WRITER: JENNIFER DUFF
CONTACT: L. E. OHMAN
283 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 335-8034
University of Iowa Society for Neuroscience to sponsor Brain Awareness
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- An outreach program into the Iowa City elementary
schools to increase community interest in brain science and research will
be one of the events marking the third annual Brain Awareness Week, sponsored
by the University of Iowa Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. The
week will be celebrated locally March 23-29.
Local efforts include a program specifically aimed at educating fifth
and sixth graders. UI neuroscientists will visit three elementary schools
and set up stations involving hands-on activities such as reflex testing,
microscopes, vision games and anatomy.
Three classes at Wickham Elementary in Coralville will be visited March
24 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. On March 25, the program will move to Horn
Elementary from 9 to 11 a.m. and will be at Lemme Elementary from 12:20
p.m. to 1:45 p.m. Both Horn and Lemme elementary schools will welcome the
program again March 26. Horn will be visited from 9 to 11 a.m. and Lemme
from 12:20 p.m. to 2:50 p.m.
On Thursday, March 26, a poster session and symposium will take place
from 5 to 8 p.m. at Buchanan Auditorium in the Pappajohn Business Administration
Building. Posters will display the work of students and faculty in the
Neuroscience Interdisciplinary Graduate Program. At 6 p.m. three UI faculty
members will speak on progress in neuroscience developments. Dr. Harold
Adams, UI professor of neurology, will speak on developments in stroke
treatment such as risk factor reduction and new advancements in preventing
stroke. Dr. Mark Blumberg, UI associate professor of psychology, will discuss
the development of active (or REM) sleep, what the functions of sleep may
be and how its study has evolved. Speaking on basic science research in
cochlear implants and the dramatic improvements in hearing with these devices
will be Dr. Jay Rubinstein, UI assistant professor of otolaryngology. Drs.
Blumberg and Rubinstein are faculty members of the Neuroscience Interdisciplinary
During the month of March, recognized as "Brain Month," members
of the neuroscience community are promoting awareness for the promise and
progress of neuroscience research. Since 1996 Brain Awareness Week has
united scientific organizations, advocacy groups and government agencies
with a common interest in promoting neuroscience research through public
education. National sponsors include the Society for Neuroscience and the
Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives.
"The amount of progress which has occurred in neuroscience is not
as widely appreciated as it might be. During Brain Awareness Week, we neuroscientists,
as a community, bring brain science out of our labs to the general public.
Through public presentations and outreach into schools, we are trying to
make neuroscience more accessible. We'd like to get as many people thinking
about the brain as possible," says Dr. Thomas Grabowski, UI professor
of neurology. Grabowski and Dr. Kathleen Sluka, UI professor of physical
therapy, are this year's coordinators for Brain Awareness Week activities.
Visit the Dana Alliance web site (http://www.dana.org)
for more information on Brain Awareness Week.
Q: Scientists have found a way to look into the brain and "see"
how it works. True or False?
A: True. With imaging systems such as PET (positron emission
tomography) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), researchers
can capture a vivid three-dimensional image of the living, working brain.
These diagnostic tools help scientists understand the biological process
of thought and emotion.
A few years ago, looking into the working brain in this way would have
been unthinkable, but brain research is moving ahead rapidly. In fact,
scientists have learned more about the brain in the past 10 years than
in the entire history of science.
For instance, in the past five years scientists have discovered genes
that play a role in the development of neurodegenerative disorders such
as Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease, and Parkinsonism, and treatments
that improve the prognosis for stroke and spinal cord injury victims have
been developed. Brain research has made available medications to treat
depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder more effectively, and has shown
that these and other conditions such as schizophrenia, autism and drug
addiction have a biological basis and can be treated as such.
A truly interdisciplinary endeavor, neuroscience applies advances from
many fields, and transcends the traditional boundaries of biology, mathematics,
medicine and the physical and social sciences.
The Neuroscience Intradisciplinary Graduate Program at the UI reflects
the interdisciplinary nature of the field in its faculty who represent
a wide variety of research interests from clinical studies to the basic
sciences. The research interests of a few faculty members are listed as
an example of the interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience research at
Nancy Andreasen, M.D., Ph.D., Andrew H. Woods Professor of Psychiatry
-- Andreasen uses brain imaging techniques to better understand how we
think and behave. She also studies the brains of schizophrenics to learn
whether anatomical differences in their brains correlated with thought
patterns and behaviors which may provide clues to the cause of the disorder.
Kevin Campbell, Ph.D., professor of physiology and biophysics
and neurology and Hughes Medical Institute Investigator -- One aspect of
Campbell's work is to better understand the cause of muscular dystrophy.
He studies dystrophin, a protein that is necessary for proper muscle function
and is absent in people with muscular dystrophy.
Antonio Damasio, MD. Ph.D., Van Allen Distinguished Professor
and head of neurology -- Damasio studies the brain and its higher cognitive
processes. He is interested in finding and understanding areas of the brain
relating to vision, memory, language, and decision making. He is also interested
in the treatment and diagnosis of the dementias.
Hanna Damasio, M.D., professor of neurology -- Damasio uses neuroanatomical
and neuropsychological techniques to understand how the brain processes
vision, memory, decision making and language.
Bruce Gantz, M.D., professor and head of otolaryngology-head
and neck surgery -- Gantz studies the brain and hearing. He is particularly
interested the design and success of cochlear implants . Recently Gantz
has become interested in the auditory brainstem implant. A device implanted
directly into an auditory area of the brain allows people with damaged
auditory nerves to hear.
Gerald Gebhart, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology -- We feel pain
because the brain tells us there is pain. Dr. Gebhart studies how pain
receptors in the body communicate pain to the brain, and how pain in response
to inflammation or nerve injury can cause changes behaviorial and brain
cell responses in the brain. In doing so, he can find better ways to relieve
Carl Gisolfi, Ph.D., professor of exercise science -- Gisolfi
is interested in how chemical messengers influence brain control of body
temperature, particularly in an aging population.
Jean Jew, M.D., professor of anatomy -- Jew studies neuroplasticity
-- the potential for brain cells to grow, repair themselves or adapt after
being injured or damaged by environmental influences or aging.
Nicholas Pantazis, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy -- Pantazis
studies fetal alcohol syndrome. The developing nervous system is especially
sensitive to the toxic effects of alcohol and exposure to alcohol during
pregnancy can kill developing brain cells. It is one of the leading known
causes of mental retardation. Pantazis is interested in how alcohol kills
cells and in finding ways to protect developing cells.
Kathleen Rockland, Ph.D., professor of neurology -- Rockland
uses neuroanatomical techniques to understand how neurons connect to each
other in the brain. Understanding which parts of the brain "talk"
to each other and how they "talk" will ultimately help scientists
understand brain function.
Edward Wasserman, Ph.D., professor of psychology -- Wasserman
is interested in understanding cognition in healthy subjects. He is particularly
interested in conceptual behavior, visual pattern recognition, short-term
memory, using time to discriminate events, and causal perception.
For more information on the UI neuroscience graduate program, check
their web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~interdis.