REVIEW: The Great British Brain Off



By Isabella Fraser

Presented as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas by the Beltane Public Engagement Network, a platform that offers engagement between academics, researchers and the public on a range of different scientific topics, The Great British Brain Off looks at the way in which you can help your brain remain active and alert at any age. Part discussion, part interaction and part debate, this particular event is presented by Dr Alan Gow and compered by Susan Morrison. This event has a different topic every day.

Science is one of the growing areas of interest in the Fringe, and an area that has packing out houses this year. It is therefore no surprise to see how busy this show is, although it is a pleasant revelation to see how much of the audience – the majority – consists of women of all ages, in a field where we are constantly being told there is a shortage of female engagement.

Gow is a warm and engaging presenter with a gentle manner, who quickly puts the audience at ease as he asks us to write on post-its – interacting with us right away – and suggest what we think helps to keep the brain active as it gets older and what might stop it from being alert. This feels fun and fascinating, not intimidating like old school science lessons where you were afraid of the teacher and tried not to fall asleep. It also feels like something that you can easily understand. This is not, however, a dumbing down of science; instead what Gow brings to the table, ably assisted by the witty asides of Morrison, is the ability to pass on a great deal of information to the actively-listening audience, without making it feel as if we are being force-fed facts, being inundated or being overwhelmed. This is no mean feat as Gow manages to make the hour melt away.

New word learned: brainbow – a rainbow version of the way in which the brain works (you had to be there). New information learned: the speed and reasoning of our thinking skills starts to decline in our 20s on average; verbal thinking skills, however, grow or at least maintain the same level until our 60s on average; alcohol is both good and bad for you; the Mediterranean diet is a recommendation – but everything in moderation. An entertaining and enlightening event at which you are likely to learn much more than you realize.

The Great British Brain Off (27 August) was reviewed as part of The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas which runs at The Stand in the Square until August 30 @ 15:00. Running time 1 hour.

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