Brain power hopes to rise at SEMO District Fair

Thursday, September 13, 2001

When the Federal Aviation Administration grounded aircraft in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attack, even The World's Largest Brain couldn't figure out a way to fly.

The 10-story hot-air balloon has been inflated at Capaha Park and the SEMO District Fair this week but always remains tethered to the ground. Roy Caton, who pilots the craft, hoped to fly the balloon at 7:30 this morning at Capaha Park if the FAA clears the way. By Wednesday night, no announcement lifting the ban on flights had been made.

Dr. Scott Gibbs, a Cape Girardeau neurosurgeon, is the brains behind The World's Largest Brain. At a ceremony Wednesday announcing the winners of a slogan and poster contest in connection with the balloon's appearance at the fair, Gibbs told children and their parents the terrorism was "the most sinister use of a human mind or minds."

The best defense against terrorism will be great leaders who use their brains and scientists who devise defenses and foreign policy advisors who act intelligently, he said.

"President Bush at the school in Florida Tuesday emphasized the importance of education ... That's why I have supersized the message."

The idea for a brain balloon occurred to Gibbs while doing his residency at the University of Missouri at Columbia. He saw the Wehrenberg Theatres balloon shaped like a bag of popcorn. Eventually his relationship with a company called BrainLAB led it to build the $250,000 balloon.

BrainLAB manufactures neurnavigational equipment used by hospitals.

The six colors on the balloon correspond with the lobes and other parts of the brain. Yellow is the occipital lobe that controls vision, dark blue is the temporal lobe that controls perception and recognition of hearing and memory.

The parietal lobe, which controls perception of touch, pressure, temperature and pain, is light blue. The orange frontal lobe controls abilities such as reasoning, parts of speech, emotions and problem solving.

The green cerebellum coordinates movement, and the gray brain stem is responsible for consciousness.

Southeast Missouri Hospital is sponsoring the brain balloon's appearance here. Winners of the hospital slogan contest were:

Carson Bruenderman of Cape Girardeau, first.

Lindsey Carter of Jonesboro, Ill., second.

Christopher Mark Koehler of Scott City, Mo., third.

In the 6-8-year-old poster category, winners were:

Danielle Gibbons of Scott City, first.

Dylan Kelly of Bloomfield, Mo., second.

Katie Garner of Cape Girardeau and Celeste Holmes of Oran, Mo., third.

In the poster category, the winners in the 9-to-11-year-old poster category were:

Lauren Bishop of Cape Girardeau, first.

Laura Felter of Benton, Mo., second.

Mariah Thompson of Perryville, Mo., Alicia Steiler of Jackson, Mo., and Becca Bliss of Cape Girardeau, third.

Poster winners in the 12-to-14-year-old category were:

Erin Miesner of Frohna, Mo., and Alana Newell of Scott City, first.

Joshua Steiler of Jackson, second.

Sarah Schneider of Cape Girardeau, third.

Carson Bruenderman's winning slogan was: "Keep your brain in the tip top shape to become a president, astronaut or soccer great!"

The brain balloon received its flight certification only in the past few weeks. Caton said it actually is a balloon within a balloon, with the outer layer shaped to reflect the anatomy of the human brain. Because of that, the balloon weighs four or five times as much as a normal hot-air balloon.

Gibbs, who estimates that 10,000 children have heard the programs he conducts about head and spinal cord injuries, says the balloon is more than a balloon but a message to children and students about the importance of their brains.

"You can't teach anyone anything until you get their attention," he said. "This is about getting their attention."

335-6611, extension 182

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: