Diamond in the Rough World of Neuroscience

We have the ability to change our brains. Throughout life, even into old age, new neural connections can be formed. However, the idea the brain can change, called brain plasticity, is relatively new. Before 1963, scientists theorized that the brain remained static after birth and environment played no role in its potential.

The woman who changed the conversation around brain plasticity, Marian Diamond, professor emerita of integrative biology, University of California, Berkeley, was the subject of “My Love Affair with the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond,” a documentary that aired this week on PBS.

Diamond focused on proving that the brain is shaped by environment, not just genetics. She performed an experiment where one group of rats were kept in enriched cages, with toys and other rats to socialize with, while another group lived in impoverished cages, with no other rats or objects to interact with. Rats housed in enriched cages had brains that were six percent larger than the rats in impoverished cages. She reacted to this finding by running across the campus to tell her research partner the results. “This will change science,” he told her. And it did.

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Photo courtesy of Luna Productions

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Brainworks Video Nominated for 2017 Emmy Award

Last year, the Dana Foundation partnered with Eric Chudler, Ph.D., from the University of Washington to produce a video to educate kids about the wonders of neuroscience, and just last week, it was nominated for a 2017 Northwest Emmy Award!

Chudler is the executive director of the university’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, and as the host and executive producer of “Brainworks: Exercise and the Brain,” he leads students through various experiments and a meeting with molecular biologist John J. Medina, Ph.D., to learn more about the cognitive benefits of exercise. To watch the video in full, see below:

 

 

Brain Awareness Week Partner Interview: Sung-Jin Jeong, Ph.D.

This is the second in a series of Brain Awareness Week (BAW) partner interviews, in which partners share their BAW experiences and tips for planning successful events. Sung-Jin Jeong, Ph.D., is the principal researcher/director of the Neuronal Development and Disease Department/Brain Research Policy Center at the Korea Brain Research Institute.

sung-jin jeong baw partnerThe Brain Awareness Week effort in Korea is a large coordinated effort by several organizations, including the Korea Brain Research Institute, that has reached around 4,000 people the last several years. How difficult is it to reach consensus among the organizers when planning such a large program? Are there any tips you can give?

Since 2002, the Korean neuroscience community has actively participated in Brain Awareness Week (BAW), enhancing the public understanding on neuroscience and scientific value. Over the years, a series of events hosted by more than 15 universities and research institutes throughout the country have become more dynamic and exciting, attracting over 3,000 participants yearly. Korean Brain Society and Korea Brain Research Institute (KBRI) are co-organizers, playing a central role in gathering national brain research capacity and strengthening the cooperative network for the annual BAW event.

When planning for such a large program, it is indeed challenging to reach consensus among many relevant institutes. It is critical, however, to induce inter-organizational cooperation and reach consensus encompassing organizers’ needs. We try to make things work by weaving together everyone’s best ideas and key concerns before making major decisions on topics and planning programs.  Over the last few years, main topics presented during BAW were Brain Navigation (2014); Brain, the universe of our mind (2015); and What is Brain Research? (2016).  Fortunately, we have so far had fruitful outcomes and excellent performances by having the earnest discussions on planning each program and efficient role-sharing. We will do our utmost to continue building interactive partnerships with educational and research institutes nationwide, thus engaging the whole neuroscience community with a lively and successful BAW.
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2017 NYC Regional Brain Bee Champions

For the first-place winner of this year’s Regional Brain Bee, biology was always the high school senior’s favorite subject in school. But it wasn’t until she was 14 years old that Winsome Ching narrowed her focus to neuroscience. After visiting a museum celebrating Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud in Vienna, Ching was “hooked” by his theories on the brain, she says. Since then, she has transitioned from Freud’s psychoanalyses to the biological aspects of brain function.

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Ching’s passion for neuroscience shined through at the Brain Bee this past Saturday, along with her peers from 33 high schools spanning across Long Island, Westchester County, and New York City’s five boroughs. Half of Columbia University’s Alfred Lerner Hall was filled by a grid of white tables, adorned with the students’ name cards, directly facing the judges’ table; the other half was bustling with family members, friends, and teachers all gathered to cheer on the participating students. In the time before the competition began, students were scattered throughout the auditorium for one last chance to review notes and textbook chapters on the brain. Once all participants checked in, the competition began.

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Brain Awareness Week 2017: Why Become a Partner?

Brain Awareness Week 2017 (March 13-19) is only a couple of months away, and it is the perfect time to become a Brain Awareness Week partner! Partners participate in the campaign by organizing creative and innovative activities within their communities to educate the public about the brain and the promise of brain research. Many different types of organizations can become partners including K-12 schools, universities, medical and research institutions, professional groups, government agencies, and outreach organizations. Partnership is also geographically diverse, with partners located in more than 45 countries and six continents.

Partners can publicize and share their events on the BAW Calendar of Events and access free resources including event ideas and planning tips, outreach tools, education and science links, and downloadable resources. Partners within the United States can even order free publications and promotional materials to distribute to their audiences. A new video, “Why Become a Brain Awareness Week Partner,” which explains in detail the benefits of becoming a partner, includes interviews with partners and showcases stunning photos submitted by partners around the globe:

You can also find answers to commonly asked questions about Brain Awareness Week on our FAQ page.

– Amanda Bastone

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