The Big Brain Experiment

5 Mini-Missions into the Mind

Explore remarkable parts of the brain with fun and engaging experiments for the whole class.

(And you don’t need a degree in Psychology or Neuroscience to be involved!)



How painful is holding your hand in a bucket of ice and water, on a scale of 1 – 10? This experiment tests the subjective nature of pain across individuals, and don’t worry, no harm is done.

SAFETY – Whilst extremely rare, students with Raynaud’s phenomenon (an extreme sensitivity to cold) should not take part in the experiment.


To test differing pain perception in individuals and see how it can change.


Ice (about a bag), buckets (2, 3 or more will make the experiment quicker), Timer/clock

Approximate time needed:

30 mins – 1 hour

Downloadable Teacher PDF resource:

Experiment Summary, Extension Ideas and Results Table

Extra resources:

Having feelings for something that isn’t even part of you? Check out Dr Tasha’s video of the Rubber hand experiment and the explanation.

Also an interesting paper, and video, about how your brain may ignore a part of your body if it thinks it no longer owns it.


Video One – The Experiment

Video Two – The Science, with Dr Tasha Stanton

Video Three –  Teacher Tips

And a special thanks to…

Assoc. Prof. Tasha Stanton (University of SA) for her enthusiasm, help and generally being a guru on all things about the brain and pain.

National Science Week

If you only do some science once a year, that is still better than not doing it. So get stuck in and find out what your brain has to offer.

Inspo from U of W

The University of Washington has an old, but great web resource – Neuroscience for Kids. It was a great inspiration for the Big Brain Experiments.

University of Washington seal

The Big Brain Experiment is being run by Dr Rob and Experimentary, because we love science (you’re welcome).