Brain Awareness Day Set for March 14

Free interactive fair at UC Riverside aims at increasing our understanding of how the brain works

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Though the brain, that most complex organ in the human body, is no bigger than the head of a cauliflower, it contains some 100 billion nerve cells (or neurons), wired to give rise to our thoughts, physical movements, emotions, language, reasoning and consciousness.

But how this unique three-pound organ, the source of what make us human, works exactly is not fully understood and is being intensively researched.  Hence, perhaps, Brain Awareness Week from March 11 to March 17, 2013, a global campaign established by the Dana Foundation “to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research.”

To help the inland Southern California community understand how the brain works, the University of California, Riverside is hosting Brain Awareness Day — a part of Brain Awareness Week — on March 14 on the lawn outside Olmsted Hall, in front of the Psychology Building.

Image shows a drawing of the human brain.

Drawing of the human brain, from the National Institute for Aging, National Institutes of Heath, United States Depsrtment of Health and Human Services. This drawing shows several of the most important brain structures. Image credit: National Institute for Aging.

Specifically, UC Riverside neuroscience graduate students and faculty are organizing the event, which begins at 11 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m.  Parking costs $6.  Visitors are invited to learn about the workings of the brain by communicating one-on-one with neuroscience faculty and graduate students at the event.

Planned as an interactive fair, Brain Awareness Day will have booths set up outside Olmsted Hall. Free food will be available at the event, courtesy of the restaurant El Ojo de Agua, Riverside, Calif. Booths will present a variety of brain-related materials, demos, psychological tricks, optical illusions, T-shirt printing, and a mentalist. A number of UCR academic programs related to neuroscience will also have booths.

“Public universities have a responsibility to provide educational outreach to their local community,” said Margarita Curras-Collazo, an associate professor of neuroscience and the lead faculty organizer of Brain Awareness Day. “Events such as Brain Awareness Day inform citizens of the technological and scientific advancements being made in the study of brain health and disease.”

The event will feature also a seminar series comprising three 20-minute-long talks by UCR faculty.  The talks will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. in Room 302 in the Highlander Union Building.

Kelly Huffman, an assistant professor of psychology, will kick off the seminar series with a talk on developing a mouse model of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders — permanent birth defects that pregnant women consuming alcohol can cause to their newborns.

Aaron Seitz, an associate professor of psychology, will discuss at 1:20 p.m. the mechanisms of human perceptual learning. His talk will be followed at 1:40 p.m. by a talk by Emma Wilson, an assistant professor of biomedical sciences, who will discuss bugs on the brain — specifically the immune response in the brain following Toxoplasma gondii (“cat litter parasite”) infection.

The event is aimed also at educating high school juniors and seniors about how the brain functions.

“We want to get our local high school students excited about neuroscience and interested in attending college,” said Zev Wisotsky, the president of the Neuroscience Graduate Student Association at UCR. “This is our third year hosting this event.  The inclusion of high school and middle school students is aimed specifically at educating young minds about the great strides that are being made to understand the brain and repair its injured and diseased states.”

Curras-Collazo expects Brain Awareness Day will accomplish what it set out to do: raise awareness in the local community of the multiple functions that the brain and nervous system provide and of the organic basis underlying mental illness and neurological injury, disorders and disease.

“It also will show the community that the Neuroscience Graduate Program at UCR has a robust research portfolio in neuroscience, with faculty committed to training future generations of leading neuroscientists,” she said.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-6050
Twitter: UCR_Sciencenews

Additional Contacts

Zev Wisotsky, President NGSA, UCR
Tel: (951) 827-5999

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