Wellcome / EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences


Bloomsbury Festival, a tale of art and science

30 October 2017

An outstanding think globally, act locally event, Bloomsbury Festival is described as a

This month we had the pleasure of participating at the Bloomsbury Festival, showcasing WEISS's healthcare engineering innovations in the field of surgery for epilepsy treatment and engaging in open discussions to explore public perceptions of the current and future role of medical technology in surgery.

Our stall consisted of digital images of brain vessels, 3D brain models and interactive activities including a hands-on demonstration of EpiNavTM. A cutting-edge neuro-navigation system, EpiNavTM aims to improve the planning and guiding of surgical interventions for patients with epilepsy by using multi-modal 3D maps of brain structures. 

The brain models and the images on the screen provided new perspectives into the ways that clinicians can see inside the brain. At the same time, the software demonstration and the explanations of on-site healthcare engineers and surgeons offered a sneak peek into the possibilities of novel pre-surgical planning techniques and the latest surgical devices. This allowed our visitors the chance to explore different brain imaging techniques and try their hand at planning on the digital platform where the electrodes could be placed with minimal risk. They could then compare their results with the ones of other participants and verify their knowledge about epilepsy by indicating answers on a "Did you know?" board.

Alejandro Granados, a post-doctoral researcher who recently joined the EpiNavTM team, was one of the experts who described this cutting-edge work to the public. He commented "Epilepsy could happen to any of us or any of the people close to us and understanding how it is diagnosed and treated, as well as the role of technology in improving it is crucial".

One common observation was the high number of young people who visited our stall wanting to learn more about our new technologies. Whilst talking about the potential impact of this type of event on the next generations of scientists, Sjoerd Vos says "many teenagers and students don't know that there is so much engineering being used in healthcare. For students who want to do the engineering side, whether there's computer science or physics or anything science related I think it's good to know that you can actually do something in healthcare with it.". Sjoerd, a post-doctoral researcher who has been part of EpiNavTM team since the early stages of the project, followed a similar path himself; studying Medical Natural Sciences and then later specialising in Medical Physics.

One of the most rewarding parts of our Bloomsbury Festival experience has been the responses we received from our visitors.

Some of them left our stall with new perspectives on treatment that could one day improve their close friends and relatives' lives: 'I have a friend with epilepsy and did not realise what would happen if drugs could not work!'. Many of them commented how compelling they found our healthcare engineering innovations, saying 'it was fascinating to see the actual brain scans, it's really interesting work', 'epilepsy management looks to be truly facilitated by these computer and highly technical means'. Some were also animated by the contagious enthusiasm of our lab's researchers: "<My son> was starting to fade before he came to your stall and now he's raring to go again!".


"The brain is something that fascinates many of us but that we rarely actually see, so having virtual scans on big screens and actual models that you can touch really wowed people.", concludes Daniel Taylor, our WEISS Public Engagement Coordinator. How about you? What would you like to see in our future public engagement activities? We always welcome your feedback and ideas, which you can send to us at healthcare-eng@ucl.ac.uk.