BraiNY Neuroscience in Downtown NYC

On Friday, one of NYC’s newest venues in the Lower East Side opened its doors to science enthusiasts and curious bystanders for an evening of happy hour and brain-related activities. The aptly titled event, “Pregame Your BraiNY,” took place at CAVEAT, which launched just over a month ago as an event space devoted to intellectual nightlife and “oddball programming.”

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Photo credit: Kate Downey

With braiNY (the Greater NYC Chapter of Society for Neuroscience) as co-host, the large underground space was arranged with six different stations holding various games and experiments so participants could learn more about the brain in an entertaining way. Kate Downey, creative producer and events coordinator for CAVEAT, welcomed the crowded room and pointed out each station for audience members to freely roam.

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Photo: Kate Downey

Tables were set up for brain trivia, while the “Distortion Cornhole” station occupied an aisle running toward the back of the room. As if cornhole wasn’t challenging enough as is, participants were asked to put on goggles with Fresnel lenses before throwing bean bags at the target up ahead. With these vision-shifting goggles, it was nearly impossible to hit the target marked on the floor, and right before tossing the last bag, we were instructed to take the goggles off for corrected vision. This game was used to demonstrate the brain’s process of sensorimotor feedback.

Another crowded station focused on selective attention using the famous “Stroop Effect” to stump participants who were trying to name the colors of words rather than reading the words themselves (e.g. the word “red” printed in the color green). Next to this station was a long table with braiNY President Heather McKellar showcasing the model of a human brain for audience members to examine and even hold.

There was another station called the “Memory Palace” with MiNDS (Mentoring in Neuroscience Discovery at Sinai) and—my personal favorite—an optical illusion station featuring a large, two-dimensional dragon made of cardboard that tricked your brain into thinking it was moving its head and following you with its eyes. After explaining how it works, we were given sheets of paper to make our own dragon illusions on a much smaller scale. If you’d like to try this trick at home, you can print out your own optical illusion here.

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After covering one eye and swaying from left to right, onlookers experienced the illusion of the dragon’s head and eyes following their movements.

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With careful cutting and attention to directions, participants were able to bring home their own dragon optical illusions for a great party trick!

Interested in checking out CAVEAT for yourself? The venue has a calendar packed with events on science, history, meditation, and more!

– Seimi Rurup

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