February 26, 1999

Month of events on tap to highlight brain research

Month of events on tap to highlight brain research

As the "Decade of the Brain" draws to a close, there is still much that remains unknown about that three pound lump of spongy tissue in your head.

Sure, the brain holds memories, thoughts and dreams. But how? It is also the site of devastating disorders and diseases. But why, and what can be done about it?

Science is answering these questions, and March is the month to take a closer look at what's going on inside the brain. As part of the national program dubbed Brain Awareness, Vanderbilt's Center for Molecular Neuroscience is sponsoring a slew of events highlighting the wonders of the human brain.

The Brain Awareness program was established in 1996 by the Society for Neuroscience, an international organization of 25,000 brain researchers, and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of brain function. The goal of the program is to educate the general public about how the brain works and the importance of brain research in understanding, treating, and ultimately curing brain-related diseases.

These types of diseases made headlines last year when Olympic gold-medalist Florence Griffith Joyner died from an epileptic seizure and when actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and had related brain surgery before the age of 40.

Several Brain Awareness programs will focus on brain-related diseases and the efforts to understand causes and develop treatments. All of the following Brain Awareness programs are free and open to the public.

o March 2 ‹ "The Mind's Past," explores how the brain constructs the conscious world, past and present. Michael Gazzaniga, Ph.D., Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth College. Noon-1 p.m., Vanderbilt Sarratt Cinema, reception following.

o March 10 ‹ "Brains in Space," a discussion about the results of NASA's Neurolab experiments and what it is like to conduct experiments in space. Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, Vanderbilt Center for Space Physiology and Medicine; Andrew C. Ertl, assistant professor of Medicine; Taylor Wang, Ph.D., Centennial professor of Materials Science; free Planetarium program 6:15 to 6:45 p.m., discussion 7 to 8:30 p.m., refreshments 8:30 to 9 p.m., Cumberland Science Museum.

o March 13 ‹ "Brain Blast," Vanderbilt neuroscience faculty and trainees and leaders from neuroscience-related health organizations conduct hands-on activities and provide brain-related information. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Cumberland Science Museum.

o March 15 ‹ "An Introduction to Alzheimer's Disease," Dr. Thomas J. Montine, assistant professor of Pathology. "Fatal Attractions: Abnormal Protein Interactions and Alzheimer's Disease," Dr. John Trojanowski, University of Pennsylvania Medical School, department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., breakfast provided, Cumberland Science Museum.

o March 15 ‹ Special Neuroscience Seminar: "Degeneration in Alzheimer's Disease, Lewy Body Disorders, and Related Diseases," Dr. John Trojanowski. Noon to 1 p.m.; 208 Light Hall, refreshments 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.; Light Hall north lobby.

o March 16 ‹ "Experience, Exercise, Mental Retardation, and the Dynamic Structure of the Brain," William Greenough, Ph.D., Beckman Institute, University of Illinois-Urbana. 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., 241 MRL building.

o March 23 ‹ "An Introduction to Epilepsy," Dr. J. Eric Pina-Garza, assistant professor of Neurology, and "Genetic Susceptibility to Epilepsy," Dr. Stephen Ryan, Children's Hospital Philadelphia. 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with refreshments following, Cumberland Science Museum.

o March 25 ‹ "What is Multiple Sclerosis and Why Isn't There a Cure Yet?" Dr. Samuel F. Hunter, assistant professor of Neurology, and "Is it Possible to Promote New Myelin Repair in Multiple Sclerosis?" Dr. Moses Rodriguez, Mayo Clinic departments of Neurology and Immunology. 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with refreshments following, Cumberland Science Museum.

o March 31 ‹ "Caring for People with Dementia," Dr. William Whetsell, director of Vanderbilt's Neuropathology Center; Grace Smith, M.S.W., Coordinator of Aging Services for the Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee; Joyce Laben, R.N., professor of Nursing Emerita. 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with refreshments following, Cumberland Science Museum.

Middle and high school students have special opportunities at Vanderbilt during Brain Awareness, including hands-on neuroscience activities for visiting 6th graders, March 1-4; 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Sarratt Student Center and "Blast Your Brain at Vanderbilt," where high school students explore the biology behind the effects of common drugs-of-abuse like cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol, on March 10 from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. in 413 Light Hall.