The Brain Architecture Game

Danielle Kassow (PhD, Trauma-Free NYC), Olivia Frank (Public Health Student), and Carolyn Mayer (Public Health Student)

We are all born with a genetic blueprint for our brain. But what shapes, supports, or harms our brains over the life course?


The early childhood years (birth to age 8) are a fundamental period in setting a solid foundation for brain development across the life span. Children (and their brains!) develop through relationships with caring responsive adults, and interactions with the community and environment. When responsive caregiving is chronically absent, unreliable or inappropriate, termed toxic stress, the brain’s architecture does not form as expected because of repeated exposure to toxic stress and prolonged activation of the body’s stress response system. This can result in issues with behavior and learning, as well as longer-term outcomes such as substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and criminal activity.


The workshop content addresses the overall mission of IPE Day, specifically numbers 1-4, by providing an experience for students across departments and schools to have a constructive and respectful dialogue about brain development and how different experiences shape the brain. Students will bring interdisciplinary perspectives to the game, and will recognize the applications of the information learned in their roles as students and professionals.


During this workshop, students will learn about the powerful role of relationships and the impact of toxic stress on brain development through a table-top interactive game, The Brain Architecture Game.


• 15 minute introduction: Co-presenters will set the stage for the game with a brief introduction using a short ppt deck (3-5 slides) and a video provided by the publisher.
• 50 minutes to play game: In small groups, students will be tasked with building the tallest brain possible (representing functionality) and as sturdy as possible (representing the ability to withstand stress). All materials will be provided.
• 10 minutes share-out: Co-presenters will facilitate a large group dialogue about shared concepts and applications in professional roles.