March 14, 1997

Week of events on tap to celebrate impact, scope of brain research

Week of events on tap to celebrate impact, scope of brain research

Leading minds in the field of brain research from across the country are converging on Vanderbilt University Medical Center for the second annual National Brain Awareness Week.

The event got under way yesterday, and the week to come will be filled with lectures, programs and demonstrations dedicated to highlighting brain sciences and enhancing national awareness of the promise and impact of brain research.

Several national leaders in brain research will give lectures on topics running the gamut from the way insects' brains work to the effect of alcohol on the human brain.

"We are sponsoring events ranging from touring exhibits at the Cumberland Science Museum to talks by nationally prominent brain researchers," said Randy D. Blakely, Ph.D., Allan D. Bass Professor of Pharmacology and director of the Center for Molecular Neuroscience.

One of the events planned for the week includes a hands-on neuroanatomy lesson for high school students to be conducted by Jeanette J. Norden, Ph. D., associate professor of Cell Biology.

In this session, students will get to examine a brain firsthand and learn which regions are responsible for such things as emotions, motor skills and analytical thought.

"We hope that these students will foster a desire to gather a deeper understanding about the biological basis of behavior," Blakely said. "The lessons will try to integrate brain structure with normal behavior and mental illness or neurodegenerative disorders."

The week-long celebration has been designed to address a wide range of brain research themes.

"We are also using this event to underscore the breadth of neuroscience research and training pursued across the Vanderbilt campus," said Blakely.

Community involvement is a major component of the week of events. For example, Vanderbilt and the Cumberland Science Museum have joined forces to bring the exhibit "Changing Your Mind: Drugs and the Brain," to Nashville as the first stop on its national tour. The exhibit runs through April 27.

"We would like to have the community learn more about brain research so that they can appreciate the long-term investments that it takes to make major discoveries that impact on mental health and brain diseases," said Blakely.

"Increasingly we have become aware that we need to do more to educate the public about our research objectives.

"One of the major goals of the project is to get the public as excited about brain related research as we are," said Blakely.