Brainwave’s “Grief and Gratitude”

Attachment is the theme of the Rubin Museum of Art’s 2015’s Brainwave series—what does it really mean to attach? Yes, we become attached to a large range of “things,” including our smartphones, our daily routines, and even our feelings of success and happiness. The greatest and most powerful attachments we form, however, are to people. I may fear losing my iPhone or breaking my favorite mug, but the loss of a loved one would be exceedingly more devastating.

In a poignant and honest talk between professor of clinical psychology and researcher George A. Bonanno and economist Sonali Deraniyagala, author of Wave, a book about the loss of her immediate family—her two sons, husband, and parents—to the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, she eloquently discussed her personal experience with grief.

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Brain Awareness Week Recap: Thanks for a Great Week!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 20th anniversary of Brain Awareness Week! We are always inspired by our partners’ creativity and thrilled by the growing interest in neuroscience around the world. This year we had more than 740 registered events in 50 countries and 41 US states (plus Puerto Rico), whose outreach programs reached hundreds of thousands of people. After last week’s busy (and fun!) schedule, it’s nice to take a moment to reflect on some of the highlights from Brain Awareness Week 2015.

First place winner, Moie Uesugi

First place winner, Moie Uesugi

To kick off the week, we announced our two winners of this year’s Design a Brain Experiment competition for US high school students. Of the many ambitious and creative submissions we received, projects by Moie Uesugi and Christian Gonzalez were awarded first and second place, respectively. Uesugi, a senior at Bard High School Early College Queens in New York City, proposed a new treatment for premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Gonzalez, a freshman homeschooled student from Harvest, Alabama, focused on a cure for multiple sclerosis. I see bright futures for both these students! Continue reading

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Cerebral Malaria: A Wily Foe…8 Years Later

guest post by Kayt Sukel

With today’s headlines awash with tales of measles and the Ebola virus, it can be easy to forget that malaria, an infectious disease caused by the protozoan parasite Plasmodium falciparum, remains one of the most deadly diseases on the planet. According to the World Health Organization, more than 600,000 people died of malaria in 2012—the majority attributed to the most severe form of the disease, cerebral malaria. One of malaria’s biggest mysteries is why some people develop the cerebral form of the disease, in which the malarial parasites invade the blood vessels around the brain, and then recover, while others with this form, many of them young children, will die of the infection.

Dr. Terrie Taylor, Michigan State University, takes vitals on a child in the pediatric malaria ward at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, Africa. Photo by Jim Peck, MSU

Dr. Terrie Taylor, Michigan State University, takes vitals on a child in the pediatric malaria ward at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, Africa. Photo by Jim Peck, MSU

In 2008, I spoke with Terrie Taylor, DO, about her clinical work with cerebral malaria patients in Malawi. She explained how cerebral malaria is a “tricky disease,” but was optimistic that researchers would have a clearer picture of how Plasmodium falciparum occupy the brain’s blood vessels in five to ten years. One of her most important goals was to understand what might be different in the brains of those who died of the disease from those who survived. Now, eight years after my Cerebrum story “Cerebral Malaria:  A Wily Foe” was published, Taylor and colleagues have published a groundbreaking neuroimaging study in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighting one of those key differences.

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Getting braiNY on the BioBus

This past Saturday a quirky, repurposed 1970’s transit bus was parked at Washington Square Park. If it weren’t for the calls of “come touch a real human brain” or “we’ve got microscopes,” I would have thought that it was Miss Frizzle and the Magic School Bus. In reality it was the BioBus. This is the third straight year the BioBus has been a part of braiNY, New York City’s collaborative celebration of Brain Awareness Week.

BioBus parked near Washington Square Park in New York City

BioBus parked near Washington Square Park in New York City

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I’m All About the Base (Biobase)

On March 19th, I visited the Biobase, located in the Lower Eastside Girls Club Center for Community in New York. The Biobase is a science lab that offers after-school and summer programs for young girls interested in science. For Brain Awareness Week, the base set up several hands-on science experiments, including the one I tried that required me to put on goggles that turned my vision upside-down. The challenge was to walk in a line that zig-zags. Another project involved the girls working together to build a neuron, which was then displayed at the event.

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Photo credit: Latasha Wright, Biobus

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