March 27, 1998

Lectures, presentations on tap to help wind down Brain Awareness Week

Lectures, presentations on tap to help wind down Brain Awareness Week

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Six-year-old Dalton Stucker and his sister, eight-year-old Tara, of Jamestown, Tenn., learned how the brain sees in three dimensions at this Brain Awareness Week exhibit at Cumberland Science Museum. Their mother, Allison (right) and friend Kristen Pennycuff, also got a close-up look. (Photo by Donna Marie Jones).

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At Cumberland Science Museum, 17-year-old Chad Willis, of Witchita, Kan., learned how the brain controls balance. (Photo by Donna Marie Jones).

Vanderbilt University Medical Center's second annual Brain Awareness Week, which aims to raise public understanding of the brain, will come to a close this week.

Events have been taking place all month, and Brain Awareness Week will culminate next week with several lectures and presentations by nationally renown researchers and novelists.

"This year's events have been a great success and have generated a lot of interest in the community and at Vanderbilt," said Marcie W. Pospichal, Ph.D., assistant director for Programs and coordinator of Graduate Studies for the Center for Molecular Neuroscience.

Several events will run through the end of the month, including the Cumberland Science Museum exhibit "It's All in Your Head," co-sponsored by the Center for Molecular Neuroscience. The exhibit includes over fifty interactive learning stations that teach children and adults about different functions of the brain.

The exhibit, which will be on display until May 10, has been a teaching tool for thousands of children since it opened in February.

"It has been a treat to provide trainees and professionals from the Center for Molecular Neuroscience to give educational programs and tours of the exhibit," said Pospichal. "We are also providing brain scans, slides of brain tissue, and games about the brain as additional resources for learning."

Cindy Bean, marketing and communications manager for the Cumberland Science Museum, is pleased with the events.

"We very much appreciate the Vanderbilt faculty and staff who have come to a number of our Brain Awareness events to help out," she said.

On Saturday, March 21, Randolph Blake, Ph.D., professor of Psychology, gave a lecture at the Cumberland Science Museum entitled "Star Trek and the Brain: Alien Minds, Human Minds."

The program, designed for children as part of a day-long series of events, described many different functions of the human brain by examining our notions of the aliens popularized in science fiction programs such as in "Star Trek."

Also on Saturday, VUMC faculty and staff presented various games and mind teasers at the Cumberland Science Museum in a program called "puzzles."

"The people from VUMC who participated in the program felt like the children learned a lot from the exhibit. The puzzles seemed to really engage the children in a way that other teaching methods can't," said Pospichal.

A program entitled "Minds in Motion: Parkinson's Disease and Related Movement Disorders" also garnered attention from the Nashville community.

Nearly 100 people, some with debilitating cases of Parkinson's disease, attended the presentation to ask questions about new treatments and techniques being used.

"I was particularly pleased by the involvement from the community," said Ariel Y. Deutch, professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology and director of the Vanderbilt National Parkinson's Foundation Center.

"The questions to the panel ran the gamut from drug interactions to new treatment methods."

Brain Awareness Week comes to a close on Monday, March 30, with a presentation by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, author and professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center.

The first of Jamison's talks will take place at 1 p.m. in room 105 of the fine arts building. At this event, Jamison will discuss the relationship between creativity and mental illness in "Touched with Fire: Mood Disorders and the Artistic Temperament."

That same evening at 7 p.m. in the Cumberland Science Museum, Jamison will reveal her personal experiences with manic depressive disorder in the talk "An Unquiet Mind: A personal Account of Manic Depressive Illness."