and Planes of Section

These kids had no fear! They began cutting right away and observing and asking questions about different parts of the brain. We talked about how each region has a special function that plays a role in how we think and feel. And no…we don’t just use 10% of the brain!…We use 100% of the brain!

Who has more Neurons?

  1. Elephants (Correct!)
  2. Humans
  3. Sheep
  4. Rats

Elephants have a giant cerebellum, where a majority of their neurons are held.  Why?…possibly because they have a trunk that can weigh over 400 pounds and is capable of performing fine-tuned movements.

LEARN MORE:  The elephant brain in numbers

Thank you NW Noggin volunteers Jeff Leak, Christina Williams, and Jacob Schoen! A special thanks to Tina Tran, who kept up an amazing amount of energy, organized a wild and crazy trivia quiz, and taught us about everything from elephant brains to black holes…

LEARN MORE:  The human brain in numbers: a linearly scaled-up primate brain

Thanks also to Diana Gordon and Larry Sherman at the Oregon National Primate Research Center for inviting us to join this awesome camp!

*Pictures by Christina Williams, Noggin Resource Council Member for Instagram…

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