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Science fair tickles the brains of participants

Mar. 28, 2011, 5:07 PM

The first time he held a human brain, Joseph Toplon was hooked.

“I couldn’t stop talking about it,” recalled Toplon, who encountered the preserved brain at a science fair in Nashville when he was about 8 years old. “It spiked my interest in the brain.”

Today, Toplon, 26, is studying for his medical school admission exam while working as a research assistant in the laboratory of Robert Macdonald, chair of neurology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Earlier this month, he also volunteered to staff a booth at “Brain Blast,” a free family fun day at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. More than 500 people attended the event, co-sponsored by the Vanderbilt Neuroscience Student Organization and the Vanderbilt Brain Institute.

It featured 35 different ways to learn about the brain, guided by Vanderbilt neuroscience graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members and other volunteers. More than 100 neuroscientists participated.

“Brain Blast” was part of “Brainstorm 2011,” a series of free public events about brain research hosted by Vanderbilt University through the month of March.

The series concludes on Wednesday, March 30, with a lecture entitled “Mixed Feelings,” how the limbic system of the brain governs “delight, desire and dread,” by Kent Berridge, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan.

The lecture, sponsored by the Vanderbilt Center for Integrative and Cognitive Neuroscience, will begin at 4:10 p.m. in room 1220 of the Medical Research Building III on the Vanderbilt campus.
For more information, including directions and parking, contact Steve Edminster in the Vanderbilt Brain Institute at 322-3532 or steven.j.edminster@vanderbilt.edu.

More than 500 people attended “Brain Blast,” a free family fun day March 5 at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The event featured 35 different ways to learn about the brain, guided by Vanderbilt neuroscience graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members and other volunteers. More than 100 neuroscientists participated.

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