Respect your brain
For the better half of a year, in collaboration with the NSW Ministry of Health and The Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use, we had some fun creating three animations illustrating the neuroscience of drug use.
The theme: Respect your brain.
More specifically, educating young people on how alcohol, cannabis and MDMA affect the brain, body and behaviour as their brains are developing.
Aimed at engaging 16-25 year olds, the brief described creating some fun, educational, research based animations that appealed to a wide range of young people; ensuring the content could be understood by those who didn’t have a background in science while still being credible, scientifically accurate and non-stigmatising.
A lot of research went into what the kids are into these days! We were lucky to have our lead animator, Senay Gurel, on board who had a good understanding of our target audience to work on developing and refining these ideas. Throughout the concept development phase, with loads of ideas thrown around, including a walking beer bottle and a brain person (which looked ridiculous btw!), we finally decided on a light bulb as the central character of the three videos. This allowed for cohesiveness across the animations, as we wanted it to be obvious they were part of series, but could also of course be viewed stand-alone.
The light bulb character allowed us to illuminate the brain to animate the effects of the different drugs in a quirky and engaging (hopefully!) way.
Research shows that drinking alcohol reduces brain activity. This is of course problematic in the developing brain. Our light bulb’s brain flickers and the light reduces in intensity, illustrating diminished brain activity after a few drinks. See for yourself here.
When animating the effects of cannabis, we went a little more abstract, showing the brain turning green after smoking a joint. This illustrates THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, doing it’s thing, acting on the central nervous system in the brain and altering the users experience of the world.
MDMA users experience a heightened activity of neurotransmitters or the feel-good brain chemicals, a commonly known fact. A less known fact of MDMA use is the resulting increase in brain and body temperature, which of course can be very dangerous. The illuminated light bulb meant we could easily show a red hot brain demonstrating these extreme effects.
Upon completion of the draft animations, The Matilda Centre conducted user testing research on 60 participants in our target audience age range to determine whether the information within the animations was accessible, engaging and informative. After watching the three videos, participants were asked questions around relatability, credibility and memorability of the videos and then asked to complete a survey on their understanding of neuroscience and the brain. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive with the majority of people reporting feeling engaged and learning something new.
Ultimately a successful endeavour, the videos aimed to disseminate research based knowledge to young people in an accessible manner. It was a great experience helping convey an important message to young people in the hope they will make informed choices when it comes to drug use and will respect their brains.
Check out the end product animations here: