International Neuroethics Society Interviews: A Science that Opens Your Mind

As we look forward to the 2017 International Neuroethics Society (INS) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, November 9-10, we’ll be bringing you a sneak peek of what to expect through a series of interviews with some of the meetings’ speakers. Registration for the meeting is now open, and an early bird discount is in effect until September 30.

First published in the INS Newsletter:

Quirion_RemiRémi Quirion, the first Chief Scientist of Québec, will give a plenary lecture at the 2017 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. His research lies in the field of neuropharmacology, specifically in relation to aging and neurological diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

How did you become interested in or involved with this type of research?

My research lab was based in a mental health hospital. There I was surrounded by many people suffering from various types of mental illnesses and neurological disease, so it familiarized me with different issues related to mental health and exposed me to the line between neuroscience and ethics, which I sought to understand more and more in the treatment of mental illnesses.

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Brain Awareness Week Partner Interview: NW Noggin

This is the third in a series of Brain Awareness Week (BAW) partner interviews, in which partners share their BAW experiences and tips for planning successful events. Bill Griesar, Ph.D., is a psychology and neuroscience professor at Portland State University (PSU), Washington State University (WSU) Vancouver, and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), and is the neuroscience outreach coordinator for NW Noggin (Neuroscience Outreach Group Growing In Networks). Griesar works together with Jeff Leake, who also teaches at PSU and WSUV, and is NW Noggin’s art education coordinator.   

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Griesar (left) and Leake (right) at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego

NW Noggin was conceptualized in 2012 for a group of middle school students at a public school in Portland, Oregon. With support from organizations like the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) and the Association for Psychological Science, your group has now expanded to a nationwide focus. Can you talk about how you were able to expand so rapidly in such a short amount of time? 

BG: Through the tireless enthusiasm of our graduate and undergraduate volunteers, who quickly discovered how much they enjoy sharing what they’re learning about the brain with young people and the public. It’s also the multi-disciplinary nature of the outreach, with young scientists and artists working together and discovering similarities in their process: the creative experimentation, the structure-function relationships, the fun, often the messiness, and certainly the need to communicate!

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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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Brain Awareness Week Partner Interview: Gal Richter-Levin

This is the first in a series of Brain Awareness Week partner interviews, in which partners share their experiences and tips for planning successful events. Professor Gal Richter-Levin, is the head of the Institute for the Study of Affective Neuroscience (ISAN), at the University of Haifa, Israel, and a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives.

richterlevinheadshotHow and why did you first become involved in Brain Awareness Week?

In 2010, my Ph.D. supervisor, Prof. Menahem Segal, introduced me to the important activities of the European Dana Alliance for the Brain. At about that time, we decided at the Israeli Society for Neuroscience (ISFN) to make it an annual activity of our society to reach out to the public during Brain Awareness Week and to hold lectures in community centers all over Israel.

During Brain Awareness Week, ISFN and the BASHAAR association organized free public lectures all over Israel, on topics such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and depression. Some of the lectures were delivered to adult audiences, and some to high school students; how do the scientists differentiate how they present the information to the two groups?

There is a difference between presentations to adult audiences and high school students—and one can differentiate further between adult and senior audiences. When presenting to high school students, the emphasis is on the potential contribution of science, and in particular neuroscience, to society, with the aim of increasing their motivation to consider science and neuroscience as a future career. In addition, ethical issues, such as animal experimentations and eventual prices of developed drugs, are often discussed.

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Think Like an Olympian

rio2016For the last two weeks, the world has been watching athletes perform with superhuman-like ability at the Summer Olympics in Rio. From the television screen, the extraordinary feats of these competitors seem purely physical; but science tells us that much of their talents rely on what’s going on in their brains. In a past interview with the Dana Foundation, seven-time Olympic medalist Shannon Miller said:

The physical aspect of the sport can only take you so far. The mental aspect has to kick in, especially when you’re talking about the best of the best. In the Olympic Games, everyone is talented. Everyone trains hard. Everyone does the work. What separates the gold medalists from the silver medalists is simply the mental game.

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