April is National Minority Health Month!

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Older black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias than older white Americans, the Alzheimer’s Association revealed in their 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report. “Genetic factors do not appear to account for the large prevalence differences among racial groups,” the report stated. Instead, “variations in health, lifestyle and socioeconomic risk factors across racial groups most likely account for most of the differences in risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias by race.”

April is National Minority Health Month, a time to recognize disparities in health such as the increased prevalence of dementia, diabetes, and stroke in minorities. The theme for 2017 is “Bridging Health Equity Across Communities,” which aims to emphasize the importance of our communities in moving towards equal opportunities for maximum health, or health equity. Want to take action? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health recommends four steps to get started:

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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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When is the Brain “Mature”?

In the New York state budget just passed by Albany, legislators will raise the age to be tried as an adult from 16 to 18 years. New York was one of only two states left in the US that prosecuted youth as adults when they turned 16–now North Carolina stands on its own.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock

In the US, law and policy have struggled to determine an accurate age to judge people mature and accountable, but new scientific findings regarding the brain, adolescence, and neurodevelopment counter the idea that we can pinpoint one age for everyone.

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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:

 

 

Upcoming Brain Events in New York City

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This year’s Brain Awareness Week (BAW) was another success with over 850 registered events worldwide (including 42 countries and 44 states)! We spoke with BAW partners from Korea, Israel, and the US, and went to the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC to learn more about perception with their Brainwave series. For those of you living in the NYC area, if you weren’t able to attend any local events, it’s not too late!

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