#WSF19: Risk-Taking in Extreme Sports

When we mere mortals watch extreme-sports athletes, many of us wonder: Is the risk worth the reward? What drives these risk-takers to put their lives in danger? Are we wired differently, or is it the culture one grows up in, or both? At Friday night’s World Science Festival event, “Risky-Business: the Evolution of Dangerous Behavior,” the panelists set out to answer these and other questions about human risk-taking.

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From left: David Sloan Wilson, Omer Mei-Dan, Cynthia Thomson, Abigail Marsh, and Bill Weir. Photo courtesy of World Science Festival.

Risk is subjective, agreed the panelists. If an athlete goes through the right training, then the act becomes less risky, said panelist Omer Mei-Dan, an orthopedic surgeon—and BASE jumper (wingsuit flying or parachuting from a fixed structure, often a cliff).

Take Alex Hunnold of the documentary “Free Solo” fame. Hunnold trained for two years before he scaled Yosemite’s 3,000-foot wall of El Capitan without ropes, said Mei-Dan. Now that certainly doesn’t guarantee success, but it did cement a familiarity with the terrain and establish a sense of confidence, he added. Continue reading

Three Science Contests to Enter Before Summer

Are you looking for ways to challenge yourself or stay involved in neuroscience research? If so, the Society for Neuroscience and the International Neuroethics Society are hosting a number of opportunities to share your work, network with experts, and even win cash prizes. The various deadlines are closing in, so don’t wait! Check out the following contests and presentations and learn how to enter:

Science Journalism Student Award

This year, the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) will award the Science Journalism Student Award to two ambitious undergraduate or graduate students who are pursuing a science or medical journalism degree. Award recipients will not only get complimentary registration to this year’s SfN Annual Meeting from October 19-23, they will receive four nights’ lodging in Chicago (where the meeting will take place) and a $750 stipend for meeting expenses. Additionally, the winners will be assigned a mentor who is an experienced professional journalist covering the annual meeting. The deadline for this competition has been extending to May 31—visit their website for details on how to apply.

Brain Awareness Video Contest

Another contest hosted by the Society for Neuroscience is the 2019 Brain Awareness Video Contest. You don’t have to be a scientist to enter—just someone with a great idea on how to share the wonders of science through a short animation, song, or skit. The first-place winner will receive $1,000 plus travel, two-nights lodging, and registration to the annual Neuroscience 2019 in Chicago. Second and third place will also receive cash prizes, and there’s even a chance a to win $500 as the “People’s Choice” prize. The submission deadline is June 13, and be sure to read the rules and regulations before entering.

Neuroethics Call for Abstracts

Over the next few weeks, the International Neuroethics Society (INS) is expecting to receive upwards of 100 abstracts from researchers around the world. The abstract presentations are a vital feature of the INS Annual Meeting, where a diverse group of scholars, scientists, clinicians, and professionals gather to share their dedication to the responsible use of advances in brain science. Presenting your abstract provides a great opportunity to showcase your work with international colleagues. Don’t wait too long; the deadline to submit your neuroethics research is June 24. Review the call for abstracts for full details.

Below, see the first-place winner for last year’s Brain Awareness Video Contest by Bradley Allf, a laboratory technician at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Spring into Action on National Senior Health & Fitness Day!

If you were looking for a reason to start your day with pep in your step, look no further because today is the 26th annual Senior Health & Fitness Day! Join more than 120,000 older adults at over 1,200 participating locations embracing the benefits of physical activity and celebrating Older Americans Month.

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Photo: Shutterstock

The benefits of exercise are many-fold: it can boost mood and reduce the risk of depression, lower the risk of falls and fall-related injuries, reduce the risk of dementia, and potentially slow the rate of cognitive decline in older adults. The Dana Foundation’s publication, “Successful Aging & Your Brain,” a resource on staying sharp as we age, notes that according to many experts, regular exercise is the single most important thing we can do to improve overall health and prevent disease. Continue reading

Working Through Trauma and PTSD

Trauma can be experienced in a number of ways, whether it is from an abusive relationship, experiences in combat, or from unprecedented experiences such as an attack, an accident, or a natural disaster.  According to the American Psychiatric Association, approximately 1 out of 11 adults in the US develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric condition in which the feelings associated with the traumatic event stay present in a person’s life after it is over. Long term effects of PTSD can be debilitating, and those affected with it experience symptoms such as flashbacks, distorted and unpredictable emotions, and avoidant tendencies. Because of the mental anguish it causes, PTSD is a tough subject to tackle for those who have experienced it.

Last Monday, the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City hosted an event as part of their Brainwave series that tried to do just that. The talk, Trauma and the Power of Resilience, featured Oscar and Golden Globe nominated actress Rosie Perez and trauma specialist and psychotherapist Diane Poole Heller, Ph.D. During the talk, Perez and Heller delved into the ways in which trauma can be unraveled and reckoned with.

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Rosie Perez (L) speaking with psychotherapist Diane Poole Heller (R). Photo credit: Asya Gorovits 

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National Stuttering Awareness Week: May 13-19

In 1988, an act of Congress established National Stuttering Awareness Week. This year, the observance runs from May 13-19, and is geared towards getting the 70 million people worldwide who stutter to “speak out, fluently or not” and to help spread more information about the communication disorder. In the US, about three million people are affected; many have struggled with the disorder since childhood, when it often first develops.

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