They say you should never work with kids or animals.
But Professor Bruce Hood adeptly handles children, fish, farm animals, props, a live magician and a talking robot in this year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, airing from tonight on BBC 4.
I was invited to the filming of the 2011 Christmas Lectures, having been to a behind the scenes tour at the Royal Institution with the babes last December.
It was a show packed with fun and spectacle and Bruce Hood makes a lively and engaging host.
This year’s topic, Meet Your Brain, covers a wide range of cerebral matters – from an audience demo of how a ‘simple brain’ works through to how and why we’re primed from birth to identify faces (shown with the help of adorable baby Finn).
It’s fascinating to learn stuff like how they discovered that higher evolved animals like dolphins and elephants have an understanding of ‘self’ just like humans.
Shown on telly since the 1960s, the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures have become an annual tradition, famed for breaking down complex scientific subjects for kids as young as 7.
Professor Hood explores concepts like theory of mind without ever losing touch with his younger audience and his passion for the topic is infectious.
After filming, I had a quick chat with the Prof about his ‘day job’ which involves working with kids under 4 to understand early psychology and brain development.
He said the most important thing a new mother can do is to talk with your toddler about their day.
‘Kids can remember things that you place into a structure for them and we discovered that they hold onto those memories into adulthood, overcoming what we call ‘infantile amnesia’ or the loss of any memories you have before the age of about 3 or 4.’
This really hit home for me as a mum and in fact, the entire lecture left me with the warm, fuzzy feeling that we are all designed for connection and communication because our brains are built that way.
Prof Hood told the audience this is an especially exciting time for those growing up in the era of social media and the kind of connections being formed with new technologies.
One Twitter boffin even describes the social network as a ‘giant brain with tweeps as neurons and followers as dendrites’. Proper geek speak!
All in all, it’s a cracking show and I can’t wait to catch all three parts of the lectures in full.
Tune in from tonight at 8pm – you’d have to be insane in the membrane to miss it.
The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures: Meet Your Brain airs at 8pm on Dec 27 (tonight), 28 and 29 on BBC 4. Catch up on BBC iPlayer.
Follow the conversation on Twitter #xmaslectures