What Does a Brain Feel Like?

Zhengchu Tan*, James P. Ewen, Antonio E. Forte, Stefano Galvan, Elena De Momi, Ferdinando Rodriguez Y Baena, Daniele Dini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


We present a two-part hands-on science outreach demonstration utilizing composite hydrogels to produce realistic models of the human brain. The blends of poly(vinyl alcohol) and Phytagel closely match the mechanical properties of real brain tissue under conditions representative of surgical operations. The composite hydrogel is simple to prepare, biocompatible, and nontoxic, and the required materials are widely available and inexpensive. The first part of the demonstration gives participants the opportunity to feel how soft and deformable our brains are. The second part allows students to perform a mock brain surgery on a simulated tumor. The demonstration tools are suitable for public engagement activities as well as for various student training groups. The activities encompass concepts in polymer chemistry, materials science, and biology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4078-4083
Number of pages6
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2020


  • Demonstrations
  • General Public
  • Hands-On Learning/Manipulatives
  • High School/Introductory Chemistry
  • Materials Science
  • Polymer Chemistry
  • Public Understanding/Outreach


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