Colouring book shows the brain in a whole new artistic light

7 Oct 2016

Helen McEntee, TD, with Dr Eoin Kelleher, RCSI graduate and illustrator of ‘Journey Through the Brain’ and students from Santa Sabina Dominican College, Sutton

Grab your colouring pencils and get to grips with the brain, thanks to a new HRB-funded colouring book produced by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

If the thought of learning anatomy seems a little, er, dry, then it’s time to grab the brightest colouring pencils you can find and open your mind to a new learning experience.

A new book called Journey Through the Brain, launched at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland on Thursday (6 October), combines easy-to-absorb text alongside stunning artworks of and about the brain and mental health.

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The colouring book introduces concepts such as brain ‘wiring’ and how information moves from place to place. It points out how neurotransmitters and hormones keep the show running and convey scientific approaches such as imaging and measuring ‘biomarkers’ to find out what is going on.

The aim is to spark interest in the science of the brain and its connection to human emotion, mental health and wellbeing and to provide teachers with resources to help their students learn more about the complex and fascinating matter inside our skulls.

The art of not making a textbook

The book is the ‘brainchild’ (sorry) of researchers Prof David Cotter, Helen Coughlan, Prof Mary Cannon and Dr Lorna Lopez from the RCSI Department of Psychiatry, who teamed up with artist Dr Eoin Kelleher, a junior doctor and RCSI graduate.

By harnessing the power of the colouring-book format, the idea was to create something substantial but that was not like a textbook, explained Dr Lopez to at the launch.

Lopez works in the area of biomarkers, and her research is looking to find markers that can predict the risk of psychosis in young people. While she had worked on some aspects of science communication before, this was a whole new departure for Lopez, and one that she has thoroughly relished.

“It has been really enjoyable working with Eoin and the design team in RCSI,” she said. “We would talk to Eoin about the ideas and concepts and he would just take them away and he knew exactly what we wanted.”

Journey Through the Brain

Samples from the RCSI colouring book, Journey Through the Brain

Journey Through the Brain: A Colouring Book

Making brain science accessible

Minister of State for mental health and older people, Helen McEntee, TD, launched the book this morning at RCSI.

Speaking at the event, Prof Cathal Kelly, CEO and registrar at RCSI, described Journey Through the Brain as an innovative new initiative to help young people to understand important issues about the biology of the brain and its connection to emotion and mental health. “It outlines key information about the brain in short and simple language making the content of the book accessible to a wide audience,” he stated.

The book was funded through a Health Research Board Knowledge Exchange and Dissemination Scheme (KEDS) grant and HRB chief executive Dr Graham Love also spoke at the launch. “This colouring book shows that research and creativity do go hand-in-hand,” he stated.

“The purpose of our KEDS awards is to share research with a wider audience and apply new learning in practice – the Journey Through the Brain book has achieved this magnificently.”

The book Journey Through the Brain is available to download from the RCSI website and copies will be distributed to second-level schools throughout Ireland.

Dr Claire O’Connell is a scientist-turned-writer with a PhD in cell biology and a master’s in science communication