Professor Tracy Kivell and Dr Ameline Bardo of the Skeletal Biology Research Centre are helping to run the Me, Human project as part of the London Science Museum’s Live Science initiative that provides some of the annual 3.4 million Science Museum visitors with the opportunity to “experience science for themselves by participating in real research experiments”.
Alongside Brea Stewart, a 3rd year undergraduate student on the BSc in Biological Anthropology programme acting as research assistant, Tracy and Ameline are leading the Get a Grip station, one of several in the project that allows visitors to have measurements of their hands taken. The shape of the human hand can be quite variable and better understanding the factors that might influence these differences will help the team to more accurately infer the manipulative abilities of our human ancestors.
The objective of the Get a Grip experiment is to quantify the morphological variability of the human hand, from young children to elderly adults, and to test the link between hand shape, manual activities and abilities (e.g. do participants rock-climb or play a musical instrument?), grip strength and laterality (i.e., dominant use of your left or right hand). At Get a Grip, participants aged 3 to 99 years old have had their hands scanned and grip strength measured, interspersed with questions fielded about how they use their hands during daily activities.
All of the data will not only provide valuable information about morphological asymmetry and handedness in humans, but can also be correlated with data collected at other stations, such as the Manipulation Station, measuring dexterity differences in your left versus right hand, and Affectation & Articulation Station, measuring the function of the left versus right sides of your brain.
Carl Grevel, Katie Town and Maryam Ali, also undergraduate students from both the BSc in Biological Anthropology and BSc in Anthropology programmes, are volunteering for the Me, Human project. The time they have given over the summer has been critical to the success of the undertaking thus far, and has provided the students with hands-on training in scientific data collection and public engagement.
Me, Human is directed by Dr Gillian Forrester from Birkbeck, University of London in collaboration with the University of Kent and other London-based universities, and located in the Wellcome Wing’s ‘Who Am I?’ gallery. This summer visitors have learned about the evolutionary emergence of left/right brain differences and how these differences influence their behaviour. This project is also a “unique opportunity to collect data to further investigate the relationships between brain/behaviour asymmetries and cognitive skills from an unprecedentedly large and diverse population”.
Me, Human at Live Science opened 2 July and will run until 30 September at the Science Museum in London between 11.00 am and 4.00 pm (Tuesdays through Saturdays). Come to take part of this project and learn more about your brain, behaviour and hand strength!
Main image: A Dynamometer, used to measure strength of precision grip between the thumb and index finger (courtesy of joaobeijinho.press).
All other images are courtesy of Gillian Forrester.