2017 Brain Awareness Video Contest Winners

The winners of the 2017 Brain Awareness Video Contest have been announced! Every year, the Society of Neuroscience (SfN) hosts the Brain Awareness Video Contest that anyone can enter by working with an SfN member to produce an educational video on the brain. The topics are broad and the execution of the videos diverse and creative.

The first place winner, Alison Caldwell, uses her video to answer the question, “What Are Optogenetics?” In the video, she discusses how scientists can “control” the brain using light by manipulating neurons’ action potential–the key to how neurons communicate. Discoveries using optogenetics range from better understanding how the brain processes time to figuring out some of the circuits involved in movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. [Read more about this exciting field in our news article and Capitol Hill Briefing video, both from 2015.]


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2017 Brain Awareness Video Contest

If you love crafting video ideas and have a passion for neuroscience, then the Brain Awareness Video Contest is just for you! The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) hosts the video challenge each year for those interested in developing a creative way to explain a brain-related concept. The best part is, anyone can enter!

Applicants have the opportunity to work directly with a member of SfN to sponsor and produce an educational video (the online entry form can only be submitted by a member of SfN). The first place winner will receive $1,000 and a trip to SfN’s 2017 annual neuroscience conference in Washington, DC, where the video will be presented. All submissions are due on June 15—so you have exactly one month left!

Last year’s first place price went to Akshay Balaji, a high school student from Virginia, for his video titled, “Hearing Red, Tasting Blue: When the Senses Mix!”

If you’re interested in entering the contest, please read the guidelines carefully. To watch past winning submissions for inspiration, click here. Good luck!

Brain Awareness Week Partner Interview: NW Noggin

This is the third in a series of Brain Awareness Week (BAW) partner interviews, in which partners share their BAW experiences and tips for planning successful events. Bill Griesar, Ph.D., is a psychology and neuroscience professor at Portland State University (PSU), Washington State University (WSU) Vancouver, and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), and is the neuroscience outreach coordinator for NW Noggin (Neuroscience Outreach Group Growing In Networks). Griesar works together with Jeff Leake, who also teaches at PSU and WSUV, and is NW Noggin’s art education coordinator.   

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Griesar (left) and Leake (right) at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego

NW Noggin was conceptualized in 2012 for a group of middle school students at a public school in Portland, Oregon. With support from organizations like the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) and the Association for Psychological Science, your group has now expanded to a nationwide focus. Can you talk about how you were able to expand so rapidly in such a short amount of time? 

BG: Through the tireless enthusiasm of our graduate and undergraduate volunteers, who quickly discovered how much they enjoy sharing what they’re learning about the brain with young people and the public. It’s also the multi-disciplinary nature of the outreach, with young scientists and artists working together and discovering similarities in their process: the creative experimentation, the structure-function relationships, the fun, often the messiness, and certainly the need to communicate!

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Global Mental Health and Neuroscience: Challenges and Opportunities

Sheckar Saxena at SfN, November 2016

Sheckar Saxena at SfN, November 2016

“When it comes to mental health, all countries are developing countries. A country that does not look after the treatment of more than 50 percent of people with depression living in that country, a country that allows a million people to stay in prisons when suffering from mental disorders, is it a country that can be called a developed country for mental disorders or mental health? You answer that.” –Shekhar Saxena, November 2016

This past August, Patricio V. Marquez and Shekhar Saxena wrote for Cerebrum on making mental health a global priority. This month, Saxena, a psychiatrist and director of the department of mental health and substance abuse at the World Health Organization, spelled out the challenges and opportunities during a discussion at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). Continue reading

SfN Discussion Centers on Youth Football

On an early Sunday afternoon a few blocks away from the Society for Neuroscience Conference at the San Diego Convention Center, sports bars packed with football fans watched their heroes bang heads playing the most popular sport in America. Inside the center, four neuroscientists who specialize in head trauma and a former NFL player talked about the complex issues of concussion and multiple impacts to the brain in football, others sports, military service, and in random accidents.

“Here is an October 9 New York Times article about Jordan Reed, a tight end for the Washington Redskins, who sustained his sixth concussion and pondered whether if and when he should return to the field,” Harry Levin, a professor of neuroscience at Baylor University, enlarged on a screen. “Six is too many, and he ended up missing only two games.”

“Did he have come back too soon?” asked Levin. The answer, to the frustration of athletes, their families, and neuroscientists head trauma researchers is: We really don’t know.

While the roundtable discussion, “Concussion: From the Players’ Experience to the Future of Research,” offered compelling data on the scope of concussion and mild head trauma by gender, age, and circumstance, the speakers emphasized that in light of heightened awareness and the challenges facing researchers about quantifying the dangers, making public policy decisions is purely speculative and premature. [See full video of the discussion, below.]

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