Comedian Ruby Wax is guiding viewers on a tour inside the human brain organised by scientists at Oxford University.
In a new animation launched today [watch it online here] the stand-up star narrates how a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner sees inside our brains and detects surges of oxygenated blood that can be linked to how we move, talk, or even experience being tickled.
The animation, 'A spin around the brain', is the latest video from Oxford Sparks, a web portal giving people access to some of the exciting science happening at Oxford University. The guide to the inner space between our ears follows the adventures of Ossie, a friendly green popsicle who has previously met a rogue planet and negotiated a volcano's plumbing system, as well as investigating heart attacks, the coldest things in the universe, and the Large Hadron Collider.
Ruby Wax said: 'I love the idea that we can take a sneaky peek inside someone’s brain and see which areas light up when they wiggle their fingers, listen to music, or get tickled with a duster. It was great fun to find out more about the science behind these scanners, to discover what they can help us to detect, but also just how much we still don't know about what goes on inside the human brain.'
Dr Stuart Clare of Oxford University, lead scientific advisor on the animation, said: 'Functional MRI is revolutionising our understanding of the brain. As long as someone can do something lying down then we can scan their brain and discover the activity behind the action. As technology improves and magnet strength increases, we can determine finer detail about brain activity related to particular tasks or behaviours. This isn't just about finding out how our brains work, but also how they respond to damage or treatment.
'The animation beautifully shows what is going on inside the body during an FMRI scan, right down to the atomic level, and how the very strong magnet at the core of the machine gives us incredible detail on brain function.
'Ruby Wax has a real interest in the neuroscience of mental health, something that we are researching here in Oxford, and we were delighted that she agreed to voice the animation.'