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Release: March 16, 2001

Public invited to Iowa Kids Judge! Neuroscience Fair

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Curious how your brain works? Children and adults are invited to investigate the complexities of the brain at the Iowa Kids Judge! Neuroscience Fair on Saturday, March 24 at the Iowa Children's Museum located at Coral Ridge Mall. The fair is part of Brain Awareness Week 2001, organized by the University of Iowa Neuroscience Graduate Program, and will be open to the public from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. for the general admission price of $4.50 ($3.50 for seniors over age 60).

Hands-on exhibits will allow visitors to create visual illusions in the Art and Design Studio, find out about brain food facts in the City Grocery, get their reflexes checked by a neurologist in the hospital or play a game in the theatre. Additional activities, demonstrations and visual displays will help people learn about neuroscience.

Students in the UI Neuroscience Graduate Program and other individuals have designed the fair's exhibits, which aim to convey fundamental concepts about the brain, such as learning, memory, vision and anatomy, said Sarah Berke, a student in the UI Neuroscience Graduate Program and co-chair of the UI Brain Awareness Week Committee.

"Numerous individuals and area businesses have collaborated to make the fair a huge success and fun time for all involved," Berke said. "To mention a few, Iowa City's City High School students will decorate the museum in 'brainy attire,' the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers are developing a puzzle to teach children about the functions of different brain regions, and volunteers from UI Health Care and various UI graduate programs will present exhibits."

Nearly 350 fifth-grade students from area schools will be the first to try out the exhibits as they take part in the Iowa Kids Judge! Neuroscience Fair March 20-21. For these students from Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Muscatine, Olin, Vinton, Wellman and West Liberty, the event will be structured like a traditional science fair but this time the children get to judge and select the winning exhibits. A virtual version of the fair will ultimately be available online at

In addition to providing grade-school students with a closer look at neuroscience research, the local fair is part of a national project investigating the best ways to introduce kids to and teach them about science. The Iowa fair is organized in collaboration with the National Kids Judge! Neuroscience Fairs Partnership and funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The National Kids Judge! Partnership is directed by Deborah Colbern, Ph.D., president and scientific director of BEEMNET (, Brain Exchange Electronic Mentorship Network. Based in Venice, Calif., the company links practicing neuroscientists with children to promote education about the brain and nervous system and neuroscience research.

In addition to the groups described by Berke as providing exhibits or assistance at the Iowa Kids Judge! Fair, organizations helping with the event include the Iowa Children's Museum, EMPI, Inc., Brain Awareness Week Partners in Education, Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and numerous area businesses that will be recognized at the fair.

The event is one of many activities planned by the UI Neuroscience Graduate Program in observation of Brain Awareness Week. Other activities will include a poster session by UI neuroscientists on Thursday, March 22, and a public lecture at 6 p.m. that day by Anthony Movshon, Ph.D., from the Center for Neural Science at New York University, in the Seebohm Conference Room, 283 Eckstein Medical Research Building.

The Brain Awareness Week campaign was launched in 1996 by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives to promote public awareness of the accomplishments, benefits and promise of brain research. The event is now celebrated worldwide and involves a coalition of more than 1,200 science, advocacy and other health organizations.

For more information regarding the Iowa Kids Judge! Neuroscience Fair, contact Sarah Berke at the UI at (319) 335-9859.

For more information about the National Kids Judges! Neuroscience Fairs Partnership, contact Deborah Colbern at (310) 776-0877.

For questions regarding the Iowa Children's Museum facilities, contact Deb Dunkhase, director of education, at (319) 625-6255.

To find out more about neuroscience at the UI, visit

For more information about other Brain Awareness Week events around the country visit

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.