Brain Awareness with Jelly Beans!

by Elizabeth Waters

Every March for Brain Awareness Week (BAW), graduate students and post docs from the Rockefeller University, Weill-Cornell Medical College, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Tri-Institute reach out to elementary schools in New York City to educate young scientists about their brain and current research in neuroscience. BAW, under the Dana Foundation umbrella, sees our local scientists along with scientists around the world reaching out to their communities and engaging young, middle and old non-scientists in conversations about how the brain and nervous system work, how scientists study the brain, and how individuals can keep their brain healthy at any age.


One brainy activity that is equally popular with students and Tri-Institute volunteers is the Jelly Bean Experiment. This activity asks the question: How do you recognize your favorite food? Students test their ability to use a single sense (sight, smell, taste) to identify a jelly bean flavor. Along the way, they generate hypotheses, gather data, and form conclusions -usually that they need more jelly beans- that lead to a greater understanding of how brain areas cooperate to recognize tasty foods and why food just wouldn’t be the same without the sensory nervous system. Further experimentation is encouraged! In case you’d like to try this at home, click on the image or link below to see how we do the Jelly Bean Experiment:



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