Brain Awareness Week 2017 in Photos

Iran

A lecture demonstrating stereotaxic surgery on a rat, organized by Ferdowsi University of Mashhad in Iran.

Brain Awareness Week (BAW) has come and gone and now is the time to reflect on the success and reach of BAW partners’ efforts. Impressively, there are more than 800 events on the BAW Calendar of Events! Perhaps the best way to see the success of the campaign is to check out the BAW Photo Gallery.

Virginia

Minds games at Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute’s Brain School.

The photo gallery reflects the international nature of BAW, a global campaign with more than half of the events during the week occurring outside the US. From Germany to Australia, Brazil to Nigeria, Canada to Spain, partners coordinated events from all reaches of the globe. For BAW 2017, there were events in 40 countries and 46 US states!

 

Kentucky

Children inspect brains during an event organized by the University of Kentucky.

With pictures of brain fairs, brain art, lectures, experiments, and more, the photo gallery offers an intimate window into the creative and diverse events organized by our partners from all corners of the planet. It also reflects a consistency in responses–excited children holding brains, awed students participating in experiments, and engrossed audiences learning about the brain.

Penn

Brainy the robot teaching children about brain structure and function at a mall, organized by the Department of Psychology, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

The BAW Photo Gallery already has 70 photos and there is plenty of room for more! Partners are invited to share their photos by submitting a BAW Partner Report.

Kenya

Kenya Brain Bee 2017 participants, organized by Ubongo Brain Awareness Campaign, Kenya, Africa.

The photo gallery is a great way to find ideas for future BAW events and to reflect on the impact that BAW makes on people worldwide. As you are patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for BAW 2018 (March 12-18), peruse the photo gallery for inspiration all yearlong!

– Amanda Bastone

Remembering Breakthroughs

A New York Times profile earlier this week on Brenda A. Milner, Sc.D., credited her with changing “the course of brain science for good as a newly minted Ph.D. in the 1950s by identifying the specific brain organ that is crucial to memory formation.”

Milner

Photo credit: Owen Egan; Courtesy of the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University

Milner, a Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member, identified the hippocampus and other areas of the brain that process memory while working with Henry Molaison, more commonly known as H.M., who developed amnesia at age 29 from the removal of tissue from both his medial temporal lobes, a surgery that was supposed to alleviate his epilepsy.

With the help of H.M., Milner discovered that memory was processed in the medial temporal lobes, which was why he could no longer form new long-term memories. He was, however, able to learn new tasks, meaning he must remember the actions in another part of the brain. His ability to acquire new skills proved to Milner there are two types of memory that occur in different parts of the brain – explicit memory, which recalls describable details like facts and events, and implicit memory, for unconscious memories such as actions and procedures. Milner described this finding in a 2010 Dana Foundation interview:

I went to the McGill psychology department and borrowed learning tasks to give him [H.M]. I took down a maze task, which I was sure he wouldn’t learn, and he didn’t. It was a nice control test, because he showed absolutely no progress over three days. Then I gave him the mirror drawing task. H.M. did 30 trials over three days and at the end of the last trial, his performance was absolutely perfect. I can still remember him looking at what he had drawn, saying: “This is strange. I thought this would be difficult, but it looks as though I’ve done it rather well.” I was very excited because it showed that he could have this excellent performance without any awareness that the reason he was doing so well was that he had had the chance to practice the task over three days.

When I saw that H.M.  had this beautiful learning of something he had no memory of having acquired, I then speculated that this task, which involved motor learning, depended on a different system in the brain. His surgeon had damaged his medial temporal system, but this was a kind of learning that was unaffected by this operation, so therefore it must involve other structures.

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Neuroscience and Society: The Opioid Epidemic

opioid_deaths_2color

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/index.html

“We’ve moved from an epidemic to a crisis” in opioid abuse in the United States, said Daniel Ciccarone, M.D., MPH, during a panel discussion at AAAS in Washington, DC, this week. Ciccarone, a doctor at University of California, San Francisco, who treats addicted people and does research, described a pattern of intertwined waves involving abuse of prescription pills, heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

For example, while overdose deaths due to prescription pill use are spread relatively evenly across the country, “this is not true for heroin,” Ciccarone said. The Northeast has had troubles with opioid abuse for a generation, while in the Midwest, numbers have jumped just recently. And while older folks (50-64) are using pills in greater numbers, it’s younger people (20-35) driving heroin use.

“Heroin itself is becoming more and more dangerous,” he said, especially when it is laced with synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil (used to tranquilize elephants). People who stop breathing after using these stronger concoctions often don’t respond to emergency treatments like naloxone.

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2017 Brain Awareness Video Contest

If you love crafting video ideas and have a passion for neuroscience, then the Brain Awareness Video Contest is just for you! The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) hosts the video challenge each year for those interested in developing a creative way to explain a brain-related concept. The best part is, anyone can enter!

Applicants have the opportunity to work directly with a member of SfN to sponsor and produce an educational video (the online entry form can only be submitted by a member of SfN). The first place winner will receive $1,000 and a trip to SfN’s 2017 annual neuroscience conference in Washington, DC, where the video will be presented. All submissions are due on June 15—so you have exactly one month left!

Last year’s first place price went to Akshay Balaji, a high school student from Virginia, for his video titled, “Hearing Red, Tasting Blue: When the Senses Mix!”

If you’re interested in entering the contest, please read the guidelines carefully. To watch past winning submissions for inspiration, click here. Good luck!

Mount Sinai 5th Annual Brain Fair

On Friday, the Icahn School of Medicine hosted its fifth annual Brain Fair to offer children and adults the opportunity to learn more about neuroscience. The event was originally scheduled to take place during Brain Awareness Week in March, but had to be postponed due to inclement weather. While Friday’s weather was only a slight improvement (with the highest recorded rainfall to flood New York City since 1871!), over 500 people filled the decorated Guggenheim Pavilion of Mount Sinai Hospital to interact with scientists and doctors who study and treat the brain.

There were more than 30 booths with games and informational activities on topics from memory and virtual reality, to perception, traumatic brain injury, and more. Towards the back, a giant inflatable brain allowed visitors to take a quick tour and learn more about what makes up the complex organ. Below are some pictures highlighting the successful event:

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