Dana’s Design a Brain Experiment Competition Is Back!

The January 16th deadline for the Dana Foundation’s annual Design a Brain Experiment Competition is only one month away. Get busy! We are excited to read all the creative ideas for brain experiments. Last year we received some incredible submissions, led by the winning proposal, “Investigating the implications of specific inhibition of ß-amyloid in Alzheimer’s disease” from Gopika Hari of Cupertino High School in Cupertino, California.


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Teen Drug Use Down: National Study

The prevalence of illicit drug use among teens appears to be declining, according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future Survey conducted by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIDA Director and Dana Alliance member Nora Volkow recaps the survey results in this short video.

For more information on the survey, read the University of Michigan’s press release or visit the NIDA website.

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Valerie Purdie-Vaughns on Stereotype Threat and the Brain

With Ferguson, Mo. and Staten Island, NY in the news for all the wrong reasons last week, a lecture titled, “Race Matters, but Not How You Think it Does: How Stereotypes Affect How We Live, Work, Play and Pray,” couldn’t have been more timely. The event, sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, drew the attention of not only a reporter and videographer from the New York Times, but also of Mr. Zuckerman, who was seated in the front row at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.Purdie-Vaughns-250

The lecture featured one of the institute’s rising young stars: Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, the director of the university’s Laboratory of Intergroup Relations and the Social Mind and an associate professor of psychology. A few minutes into her presentation, it was clear that it was lecturer, as much as the lecture’s relevance to recent civil unrest throughout the nation’s cities that drew the sizable audience.

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Learning and the Brain Conference Registration

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There are only two more days to receive discounted registration for the next Learning and the Brain conference, “Making Lasting Memories: Using Brain Science to Boost Memory, Thinking and Learning.” It takes place February 12-14 in San Francisco and the Dana Foundation will have a table with free giveaways, so if you’re there, please stop by and say hello!

More on the conference from the Learning and the Brain website:

Neuroscientists are discovering strategies that make learning easier, more effective, and that can boost long-term memory, thinking and academic performance. By using mnemonics, movement, active learning, discussions, gestures and varied practices, teachers can improve their students’ ability to learn, reflect and remember. Discover how the “Science of Learning” can help boost student retention, recall and retrieval of information.

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How Stem Cells Build a Complex Brain

Guest post by science writer Carl Sherman

Within the brain’s complexity is the diversity of its 10 billion neurons: large, small, thin, fat, connected by long fibrils or short bushy ones. Some produce the neurotransmitter serotonin; others dopamine or norepinephrine. How this abundance of forms arises is a mystery we are just starting to penetrate.

It’s of more than mere theoretical interest, says Minoree Kohwi, Ph.D., assistant professor of neuroscience at Columbia University. “Knowing how the brain is built, piece by piece, from the ground up, may give critical clues as to what goes wrong to cause diseases, and ultimately help us prevent or cure them.” It may even, someday, allow us to make neurons to replace those lost to injury or aging.

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