This past week, March 27 through March 30, the Department of Biology and Chemistry, in partnership with the Department of Psychology hosted APU’s annual Brain Awareness Week sponsored by CLAS (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences).
Founded in 1996 by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, Brain Awareness Week is yearly event observed in over 82 countries worldwide on the same week of March.
“The purpose of brain awareness week is to promote the progress and benefits of brain research,” Associate Professor of the Department of Biology and Chemistry Skyla M. Herod, Ph. D. said.
Herod, who founded Brain Awareness Week at APU, partnered with both Teresa Pegors, Ph.D. and Danielle Reitsma, Ph.D. of the Department of Psychology for the organization of the events this year.
Herod was instrumental in connecting APU with the Dana Alliance five years ago and has since then organized the campus’ observance of Brain Awareness Week.
“Typically it’s marked by activities that are designed to engage the public in educating them on what we have discovered about the brain with research and how that applies to their lives,” Herod said.
Week-long events from movie presentations to discussions and case study presentations all relating to the study of the brain throughout APU marked just that from Monday to Thursday last week.
The opening event was on Monday, March 27, where Teresa Pegors Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology presented a screening of the animated movie Inside Out at the LAPC. The film screening was followed by a round table of discussions regarding how terms of neuroscience research is presented in the movie.
On Tuesday, March 28, Herod gave a talk titled “The Moral Imperative for Building Resilient Brains” at the second biannual TedxAzusaPacificUniversity event in UTCC. Herod centered her speech around building resiliency in the brain from early life trauma.
“The single most important factor is at least one stable nurturing relationship with a parent or other committed caregiver,” Herod said.
On the third day, Wednesday, March 29, Danielle Reitsma, Ph.D. of the Department of Psychology gave a presentation about brain disorders.
“My talk was about bringing awareness to why neuroscience research is important for the general public,” Reitsma said.
Reitsma’s presentation was about the work that she did at the Medical College of Wisconsin and the study of neuroplasticity in the brain which involved brain mapping.
“Bringing awareness to this whole week is hopefully just to get [students] to be able to appreciate [current research found on the brain to help improve patient care which could be themselves in the future or family members] and perhaps themselves even become interested in it,” Reitsma said.
Then, on the final night, Thursday March 30, David Roalf Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania gave a keynote address titled “Scents and ‘Non-Scents’: How the Sense of Smell May Help in the Detection of Early Alzheimer’s Disease.”
For Senior Chemistry major Carolyn Saba, Brain Awareness Week is the celebration of the progress and importance of brain and research studies.
“It is also our way to gather many scientists, students, professors and schools all over the world that work together to further research in the brain,” Saba said.
Herod said there’s a little bit of disconnect with non-science students who feel that the awareness week doesn’t pertain to them when it actually impacts their daily lives or that of someone close to them.
In the future, Herod plans on centering Brain Awareness Week with a theme similar to a talk she will be giving on April 6: “This is Your Brain on Bias: The Neurobiology of MIcroaggression and How Diversity Changes Your Brain.”
“My goal would be for students to start paying attention to those events so that they get excited about learning things that do impact their lives,” Herod said.