Congratulations to Eric Chudler and his team at the University of Washington for their 2017 Northwest Emmy Award win for the program “Exercise and the Brain!” Hosted by Chudler, the video discusses the benefits of exercise on the brain and learning, and is part of the BrainWorks series, which aims to educate children about the wonders of neuroscience.
Chudler, executive director of the university’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, has been an outreach superstar for many years, organizing events for Brain Awareness Week, running the university’s Neuroscience for Kids website, and producing quality and entertaining videos about the brain. We are thrilled to have partnered on this latest video and hope you’ll get a chance to watch it if you haven’t already.
Brain Awareness Week (BAW) has come and gone and now is the time to reflect on the success and reach of BAW partners’ efforts. Impressively, there are more than 800 events on the BAW Calendar of Events! Perhaps the best way to see the success of the campaign is to check out the BAW Photo Gallery.
The photo gallery reflects the international nature of BAW, a global campaign with more than half of the events during the week occurring outside the US. From Germany to Australia, Brazil to Nigeria, Canada to Spain, partners coordinated events from all reaches of the globe. For BAW 2017, there were events in 40 countries and 46 US states!
A New York Times profile earlier this week on Brenda A. Milner, Sc.D., credited her with changing “the course of brain science for good as a newly minted Ph.D. in the 1950s by identifying the specific brain organ that is crucial to memory formation.”
Milner, a Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member, identified the hippocampus and other areas of the brain that process memory while working with Henry Molaison, more commonly known as H.M., who developed amnesia at age 29 from the removal of tissue from both his medial temporal lobes, a surgery that was supposed to alleviate his epilepsy.
With the help of H.M., Milner discovered that memory was processed in the medial temporal lobes, which was why he could no longer form new long-term memories. He was, however, able to learn new tasks, meaning he must remember the actions in another part of the brain. His ability to acquire new skills proved to Milner there are two types of memory that occur in different parts of the brain – explicit memory, which recalls describable details like facts and events, and implicit memory, for unconscious memories such as actions and procedures. Milner described this finding in a 2010 Dana Foundation interview:
I went to the McGill psychology department and borrowed learning tasks to give him [H.M]. I took down a maze task, which I was sure he wouldn’t learn, and he didn’t. It was a nice control test, because he showed absolutely no progress over three days. Then I gave him the mirror drawing task. H.M. did 30 trials over three days and at the end of the last trial, his performance was absolutely perfect. I can still remember him looking at what he had drawn, saying: “This is strange. I thought this would be difficult, but it looks as though I’ve done it rather well.” I was very excited because it showed that he could have this excellent performance without any awareness that the reason he was doing so well was that he had had the chance to practice the task over three days.
When I saw that H.M. had this beautiful learning of something he had no memory of having acquired, I then speculated that this task, which involved motor learning, depended on a different system in the brain. His surgeon had damaged his medial temporal system, but this was a kind of learning that was unaffected by this operation, so therefore it must involve other structures.
On Friday, the Icahn School of Medicine hosted its fifth annual Brain Fair to offer children and adults the opportunity to learn more about neuroscience. The event was originally scheduled to take place during Brain Awareness Week in March, but had to be postponed due to inclement weather. While Friday’s weather was only a slight improvement (with the highest recorded rainfall to flood New York City since 1871!), over 500 people filled the decorated Guggenheim Pavilion of Mount Sinai Hospital to interact with scientists and doctors who study and treat the brain.
There were more than 30 booths with games and informational activities on topics from memory and virtual reality, to perception, traumatic brain injury, and more. Towards the back, a giant inflatable brain allowed visitors to take a quick tour and learn more about what makes up the complex organ. Below are some pictures highlighting the successful event: