Enter the 2017 Design a Brain Experiment Competition

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As students head into their first weeks of the school year, another round of the Design a Brain Experiment competition is upon us! We’re challenging high school students in the U.S. to use their knowledge of the brain and the scientific method of inquiry to develop innovative ideas and theories about the human brain. These original experiments should be designed to test creative theories about daily brain activity, brain disorders and diseases, and brain functions. However, students should not complete their experiments; they should view these submissions as research proposals rather than completed research.

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Closing the Language Skills Gap Among Children

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Many children are at a disadvantage even before they walk into an early Head Start or pre-K program. Research indicates that children from families of low socioeconomic status (SES) have fallen more than six months behind their more advantaged cohorts in language processing and proficiency skills by the time they are two years old. And this deficiency continues to grow. It is apparent that this language gap has profound and lifelong outcomes, not only in “making the grade,” but in self-esteem and behavior. Brain research is helping scientists better understand the neural mechanisms underlying language processing in infants and young children, as well as the social interactions necessary for honing those skills. What do we know and what can be done to mitigate the long-term effects of this deficit? Learn more about the latest research, the emerging “home training for parents,” and the policy issues surrounding this disparity at the free Neuroscience and Society event, “Closing the Language Skills Gap Among Children: It’s Never Too Soon to Start.”

When:
September 28, 2016
5:30 PM – 8:00 PM Eastern Time

Where:
AAAS Headquarters
1200 New York Avenue NW
Washington, District of Columbia

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The Power of Positive Thinking

While exercise has been widely accepted for its cognitive benefits, practices such as yoga and meditation are gaining attention for their specific contributions to brain health. “Meditation can change certain anatomical structures of the brain, and attention function can be improved, just as it can be with exercise,” neuroscientist and Dana Alliance member Wendy Suzuki said in a podcast called Ariana Yoga, which focuses on her exercise-based brain research. The technique of meditating allows for the ability to focus attention without distraction, as well as a better capacity to control emotional impulses, she explains.

As a new type of workout, Suzuki has taken the concept of applying positive thoughts to physical exercise for a practice she describes as “intentional exercise.” The combination of a favorite aerobic activity paired with a positive affirmation or mantra “adds another element,” she says. “Exercise is changing all sorts of neurochemicals and growth factors in your brain,” Suzuki explains in the podcast. Her fascination with the cognitive effects of consistent exercise, and consequential shift in lab research from brain plasticity and memory, was sparked through her own positive experience.

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Eye Health for Kids

Vision is not only crucial for children’s physical, cognitive, and social development, it can continue to affect health and happiness all through adulthood. A recent report about children’s vision and eye health revealed that more than one in five preschool-age children have a vision disorder, which can range from mild refractive errors (i.e. myopia—nearsightedness, hyperopia—farsightedness, astigmatism) to vision loss. While there is a lot being done to ensure a nationally-recognized system to promote eye health, it’s important to build awareness around the genetic and environmental factors that play a role in visual disorders.

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Inaccurate Statistics on Football Safety for Kids

With all the controversy surrounding the link between traumatic brain injury and professional football, the National Football League (NFL) has been adopting certain initiatives over the last couple of years in an attempt to reassure the country that their national pastime is becoming safer for kids and athletes. Together with USA Football—youth football’s governing body—the league endorsed a new educational program called “Heads Up Football” back in 2015. The program involves a series of in-person and online courses for coaches to learn new safety procedures and proper tackling drills to reduce the risk of head injury. The NFL and USA Football said that the program reduced the number of concussions by an estimated 30 percent and injuries by 76 percent.

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