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Middle School Girls Explore Brains at Berkeley

When’s the last time you watched your synapses fire on an EEG machine? This was just one of the experiences our girls had when they visited UC Berkeley’s Sleep Labs this month. The girls were hosted by Rachel Mak-McCully, a Girls Inc. alumna who now holds a Ph.D and is a Post Doc at the lab.

To begin the scientific adventure, girls got to choose to hook up an EEG machine to either their brain or their heart. They learned how the machines work to record electrical activity, and the girls whose brains were hooked up even tried using their eye movements and breathing to record specific shapes.

Then, girls moved on to an entirely different lesson on brains. After examining a blown-up diagram of brain sections and their functions, each girl was asked to locate some of the sections— by dissecting her own sheep brain!

After lunch, the girls got to witness a state-of-the-art MRI machine in action, seeing the layered 3D images of a brain that it produces. The girls were especially fascinated by witnessing how vision works beneath the skull—from the eye sockets, to the optic nerve, to the section of the brain that actually registers sight.

One of the best moments, though, was when all the researchers were asked to tell the girls a brief synopsis of how they got where they are today in their careers. When Rachel spoke, the girls were amazed. “No way, you went to Girls Inc.?” Maybe, in ten years, these girls will be hosting Girls Inc. middle schoolers in their own labs.