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Gray Matters 

Brain drain at the Science Center

Here in St. Louis, we're famous for frying up cow brains and serving them on white bread. We're also known for manufacturing a certain beverage that has been known to kill off tiny portions of the brain -- usually on weekends. Now the city braces for a large-scale, interactive exhibit on the glory and mystery of that same three-pound, cauliflower-shaped organ, intended to make us think about thinking.

Brain: The World Inside Your Head heads into the St. Louis Science Center's Exploradome on Saturday, January 31, and remains on view through May 2. Fans of Fantastic Voyage will enjoy walking into a giant brain replica and witnessing the "electrical storm" of firing neurons that results when a human being thinks a deep thought -- or scratches his booty.

Other areas of the display allow you to twist open a model of the human head, Hannibal Lecter-style, and peer in. You'll learn the wherefores of the phantom-limb pain that amputees often feel and perform mock brain surgery to cut out a nasty tumor. You can compare brain and skull specimens from different animals, and if you bring an infant to the Science Center, you can hold him or her in front of a mirror and perform some nifty experiments on brain development -- seriously (5050 Oakland Avenue, $4 to $5, 314-289-4444). -- Byron Kerman

Listen Up, Maggots!
It's OK to be spineless

Leeches, roaches and flesh-eating beetles: These are the invertebrates of our lives.

Bugs that live in, on and with us, explains director John Norton, are featured in the Shudder Bugs exhibit at the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House and Education Center (February 3 through May 25, 15193 Olive Boulevard, 636-530-0076, www.butterflyhouse.org).

Though getting intimate with that colony of maggots inhabiting Fluffy's food dish might not sound like fun in the traditional sense, Shudder Bugs will also highlight how even the slimiest of species help solve crimes and cure illness. And while some adults might be grossed out by all of this, kids just eat it up (ewwww!). Admission is $6, $4.50 for seniors and $4 for ages four through twelve. Kids three and younger crawl in for free. -- R.L. Nave

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