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Great minds: Natural history museum hosts brain exhibit, DEA display

February 23, 2019

The brain is an intricate, complicated wonder.

And the latest exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science delves into the organ.

“Brain: The Inside Story,” curated by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, will open on Saturday, Feb. 23.

“Brain: The Inside Story” is an interactive exhibit that showcases the latest in neuroscience, highlighting the brain’s surprising ability to rewire itself in response to experience, disability or trauma and showcases new technologies researchers use to study the brain.

The exhibit explores the way the human brain works, specifically as it relates to senses (“Your Sensing Brain”), emotions (“Your Emotional Brain”), thinking (“Your Thinking Brain”), how the brain ages (“Your Changing Brain”), and how technological advances may change our brains in the future (“Your 21st Century Brain”).

“There’s a panel on the teen brain, and it’s fascinating,” says Margie Marino, the museum’s director. “The teenage brain discards what it doesn’t need. That’s why it’s so hard for addiction to stop.”

The brain exhibit is running in conjunction with “Drugs: Costs & Consequences,” a traveling exhibit by the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum in Washington, D.C.

The drug exhibit will also gets its official opening on Saturday, Feb. 23. The exhibit has been up but wasn’t completed because of the 35-day government shutdown.

“I think the two exhibits together are powerful,” Marino says. “There are some direct connections between both exhibits, even though they are two totally separate pieces.”

Marino says the brain exhibit is more of a blockbuster piece.

She says five tractor-trailers delivered the brain exhibit, compared with two for the hit “Da Vinci: Genius” exhibit last year.

“There’s really good content, and it’s very interactive,” she says. “The displays are backlit, and we had to make the museum darker to properly display it all. Of course, there’s a giant lit-up brain that shows the nerves and how they work. There are also three human brains on display.”

Marino and staff began working on getting both exhibits nearly a year ago.

“I wanted people to see the exhibits as a package,” she says. “The brain exhibit gives you the early wonder of how your brain works, the things we know about it and the new research that is happening. Then the drug exhibit explains about what happens to the brain and thought process when using drugs. It helps you understand any kind of addiction.”

Marino says the drug and brain exhibits are already gaining traction in the community.

“Everybody is looking for an answer on how to fight addiction,” she says. “This exhibit is something we can bring people to. We have a group of nurse practitioners that are coming to the exhibit. Teachers are also showing an interest.”

‘BRAIN: THE INSIDE STORY’ AND ‘DRUGS: COSTS AND CONSEQUENCES’

WHEN: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; grand opening for both exhibits on Saturday, Feb. 23

WHERE: New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, 1701 Mountain NW

HOW MUCH: $8 adults, $7, ages 60 and over, $5 ages 3-12; Free admission for New Mexico residents with ID on the first Sunday of each month. New Mexico seniors ages 60 and older get in free every Wednesday