What makes you you? New public exhibition at the Crick to explore the marvel of the brain

In March 2024, the Francis Crick Institute will open a new exhibition about the brain – the most complex and least understood part of the body – and the journey to map its intricate connections.

Hello Brain information

Hello Brain! will open on 2 March 2024. The exhibition will feature hands-on activities as well as events throughout the year. 

Hello Brain! will explore the brain's ‘connectome’: how trillions of connections between billions of cells – more than there are stars in the sky – shape our thoughts, behaviours and experiences. Crick scientists are aiming to understand how these connections impact how different species, including humans, interact with each other and the world.

Through a sensory journey from the early beginnings of neuroscience to recent discoveries and technological progress, and exploring key themes such as sleep, pregnancy, old age, and perception, visitors will be invited to consider:  

  • What makes us unique, and what makes us human?
  • How does our brain change throughout our life?
  • Do we all perceive reality in the same way?

A stone’s throw from the neuroscience labs where scientists are hard at work researching the brain, the exhibition will highlight Crick research aiming to advance our understanding of the brain.

Mouse brain with areas involved in caring lit up

Green, yellow and white areas show neurons involved in caring in the mouse brain. Researchers involved in the exhibition are studying how mice develop parenting instincts during pregnancy. 

- Bradley Jamieson and Maxwell Chen

Labs featured in the exhibition are growing neurons to create detailed 3D maps of brain tissues, linking brain maps with behaviour to understand why animals and humans act in certain ways, developing brain-like structures called organoids to understand neurodegeneration, and studying how the brain generates perceptions and thoughts.

Neural stem cells (green) in the hippocampus of adult mice - an area of the brain involved in learning and memory. 

Neural stem cells (green) in the hippocampus of adult mice - an area of the brain involved in learning and memory. How stem cells form new brain cells, and what this tells us about conditions like dementia, will be explored in the exhibition. 

- Francois Guillemot

Andreas Schaefer, group leader of the Sensory Circuits and Neurotechnology Laboratory at the Crick, and senior advisor for Hello Brain!, said: “The brain is probably the most complex object in the known universe, and it’s ever-changing throughout our lives. One of the biggest challenges in neuroscience is understanding the connectome: how billions of cells are connected with each other and communicate to produce behaviour which makes us uniquely human.

“Labs at the Crick, including my own, are working at the forefront of neuroscience, aiming to uncover the secrets of the brain, from what happens at different life stages to the impact of disease and injury. The Hello Brain! exhibition offers visitors the chance to marvel at what we know, and contemplate what’s still left to discover.”

The Crick is working with Galmstrup Architects and Studio HB to deliver the design of the exhibition, which will feature hands-on 3D-printed brains, knitted neurons, and floating curtains which mirror the idea of connections between cells in the brain.

Anne Marie Galmstrup, Director at Galmstrup Architects, said: “We wanted to create a giant ‘brain’ environment for visitors to immerse themselves into. Visitors will be drawn into the gallery by a floating ceiling landscape of mirroring connections transversed by knitted neurons, sensory socks and tactile brains. The complex story of our brain is framed as a curiosity wall portraying sequences of research by real-world scientists, facts and experiments personalised through a narrative of cut-outs, illustrations and silhouettes, and allowing visitors to learn and relate to their own experiences.”

Holly Cave, Curator of Hello Brain!, said: “Visitors can peek into the fascinating conversations and lab tours I’ve had with Crick scientists, getting as close as possible to the cutting-edge neuroscience research happening above their heads. From working with mums in the local community to find out how parenthood has changed them, to learning how the brains of mice, crocodiles, goldfish, and other animals have evolved to suit their needs, this has been such an exciting exhibition to curate. I invite visitors to join us on a journey of discovery, busting myths about the brain, challenging their preconceptions and exploring what makes them who they are."

To increase access to Hello Brain!, access resources such as large print, Braille and Easy-Read materials will be provided within the exhibition and online, as well as tactile displays. In addition, British Sign Language and Audio Described tours will be available. 

Hello Brain! is a free exhibition and will open on 2 March 2024 and run to 7 December 2024.

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