When Mara Dierssen started her career as a neuroscientist, she often encountered gender discrimination. Working in a male-dominated field, she had to combat stereotypes about passivity and leadership. Lacking a female role model, she now realizes that she was unaware of many of the scientific community’s “unwritten rules,” like how to receive funding for projects, do interviews, and publish findings.
Years later, Dierssen’s strong drive to succeed, intense passion for neuroscience, and work ethic have helped her become a senior scientist at the Centre for Biomedical Research, president of the Spanish Society for Neuroscience, a member of the European Dana Alliance, as well as a mother of four children. Dierssen, who recently talked about gender and neuroscience in an interview with the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), has become a role model for today’s young female neuroscientists, not only because of her achievements as a neuroscientist, but also through her dedication to public outreach and gender equality.
While our brains are always working to keep our bodies running, how often do we stop and think about their significance? Every year in March, one week is dedicated to celebrating all things relating to the brain. What started as a national campaign to promote communication and awareness about the brain has evolved into an international celebration engaging students, teachers, scientists, and the public alike. This year marks the 21st annual Brain Awareness Week (BAW), which will take place March 14-20.
Learn more about BAW in this short animation:
When we published the Cerebrum article, “The Brain Games Conundrum: Does Cognitive Function Really Sharpen the Mind?”, and a follow-up Q&A with the authors in November 2014, three aspects of the article were crystal clear: I) Few topics in neuroscience evoke as much debate as brain game effectiveness. 2) Advertising has convinced tens of thousands of people to open their wallets and buy products. 3) The science surrounding the benefits of brain games is sketchy at best.
The article was in direct contrast to website claims by Lumosity, a major player in the brain-game business, with more than $1 billion a year in revenues and 60-million members. At the time, Lumosity’s website boasted of nine peer-reviewed studies, 36 university collaborators, and testimonials galore.
Now, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTA):
The creators and marketers of the Lumosity ‘brain training’ program have agreed to settle FTA charges alleging that they deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.
As part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress and will notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.
Our body is regulated by an invisible clock that influences our wakefulness, sleep, thoughts, and emotions. The circadian clock is an important regulatory feature, yet neuroscientists still don’t completely understand it. Although cognitive tests can be performed, it was difficult to monitor brain cells over the course of a day until neuroscientist and Dana Alliance member Huda Akil, M.D., designed an experiment that gave a new perspective on circadian clocks.
“Maybe it’s simple-minded, but nobody had thought of it,” she said to The New York Times in a recent article. Her team examined the healthy brains of 55 donors who had died suddenly at different times of the day. As reported by the Times:
As each person died, his brain cells were in the midst of making proteins from certain genes. Because the brains had been quickly preserved, the scientists could still measure the activity of those genes at the time of death.
Most of the genes they examined didn’t show any regular pattern of activity over the course of the day. But they found that more than 1,000 genes followed a daily cycle. People who died at the same time of day were making those genes at the same levels.
The findings were so consistent that they even enabled the scientists to determine the time of death within the hour.