For anyone who hasn’t seen this show let me give you a little background:
It’s aimed at 4-6 year olds and it’s shown on Cbeebies on channel 1 in the UK. The official website for the show can be found here.
Nina is a bubbly, ponytailed, smiley neuroscientist who works at the Glasgow Science Centre. She has all the happy Scottish joy of a person from the wonderful town of Ballamory, combined with the smarts of Stephen Fry. What more could you want really?
And I’m not implying in this that I am a regular viewer, honest…. (shhhhh) I wish only to make the point that it’s pretty awesome that a show like this even exists, (and even Pocoyo can be informative to an adult audience!). The theme tune is a great place to start with Nina and her neurons. Right away this tells us and the kids watching that there is a definite link between the neurons in Nina’s head and her ability to senses things, whilst also outlining the 5 senses. Not only does that teach the kids watching about sensory intake but the apparent friendship between the neurons implies multisensory integration.
The neurons are my favourite bit though, they live in Nina’s brain. Bizarrely she occasionally talks to them, indicate she’s suffering from delusions and other possible symptoms of schizophrenia, but beside that they rock and usually keep themselves to themselves and are observers of what’s going on from Nina’s head. You’ve got Felix the touch neuron (get it, like ‘feel’ix), Belle the sound neuron (ring ring) Luke the sight neuron (Any ideas? My guess is that’s based on LUminance, the main measure of the visual system and V1 receptive field sensitivities), Ollie the smell neuron (OLfactory I suppose) and Bud the taste neuron (taste buds.. of course). Clever stuff already.
The neurons rather brilliantly behave in a way that is analogous to actual neurons, sending messages to different parts of Nina’s body that control her senses. (Implying that there is a one to one relationship between individual neurons and senses, something scientists might be a bit erm.. less convinced by). Still they also interact with one another showing network capabilities of the brain and emphasising its multimodal abilities to combine sensory inputs and form a unitary output. Also the fact that Nina’s neurons learn from her experiences implies a fair amount of bottom up learning but sometimes the neurons help Nina implying a role of top down processing, wonderful. Most of the time it’s all to do with Nina trying to explain inventions, like ‘door handles’.
If anything the reason I love this show is cause it’s at least trying to give some of the basic information to children before they go off to proper big school and start learning about these things in a less fun, and more detached manner. I love how the show relates everything they do back to the neurons in Nina’s brain, making it clear that without the brain we’d be nothing!