Scientists Weigh in on Special Needs Learning

“Allowing children to fail, to think they’re ‘dumb,’ is no longer acceptable,” said Dana Alliance member Sally Shaywitz at a recent Capitol Hill briefing on what neuroscience can tell us about educating special needs children.


Shaywitz, co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, joined fellow panelists Dana Alliance member Martha Denckla and Damien Fair for a discussion that addressed the importance and the difficulty of early detection of learning disorders such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As reported by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):

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Optogenetics: Controlling the Brain with Light

Photo source/credit: Ed Boyden/McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT

Photo source/credit: Ed Boyden/McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT

What if we could suddenly cease cravings caused by addiction or turn off feelings of depression with the flip of a switch? To better understand “one of the hottest areas of neuroscience research,” the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) welcomed three guests to discuss the latest developments in the field of optogenetics. The June 9th event was the latest in a series of luncheon briefings on Capitol Hill, hosted by AAAS and funded by the Dana Foundation.

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A Review on “Marijuana and the Brain”

Med-MarLast month’s Capitol Hill briefing on “Marijuana and the Brain” was the latest in a series hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and sponsored by the Dana Foundation. These sessions are designed to educate Congressional members and their staffs about topical issues in neuroscience, and are open to the public.

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Better Support Needed for Parents of Autistic Adults

Dana Alliance member Barry Gordon, M.D., is familiar with autism on both a personal and professional level. Gordon, a behavioral neurologist and cognitive neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins with interests in disorders of speech, language, and memory, is also father to a severely autistic 22-year old son who cannot speak.Gordon_Barry

“It was beyond irony when our son proved to be unable to speak and unable to learn,” he said at a July Capitol Hill briefing, hosted by AAAS through the support of the Dana Foundation in conjunction with Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.). [See also our interview with him in 2012.]

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Links Between Poverty and Brain Development Raise Key Policy Issues

On June 26, more than 100 people–congressional staff, federal scientists, and journalists–gathered on Capitol Hill to listen to neuroscience experts talk about the links between poverty and brain development. The 90-minute briefing was part of a series organized by AAAS and supported by the Dana Foundation, designed to educate members of Congress and their staffs about topical issues in neuroscience.

The experts, including Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives members Martha Farah, Ph.D., and Alan Leshner, Ph.D., were on hand to explain brain development and the negative effects of stress on children, and to raise important questions about education, health, social welfare, and juvenile justice.

“The science is fascinating,” said Farah, “I think it can engage people with the awesomeness of brain development…and how it emerges from the interplay of genes and environment. It can renew people’s interest in finding solutions.”

AAAS recently published a detailed article about the event, which includes links to some of the slideshows presented.

–Ann L. Whitman

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