What is Brain Week?

It is an international event for the general public organised for 26 years in France by the Society for Neuroscience. Organised by 35 regional committees based in major university cities, it reaches out to 120 cities and offers a high quality scientific programme with more than 500 events.

It is a great meeting, a sharing, between the public and researchers. The Week is particularly aimed at schoolchildren, with almost a third of the events aimed at them.

The Week offers everyone the opportunity to learn about current research in neuroscience, through a wide variety of means: conferences, film-debates, laboratory visits, interventions in schools, coffee-debates and fun activities for the general public. Given the success of the event, the Society for Neuroscience is mobilising 800 researchers in the field, i.e. almost half of its members.

When will the event take place this year?

In 2024, the 26th edition of Brain Week will take place from 11 to 17 March. It will be placed under the patronage of Mrs Sylvie Retailleau, Minister of Higher Education and Research.

The inaugural conference will take place in Bordeaux, on Monday 4 March 2024 at 6:30 pm. The theme is “Brain and addiction: better understanding for better treatment”.”

You will also find on the website an interactive map of France, a tool to choose the events, as well as the contact of the local committees.

Why is this event so successful?

The brain is on a roll! Why are there so many events or publications entitled “neuro-something”? It is because, over the last twenty years, research has undergone a revolution in the concepts and methods of studying the nervous system. Thanks to brain imaging, we can see “the brain thinking” in real time, with colourised images that stimulate the curiosity of the general public. In laboratory animals, and even in humans in some cases, it is possible to observe in vivo the interactions between the different areas of the brain in the performance of complex tasks.

It has been shown, for example, that during periods of sleep, the brain recapitulates certain events of the day in an accelerated manner, which seems to be linked to the reinforcement of learning. The introduction of artificial intelligence has made it possible to do two things: on the one hand, to make the best use of the immense databases of experimental data to draw conclusions about the functioning of the nervous system and its dysfunctions, and on the other hand, to use the results of these data to improve the quality of life.

The introduction of artificial intelligence has enabled two things to be done: firstly, to make the best use of the immense experimental databases to draw conclusions about the functioning of the nervous system and its dysfunctions, and secondly, to control sensory prostheses that are surprisingly efficient.

Brain imaging has followed the development of babies’ brains, sometimes from intrauterine life. This has changed our understanding of how babies learn and perform. At birth, they have pre-wired neural circuits dedicated to different sensory, motor and cognitive functions. However, these circuits are poorly optimised and interfere with each other.

Daily learning in a favourable environment favours “performance”, underpinned by a pruning of unused branches and a specialisation of these circuits. These studies have highlighted the neural underpinnings of the so-called postnatal “critical periods” for the maturation of senses and motor skills, as well as cognitive performance.

This year’s events:

Find out all this and more during Brain Week!

For example, on the territory of the University of Paris-Saclay, the Week is largely devoted to the sense of smell. There are :

– Conferences

– theatre-debate

– film-debates

– animations

– exhibitions

In Paris, 70 events of all kinds will take place, including a visit to the Babylab of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, and talks on “neuro-education”, which does not aim to impose methods but to take into account the capacities of young learners and their rapid evolution with age.

In 2023, nearly 30,000 young people and adults took part in Brain Week. The challenge is to share scientific knowledge and questions from the general public in order to avoid the pitfalls of infoxes and to support research and scientific culture in neuroscience, as well as new therapies. Isn’t the brain involved at every moment of our lives?

To learn more about the brain and the senses