News

Neural Knitworks link wellbeing and science

For the past three months John Curtin College of the Arts staff, students and community members have met weekly to crochet, knit or knot while learning about neuroscience through the Neural Knitworks project, a collaborative STEAM project that promotes mind and brain health.

Throughout term two more than 150 representatives of the school community came together to knit, crochet and wind textiles into neurons to create a giant brain installation, which launched this National Science Week.

Science teacher Peta Scorer said the school community created more than 300 handmade textile neurons to create the giant neural network installation in the Curtin Theatre.

“The Neural Knitworks community art project is based on the principle that yarn craft can help keep our brains engaged as the crafting is not just about the mental challenge but also mindfulness and working together for social connection,” she said.

Neurons are electrically excitable cells of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves that receive signals from every sense, control movement, create memories and form the neural basis of every thought.

This year’s Science Week theme Destination Moon: more missions, more science celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing as well as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Element.

“Mental health wellbeing is essential for astronauts to survive the intense experience and isolation of space, and this project highlighted these challenges,” she said.

“But is also took a whole community to travel to the moon,” Peta said.

“The Neural Knitworks project symbolises not only our own brains with 1,000 trillion synaptic connections, but the connections within our college community, where our students, staff and caregivers come together to work towards a greater future for all.”

The college won an Australian Science Teacher Association grant to run the project as a National Science Week activity.

Other National Science Week activities being celebrated at the college include International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) Cosmos Consultant and Science Communicator, Gregory Rowbotham’s talk on the cosmos, as well as rocket launchers, a space dress up day and creating an Ooblek pool.

Brain Facts

  • The average human brain has about 86 billion neurons.
  • Neurons are the cells that make up the brain and the nervous system.
  • They are the fundamental units that send and receive signals allowing us to move our muscles, feel the external world, think, form memories and neuron interactions define who we are as people.
  • Each neuron may be connected to up to 10,000 other neurons, passing signals to each other via as many as 1,000 trillion synaptic connections, equivalent by some estimates to a computer with a 1 trillion bit per second processor.
  • Estimates of the human brain’s memory capacity vary wildly from 1 to 1,000 terabytes