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Release: March 12, 1999

University of Iowa Society of Neuroscience to promote brain awareness

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The brain shapes who we are and what we do; however, most people never stop to think about how this control center really works.

During Brain Awareness Week, neuroscientists take brain science out of their labs to the general public. Through public presentations and outreach into schools, they are trying to make neuroscience more accessible.

"We'd like to get as many people thinking about the brain as possible," said Thomas Grabowski, M.D., associate professor of neurology and a coordinator of this year's local Brain Awareness Week activities. "We want to increase awareness in our community of progress in brain research, much of which is being done right here at the University of Iowa."

In addition to Grabowski, the other organizers include Kathleen Sluka, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical therapy; John Haller, Ph.D., associate research scientist in radiology; and graduate students MacKenzie Hilfers and Jon Andresen.

This is the second year the UI Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience will visit fifth and sixth graders at three local elementary schools. The presenters will be at these schools at the following times: Hoover, 9 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 23 and Wednesday, March 24; Roosevelt, 12:15 to 2:45 p.m., Wednesday, March 24; and Kirkwood, 9 to 10:40 a.m., Friday, March 26.

"The hands-on approach used in last year's outreach program was met with a lot of enthusiasm from both the elementary school students and their teachers," Grabowski said. "One of the important goals of Brain Awareness Week is to stimulate neuroscience interest in young minds."

Neuroscience is the study of the brain and nervous system. Each day neuroscientists are unraveling the mysteries of the brain, answering questions such as: What is the mind? Why do we feel emotions? How do we learn, remember and process information? What are the underlying causes of neurological and psychiatric disorders?

Only in recent decades has neuroscience become a recognized discipline. It is now a unified field that integrates biology, chemistry and physics with studies of structure, physiology and behavior, including human emotional and cognitive functions.

To get an idea of the type of neuroscience work being done at the UI, the public is invited to attend UI's Brain Awareness Week Neuroscience Poster Session and Symposium March 23 at the Wahl-Teeters Conference Room and foyer, both at the UI College of Pharmacy. The posters and reception will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the foyer, with the symposium speakers scheduled for 4:30 to 5 p.m. and 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Posters will display the work of students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty in the UI Neuroscience Interdisciplinary Graduate Program. The speakers are: Steven Green, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences, whose talk is titled "Control of Neuronal Death: Giving Ear to Information from Studies of Cochlear Neurons"; Henry Paulson, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology, whose talk is titled "Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration in Glutamine-repeat Diseases"; and Steven Luck, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, whose talk is titled "Attention: A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective."

"The poster session and symposium act as a focal point for the Neuroscience Interdisciplinary Graduate Program," Grabowski said. "It offers an opportunity to increase awareness in Iowa City and surrounding areas of the breadth and quality of neuroscience research at the University of Iowa is widely known and acclaimed."

Especially well-known is the work in muscular dystrophy, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease, schizophrenia, the neural underpinnings of language, memory, and other aspects of cognition, brain imaging, pain, cardiovascular regulation, ion channels, neurogenetics and animal models.

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.

Visit the Dana Alliance website (http://www.dana.org) for more information on Brain Awareness Week, and the UI Neuroscience Interdisciplinary Graduate Program website (http://www.uiowa.edu/~interdis) for more information on the local neuroscience community.