Your brain is an incredibly complex organ that consists of between 15 and 33 billion neurons each forming up to 10 000 connections. Over time it has evolved to look much like a pair of wrinkled prunes squished together.
Each half – or ‘hemisphere’ – coordinates a range of different tasks in your body. In some cases, the left hemisphere controls muscles on the right side of the body, and the right hemisphere controls functions on the left. Both halves also work together on certain tasks in slightly different ways. For instance, the regions mostly responsible for speech, called Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, are both located in the left hemisphere, while the ability to understand the context of words is controlled by the right hemisphere.
Although it appears that you have two brains, the gap (called the great longitudinal fissure) isn’t complete. A small section of tissue called the corpus callosum joins the two halves, allowing each half to communicate with one another.
Like the white rind of the watermelon, your brain has a thin outer section called the neocortex. This is densely packed with ‘grey matter’, and is responsible for most of your higher thinking functions. The wrinkles (or ‘sulci’) of your neocortex allow more of this grey matter to be squeezed into a smaller area.
Once scientists discovered that the brain could be divided up like a map, with different areas being responsible for certain functions, it didn’t take long for a physician by the name of Franz Joseph Gall to conclude that your behaviour could be influenced by the size of those regions. What was more, he believed that your skull had to bulge out to make room for your brain lumps.
Called ‘phrenology’, physicians during the 19th century would often determine your character by feeling your noggin. This practice has long been dismissed by scientists after no relationship was found between the bumps on your skull and your personality.
Warning: This activity requires the use of sharp knives. Younger scientists should seek the help of an adult.
You will need
- A watermelon
- A vegetable peeler
- A sharp pairing knife
- A chopping board
What to do
- Create a flat bottom for your watermelon by slicing off a 5cm deep section along its length.
- Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer green rind from the watermelon.
- Cut a deep ‘V’ lengthways down the watermelon to create two halves joined by a thin section down the bottom.
- Use the tip of your pairing knife to trace swirls on the surface of your melon, representing the ‘wrinkles’ on your brain. See this image to get a basic idea of what they look like.
- Using the tracings as a guide, make the cuts deeper and wider, allowing you to see some of the red watermelon beneath. Use the knife to make the edges smooth for a nice, ‘organic’ feel to your brain.
- Serve lightly chilled at your next zombie party!
Flatten the bottom of your melon by removing a thin slice. Cut a section lengthways from your melon. Smooth the edges. Trace the sulci patterns and cut them out. Your melon brain!