New York City’s 2019 Regional Brain Bee

Students from 23 schools across the five boroughs and Westchester County came together to test their smarts in the New York City Regional Brain Bee this past Saturday. Held in the Great Hall at The City College of New York, the 2019 competition concluded after eight rounds of five brain-related questions each, with the top three winners walking away with cash prizes, plaques, and the knowledge that they probably knew more about the brain than most of the audience.

From left: Bianca Jones Marlin, Ph.D. (judge), Daphna Shohamy, Ph.D. (moderator), Kelly Chan (first-place winner), Rainer Engelken, Ph.D. (judge), Nafew Mustafa (third-place winner), Amelia Korniyenko (second-place winner), Jerome Staal, Ph.D. (judge), and Kathleen Roina (BAW Director). Photo: Jacqueline Silberbush

“The New York City Regional Brain Bee competition is in celebration of Brain Awareness Week,” said Kathleen Roina, director of outreach and education at the Dana Foundation, in her welcoming remarks. “The global campaign was created by the Dana Alliance to advance public understanding about the brain and the promise of brain research.” The Brain Bee is just one of many Brain Awareness Week activities designed to help students become more interested and active in learning about the brain and the research surrounding it.

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SfN18: Telling Stories of Science

Guest post by Kayt Sukel 

There’s an old Hopi proverb: “Those who tell the stories rule the world.”

In today’s world, where science seems to often get short shrift, Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist at New York University and a member of the Dana Alliance, believes that storytelling can be a powerful tool for scientists to share, teach, and connect with the world outside their laboratories. She convened the second storytelling session at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting this year, recruiting scientists and science educators like Monica Feliu-Mojer, director of communications and science outreach at Ciencia Puerto Rico; Rachel Yehuda, director of the traumatic stress studies division at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine; Paula Croxson, senior manager for education programs at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute; Jean Mary Zarate, senior editor at Nature Neuroscience; and Uri Hasson, professor of neuroscience at Princeton University, to discuss why stories can be so compelling—and what they can offer the average budding neuroscientist. Part storytelling event and part scientific presentation, each participant demonstrated how personal narratives can transform science communication in different ways.

Monica Feliu-Mojer tackled the elephant in the room with the first presentation in the session, “Who Speaks for Science?”  Continue reading

Does DBS Cause Changes in Personality?

Since 2002, deep brain stimulation (DBS), the surgical implantation of a pacemaker-like device that sends electrical impulses to targeted parts of the brain, has been used as a treatment for motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). But are patients trading part of their sense of self in exchange for improved mobility?

Packed house for INS annual meeting talk on DBS.

In the last decade, a growing number of published articles have raised the concern of personality changes in PD patients as a result of DBS, and tried to discern if the concern is real or overblown. At Thursday’s International Neuroethics Society (INS) meeting discussion “DBS: Continuity of Self,” panelists aimed to add clarity to the debate. “Speculation shouldn’t be divorced from clinical reality,” said panel moderator and ethicist Hannah Maslen, who introduced the session.

The speakers, philosopher and neuroethicist Frederic Gilbert, neuropsychologist Cynthia Kubu, behavioral neurologist Winston Chiong, and ethics researcher Jonathan Pugh, offered a range of perspectives. They largely focused on the state of the evidence and why it’s so difficult to assess personality changes in patients.

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From the Archives: Rita Levi-Montalcini

Levi-Montalcini_featDana Alliance member Piergiorgio Strata has just published “Rita Levi-Montalcini and her major contribution to neurobiology” in Rendiconti Lincei; its English version is open-access for reading via Springer Publishing. Its 17 pages are filled with family and science-family photos, including as she entered medical school and when she was awarded a Nobel Prize, and her major scientific collaborators, as well as classic illustrations of her work in neuroembryology and much more (she lived to age 103). Her personal story is inspiring—including doing seminal research at home during wartime in Italy after she was banned from entering formal research facilities because of her faith.

“Life does not end with death. What you pass on to others remains. Immortality is not the body, which will one day die. That does not matter… of importance is the message you leave to others,” said Levi-Montalcini, who was also a founding European Dana Alliance for the Brain member. We were working with her to publish a translation of her latest memoir into English when she died, in 2012. Continue reading

Learn about the Brain: Lesson Plans for Grades 6-8 Now Available

Lesson Plans.jpg

Photo: Shutterstock

For teachers who want to incorporate lessons about the brain into their classrooms, we have new and exciting lesson plans available on our website, which can be downloaded for free. Geared towards grades 6-8, each lesson plan comes with a PowerPoint presentation and includes a hands-on activity to get students as involved as possible in learning about the brain.

The first lesson, Design an Imaginary Animal, gives students a breakdown of how different animals’ brains are composed and why. Paired with our fact sheet How Does the Brain Work?, students go over basic neuroanatomy and are then split into groups of three to come up with their own imaginary animal, and build its brain using Play-Doh, enlarging parts of the brain that correlate to a heightened brain function. For example, animals with a strong sense of smell would have a large olfactory lobe.

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