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New exhibit at MOST focuses on brain functions, disorders

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
A current brain exhibit at the MOST. The museum will feature a more extensive, traveling exhibition in September.

A new exhibit coming to the Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse, focuses on the brain and how it functions and can sometimes malfunction. One goal is to emphasize that brain-related conditions, which can be hard to understand and often stigmatized, should be treated like any other physical disease.

Peter Plumley, chief program officer at the MOST, remembered when he first noticed his father had Alzheimer's disease.

“I first detected it playing Scrabble with him," Plumley said. "He got confused whether the scrabbles were chips to eat, rather than pieces on a board.”

According to Pfizer, the principle underwriter for the traveling exhibit, “Brain: The World Inside Your Head,” one in three families in the U.S. have a family member with a brain-related disorder. Plumley said that was the motivation behind the creation of the exhibit.

“The message is that there are brain disorders and they’re not to be stigmatized, they’re to be analyzed and understood," Plumley said. "There’s a strong positive medical message in this exhibit for all. Ultimately, we will all feel some aspects of brain disorder.”

Opening in 2001 at the Smithsonian, the exhibit features virtual reality, video games, optical illusions and interactive displays. Viewers can examine the brain's geography, while learning how thoughts, sensations and dreams are generated. It’s been seen by more than three million people and has traveled to other countries.

Upstate Medical University is partnering with the MOST on the exhibit. Plumley said Upstate is a good partner because they do a lot of brain research.

“There’s a lot of interactives,” Plumley said. “There’s electronics that show the brain firing for young kids, neurons in the brain. That’s one of the exciting things that Upstate Medical brings, the fact that they can image that. You can put people in conditions where you’re testing different parts of the brain to see where signals are coming and where they’re going.”

It opens at the MOST on September 21 and runs through January.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.