It’s all in your head. Everything you need to imagine, to ponder, to remember, to invent

The Virginia Tech community will be celebrating that notable three-pound contraption – the human brain – during Brain Awareness Week, which officially begins March 10.

“Brains are remarkable,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “Every minute of every day your brain’s hard at work. It oversees your body’s life-sustaining processes and it coordinates all of your body’s complex movements. And at any given time it allows you to perform a range of cognitive tasks, from remembering the dates of Civil War battles to resisting sugary snacks to understanding the nuances of unspoken communication.”

The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute will once again serve as the Southwest Virginia partner for Brain Awareness Week, an annual international campaign that unites the efforts of universities, hospitals, government agencies, schools, and associations to increase public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research.

One highlight of the local weeklong commemoration will be Brain School 2014, a public seminar series in which leading experts will offer an owner’s manual on the brain. The talks, on four consecutive Thursdays beginning March 6, will include:

  • Mapping Depression Circuits: Foundation for New Treatment Strategies Using Deep Brain Stimulation, by Dr. Helen Mayberg, the Dorothy C. Fuqua Chair of Psychiatric Neuroimaging and Therapeutics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta;
  • Brain Assembly: Making the Right Connections Through Genes and Experience, by Michael Fox, an associate professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute;
  • How Social Relationships Help Build (and Rehabilitate) Our Brains, by Sharon Ramey, a professor and distinguished research scholar at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute; and
  • The Biological Basis of How We Learn, Remember, and Use Information, by Friedlander, who also serves as associate provost for health sciences at Virginia Tech.

Attendance in Brain School 2014 is free, yet limited by space restrictions, so registration is required.

Other local Brain Awareness Week activities will include:

  • Your Brain on Advertising, a presentation on neuromarketing at the Science Museum of Western Virginia;
  • Food for Thought: Chefs Celebrate Brain Awareness Week, a challenge issued to restaurants and specialty stores to invent dishes with brain-boosting ingredients, such as salmon, blueberries, coffee, nuts, and chocolate;
  • Brain Matters, a series of presentations on the brain at area schools; and
  • Your Brain on Art, a presentation on the impact of visual art on the brain as part of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s first mini medical school, Anatomy for Artists and Other Curious Sorts.

“We look forward to sharing our excitement about brains and all the things they do,” said Friedlander. “This is a very propitious time in history in that the entire world is coming together to focus attention, resources, and the intellectual energy of the scientific community on understanding the brain. Brain School 2014 represents the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute’s active participation in this important world endeavor.”

For additional details about Brain Awareness Week activities, visit the institute’s website.

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