Free Public Event: Buildings and the Brain


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Image: Shutterstock

“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us” – Winston Churchill

When he made this remark, the great orator was actually speaking about the reconstruction of the House of Commons, but the sentiment is equally true for the more modest buildings we see around us every day and the spaces we inhabit regularly. Using scientific methodology, architects and neuroscientists are increasingly collaborating to explore the variety of human experiences that can change with the design of buildings. Does it matter to our brains if a building has lots of curves or lots of sharp angles? As we walk the streets of our cities, what are the effects on our brains of façade design, greenspaces, and street geometry? Sophisticated neuroimaging technologies have made it possible to answer questions like these. Finally, the program will address the special challenges when designing buildings and rooms for individuals suffering from the extreme neurological deficits that are present in dementia, in general, and Alzheimer’s, in particular.

Thursday, March 15, 2018
5:30 – 8:00 pm (EST)

AAAS Headquarters
1200 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005

Margaret Calkins, Ph.D.
Board Chair
IDEAS Institute

Eve Edelstein, M.Arch., Ph.D.
Research Director, Human Experience and Gadget Labs

Justin Hollander, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Urban and Environmental Policy
Tufts University

Frederick Marks, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Six Sigma Green Belt
Visiting Scholar and Research Collaborator
Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Register by: March 13, 2018 11:59 PM Eastern Time

This event is hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Dana Foundation.

Video Games and the Brain: Action, Strategy, and Pac-Man

Playing some video games can cause serious harm, while others might improve or restore skills, suggested three panelists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week.

“Not all games are created equal,” said Chandramallika Basak, a researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas. She and her colleagues study how memory and other skills change across our lifespan; part of that includes research investigating brain and cognitive effects of different games, especially as people get older.

Not everything in your brain declines with age (crystallized memory stays strong), but she’s looking for activities that could strengthen the ones that do, especially working memory (including how fast you can update current information) and task-switching (how fast you can switch when multitasking). Assuming there is a “functional threshold” for success at daily life, she wonders, “Can we keep this declining cognitive abilities stable for a few more years” above this threshold. “If I’m going to live to 90, I’d rather get it [dementia] at 89” as opposed to earlier, she said.


AAAS’s Deborah Runkle moderates the Q&A session with, from left, Craig Anderson, Hilarie Cash, and Chandramallika Basak.

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2017 Winners for “Design a Brain Experiment” Competition

The time has finally come to announce this year’s champions of the Dana Foundation’s annual “Design a Brain Experiment” competition, where we asked high school students across the country to try their hand at creating an original science experiment to test theories about the brain. Every year, the competition judges face the challenge of selecting two winners from a tall stack of impressive submissions. However, this year made history with a first-ever tie for our second-place winners!

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Photo courtesy of Medha Palnati

The first place prize of $500 goes to Medha Palnati from Westford Academy in Massachusetts for her impressive submission, “The Use of CRISPR Technology to Test Gene Therapy as a Treatment to Early-Onset Familial Alzheimer’s Disease in Zebrafish.” Palnati’s proposal explores the potential of using an exciting new experimental form of gene therapy to treat early-onset Familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD). FAD is usually caused by an inherited gene mutation and occurs in about five percent of all people with Alzheimer’s disease. Palnati’s research proposal uses zebrafish as a model to test this potential therapy.

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Sleep Disorders as Prologue to Disease: From the Archives

What a (incremental) difference seven years make. In 2009, when we wrote about Dana Alliance member David Holtzman’s work, the headline was “Could Sleep Disorders Contribute to Alzheimer’s?” This month, Scientific American describes the work he and colleagues at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are doing using the headline “Why Sleep Disorders May Precede Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.” We’ve gone from “maybe take a look” to “what’s the mechanism” on evidence for a link between sleep troubles and risk for neurodegenerative disorders has come.

Scientific American’s Simon Makin calls the Holtzman lab’s 2009 discovery the “best evidence for a causal relationship” From our story:

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Free Staying Sharp Program in Kansas City

Are you going to be in the Kansas City metro area this weekend? If so, please join us Saturday morning, June 13, for our free Staying Sharp forum. The program includes a panel discussion from 10 am to 12 pm with Anne Arthur, ARNP, BC; Jeffrey Burns, MD, MS; and Russell H. Swerdlow, MD from the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center, as well as Anne L. Foundas, MD, MS, Professor and Chair of the Neurology and Cognitive Neuroscience department at the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Medicine. They will discuss the latest information on the aging brain, memory, Alzheimer’s disease, brain health, and more. For the last thirty minutes, they will take your questions as part of the Q&A.


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