Moving Toward a Healthy Brain

Last week, experts Arthur Kramer, Jim Koenig, and Sarah M. Ingersoll gathered in DC for a Capitol Hill briefing on physical exercise and its effects on brain health. You can now watch the video of the event to find out: Does a healthy body equal a healthy brain?

The Dana Foundation supports a grant to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for a series of briefings designed to educate Congressional members and their staffs about topical issues in neuroscience.


From the Archives: Encouraging Brain Literacy


Image courtesy of the University of California, Davis, Center for Neuroscience

In 2010, we invited Michaela Labriole, then a science instructor at the New York Hall of Science, to share ways to promote brain-science literacy in schools. Firstly, she writes in her essay for Cerebrum, why limit learning about the brain to science classes?

Teachers can utilize the strong connection between neuroscience and other subject areas to boost scientific literacy. Some students find certain topics in neuroscience, such as neurotransmitters, very abstract. By tying in other subject areas, especially through hands-on techniques, educators can improve student understanding. They can easily turn neurons into an art project by using pipe cleaners and other materials to model different structures, or into an exercise in physical education by asking students to use their arms as axons and dendrites to pass a ball that serves as a neurotransmitter…

Students routinely learn that they must wear bicycle helmets, stay away from drugs, and eat properly, but they are not always taught how helmets, drugs, and nutrition can affect brain function. By making clearer connections to material already being taught, educators can increase students’ understanding of the brain. For older students, presenting brain scans from people who have used drugs or suffered brain trauma make the brain-health connection more evident. For younger students, creating brain hats can help illustrate both the importance of protecting the brain and fundamental ideas such as cortical localization of function. This basic concept states that while some structures may have roles that overlap, and some structures may do multiple jobs, in general there is a division of labor in the brain. Understanding this basic idea primes students for deeper exploration of neuroanatomy. There are many brain-hat templates available on the Internet; educators can create paper hats that students label with the various parts or functions of the brain. For young learners, one could simply put a picture of an eye in the back of the brain hat rather than use words like occipital lobe or visual-processing center. By having students label the hats this way and then wear them, an educator can ask students to consider what would happen if they fell off their bikes and hit their heads in different areas.

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Free Public Briefing on Physical Activity and Brain Health

It’s no secret that exercise and physical activity are central to public health. But does a healthy body equal a healthy brain?


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Come to a free public luncheon briefing, “Moving Toward a Healthy Brain: Physical Activity and Brain Health,” hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), through the support of the Dana Foundation, and in conjunction with the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus.

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Dana Grantee Aims to Offer a More Personalized Treatment for Depression

DrEtkin_Jan2013_8880_5x7eIn an effort to create a more personalized approach to treating depression and to better understand its underlying circuitry, Amit Etkin of Stanford University is studying the use
of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in combination with whole-brain EEG and functional MRI. According to Etkin:

By stimulating brain activity and assessing circuit-level changes as they happen, we can garner important insight into what is wrong in depression and how to fix it in an optimized, personalized matter.

I’ll give you one concrete example: It matters whether stimulation is done to an area in the patient’s brain that is abnormal or normal. For any treatment in any psychiatric disorder, we don’t actually know whether the goal of treatment is to normalize abnormal brain activity or to engage compensatory circuitry. It’s a fundamental question that we cannot answer without a direct tool for manipulating brain systems and assessing the effects.

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Former Dana Grantee’s Newly Published Study Hailed as the ‘Future of Bioelectronic Medicine’

Tracey_KevinThe Wall Street Journal recently highlighted former Dana grantee Kevin Tracey’s latest research.  The July 8th article, “The Future of Bioelectronic Medicine,” detailed Tracey’s newly published study, which is the first in-human investigation of implanted electronic devices as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.  Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disorder that occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing chronic swelling, inflammation, and joint pain.  The drugs currently used to manage the disease are not always effective, leaving many patients looking for other treatment options.  Continue reading

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