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Release: Immediate

University of Iowa Society for Neuroscience to sponsor Brain Awareness Week

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 Graduate Program.

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 ( 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 UI.

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 that pain.

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