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.
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!
Public outreach is the name of the game for Brain Awareness Week, and events are a campaign staple. While programs were happening all over the world, we found no shortage of brain-themed events to choose from in our town, New York City, thanks to the coordinating efforts of braiNY, helmed by the Greater NYC Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. From a more cerebral discussion about dreams at the Rubin Museum, to interactive programs on improving cognitive health at NYU and family fun at the BioBase and BioBus (essentially a lab on wheels), visitors and event volunteers delighted in their shared enthusiasm for the brain.
In the tradition of the European café scientifique, there were many chances to kick back with a beer at pub events that included thoughtful lectures, storytelling, music, and trivia. At Brains and Brews, Dana Alliance member Joe LeDoux combined his passions for neuroscience and music to perform brain-inspired tunes with singer/songwriter Colin Dempsey at DROM in Alphabet City. At Nerd Nite, post-doc Deena Walker and neuroscientist Keith Gonzales offered up a hilarity-infused discussion about sex differences in the brain (a controversial topic we covered in a Cerebrum article last year) at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village.
In addition to planned events, social media has been a game changer in delivering brain news and information to the public. Following the hashtag #brainweek, we loved seeing photos, videos, and messages from our dedicated partners in many different countries and states. Check out the Society for Neuroscience (SfN)’s Storify narrative showing the highlights.
New this year, we asked Brain Awareness Week participants to submit 20-second video clips in honor of BAW’s 20th birthday (#20forBAW20), and many of them delivered. Watch these videos from the University of Washington, SfN Palm Beach Florida chapter and CCSBS Florida Atlantic University, and the AxanLab at Gebze Technical University in Turkey (some seriously snappy music in this one). Find more on our Brain Awareness Week Facebook page.
If you missed out on the #20forBAW20 action and are video-inclined, consider entering SfN’s Brain Awareness Video Contest 2015! From their website:
Anyone can enter! Work with a member of the Society for Neuroscience near you to produce an educational video about the brain. Whether it’s an animation, song, or skit, share the wonders of neuroscience through the Brain Awareness Video Contest.
Submissions will be accepted until June 10. You can watch last year’s winning video on vision and illusion for inspiration:
Want to join in but need ideas to run an event yourself next year? No time like the present to start planning for March 14–20, 2016. News station New York 1 hosted a panel discussion with several braiNY partners about ways to make neuroscience fun; start there, and move on to all our partners’ advice and handouts on dana.org/baw.
For us, raising awareness about the brain and support for brain research is a year-round effort. We’re glad to have so many partners for this special annual week of the brain.
-Ann L. Whitman