Secrets from Within the Human Body

So to the campus at Sussex University on a mellow May evening and specifically to a lecture theatre in the Brighton and Sussex Medical School for an hour long talk delivered by Dr Claire Smith, Head of Anatomy; Dr Andrew Dilley, Senior Lecturer of Anatomy; and Ms Catherine Hennessy, Teaching Fellow of Anatomy. Anatomy, then. It was an audience of mixed ages (the event was recommended for 10+) and all credit to the team who devised and delivered the session, because it was pitched perfectly to be accessible and interesting for everyone.

plus an actual ox heart and liver so that we could really get to grips

A whistle-stop tour of the body started with the eyes. We were encouraged to look closely: at a projected photo, into our neighbour’s eyes, and at a Gray’s Anatomy diagram (I know my scleral venous sinus from my ora serrata now). Information too on why we sometimes see ‘floaters’ in our eyes and how we see colour. Thrillingly – there was a ‘whoa’ from the audience – an ultrasound on an assistant’s eye was projected onto a screen, allowing us to look through the eyeball. Then to the mouth: distributed sweets to chomp on, with directions on how to feel the muscles we use for chewing, plus a close-up of the tongue to show how we swallow food. A young volunteer had her tongue painted with blue food dye to make her taste buds visible enabling comparison with an adult’s. Children have more taste buds, which is why they can have stronger food dislikes, apparently. When the session ended, a boy requested the test - certain he had extra and surplus taste buds, he said he’d be able to tell his mum it wasn’t just that he was super food-fussy.

After nine million years of our evolution, we still have ancestoral remnants that are sometimes no longer necessary - for example, the palmaris longus, a tendon in our forearm. Some of us still have this, sometimes just in one arm, and some of us don’t. We were shown how to check for this but I’m not telling you here. I’m saving that for parties! Next more ultrasound as the fingers on a scanned hand were waggled, we were able to see nerves and the movement of muscles and tendons. Down to the lower limbs where young volunteers helped to show which muscles did what by performing different exercises. Finally, the heart and liver - more fascinating ultrasounds, plus an actual ox heart and liver so that we could really get to grips (literally, at the end of the session - plastic gloves provided) with the different parts of the organs. There was a preserved liver and gall bladder specimen to inspect too.

Extra touches included quiz questions sprinkled throughout the session to help the audience feel good about themselves and anatomical bone models distributed around our seats to examine and consider. This was a thoroughly entertaining lecture, enjoyed by all. And, like all good education, it makes you hungry for more. I’m just off to the library for some books on anatomy.

Reviews by Jonna Brett

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The Blurb

Join anatomists at Brighton and Sussex Medical School for a live exploration of the human body using ultrasound scanning, non-human dissection and a range of anatomical resources. This is a rare and fascinating opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of our bodies and how they work. A fun and interactive session.