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Read about an acrobatics display on brain health as part of an after-hours event at Banbury Museum.

One acrobat holding up another

By Daria Jensen, postdoctoral researcher in cognitive neuroscience

In May, I performed a partner acrobatics display about brain health as part of WIN's "WINdow on the Brain" after-hours museum event at Banbury Museum. More than 100 members of the public attended this sold-out event, which was the capstone of WIN's public engagement programme in Banbury to accompany the "Your Amazing Brain" exhibition. 

The acrobatic performance was titled “Mens sana in corpore sano”. Together with two fellow neuroscientists, Anne Hedegaard and Nils Otto, we showed that partner acrobatics is more than just a type of physical exercise and includes different aspects contributing to sustaining a healthy brain across age. With the growing ageing population and increased frequency of risk factors for dementia and cognitive decline such as obesity (23% in Europe, WHO Europe, 2016), outreach on what to do for good brain health becomes increasingly important. That is critical, as a recent survey conducted by researchers of the Lifebrain Consortium shows that there is a lot of uncertainty about which aspects contribute to brain health and how to maintain it (Friedmann et al., 2020).

Acrobats in striped blue, red, and white shirts strike a pose. The male acrobat is supporting the female acrobat above his head.

Photo by Eoin Kelleher


We demonstrated during this performance that different aspects of partner acrobatics are contributing to sustaining a healthy brain. For example, during the training our cardiovascular health is improving, we are confronted with new challenges by learning new skills and we are in a social setting with other people. We also pointed out that other factors, such as a healthy diet and good sleep are important for sustaining a healthy brain.

All three acrobats in a pose. The male acrobat supports the two female acrobats, who are both upside down, one balanced on top of the other.© Abi Wyllie and Hannah Cole

Within my research, I am interested in preventing or delaying the onset of dementia and cognitive decline. Thus, during the development of the performance, we looked into different risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia and how those can be converted into acrobatic movements. That experience was very enjoyable, and we had to be very creative. We also developed a script for the talk during the performance, as most of the acrobatic moves were matched with words.

It was great to perform at Banbury Museum and engage with the audience. It was unsurprising to us that most people did not consider acrobatics as being an accessible sport, unrelated to their physical abilities or age. Nevertheless, we explained that many of our team members start without any prior experience and that we are inclusive of all age groups. They asked us questions about when and how we started acrobatics, and we discussed factors contributing to brain health.

Overall, it was a fruitful experience to show people that many different aspects contribute to brain health while doing acrobatics.

References: Friedman BB, Suri S, Solé-Padullés C, Düzel S, Drevon CA, Baaré WFC, Bartrés-Faz D, Fjell AM, Johansen-Berg H, Madsen KS, Nyberg L, Penninx BWJH, Sexton C, Walhovd KB, Zsoldos E, Budin-Ljøsne I. Are People Ready for Personalized Brain Health? Perspectives of Research Participants in the Lifebrain Consortium. Gerontologist. 2020 Aug 14;60(6):1050-1059. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnz155. PMID: 31682729; PMCID: PMC7427479.