Brain Bytes offers bite-sized neuroscience to a broad audience

Emily Button Brain Bytes

A group of neuroscience students are taking science communication into their own hands, and broadcasting their discoveries to the world on YouTube. Brain Bytes, a talk show-style web series, tells the stories of neuroscience discoveries in a way that’s accessible to colleagues and neuroscience neophytes alike.

“We realized that when we share our research, it’s usually at talks and conferences that are often to the scientific community,” explains series co-creator Sonja Soo, a neuroscience master’s student in Dr. Cheryl Wellington’s lab. “We wanted to look beyond the scope of science conferences and local events, and really reach a worldwide audience.”

To do that, they have begun collaborating with students in UBC's Graduate School of Journalism.

“This is definitely a team effort,” says co-creator Alyssa Ash, a neuroscience master’s student in Dr. Jason Snyder’s lab.  “We’re lucky to have had supportive faculty behind us – Dr. Tim O’Connor has given us ongoing support and sponsorship, and we have often consulted with Dr. Julie Robillard over issues in science communication. And working with Michael Ruffolo in Journalism has helped us really flesh out our vision: he’s the main director for these videos and does everything from pre-production to filming to video editing.”

Explaining the science and telling lab stories is only part of the reason for Brain Bytes. As it becomes increasingly imperative that scientists engage with the public, the Brain Bytes initiative provides essential opportunities for learning.

“We hope that with these videos, we will bridge the gap between scientists and the public,” explains Soo. “But also we hope that from this we, as scientists, will learn how to effectively communicate our work to non-scientists, and contribute to improving public perceptions of science.”

The first Brain Bytes video features Emily Button (pictured above), a graduate student in Dr. Cheryl Wellington’s lab, as she answers the question “Can good cholesterol prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?” The video combines a clear explanation of the role of high-density lipoproteins in dementia, and offers a look behind the scenes of the Wellington lab.

“There’s a lot of really great research happening at the Centre, and we want to be able to get these stories out there for everyone,” says Soo. “We’re hoping to start a dialogue, and offer the interested public a bit of behind-the-scenes access to current neuroscience research. Doing this online means we’re not just talking to other scientists in a closed setting, we’re sharing our discoveries with the whole world.”

Follow Brain Bytes on Twitter and subscribe to their channel on YouTube for upcoming videos featuring an array of neuroscience research at UBC, from computational to behavioural neuroscience and beyond.