The phenomenal power of the brain will be in the spotlight this week as part of Brain Awareness Week.
Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers from the Center for Neuroscience at UC Davis will be celebrating the complex organ beginning Mar. 14 with interactive events for Sacramento area residents and local students.
“People might think of [learning about the] brain as an overly scientific activity, but it’s really fun,” volunteer Kate Waimey said. “We want to get people excited and interested and also learn about the brain.“
Brain Awareness Week is an international campaign dedicated to bringing the progress and benefits of brain research to the public.
“It’s important to learn about your own body and how important it is to have a healthy lifestyle,” Waimey said. “An unhealthy lifestyle can negatively affect your brain and affect your body as a whole.“
The neuroscience program in Davis has been involved in Brain Awareness Week since last year, under the supervision of Karen Zito, UC Davis professor of neurology, physiology and behavior.
“Brain Awareness Week is an international event, but it’s up to local groups to be involved and do what they want,” Waimey said.
Events include visits to area elementary and high schools, a booth at the Davis Farmers Market and a public lecture by UC Davis NPB professor Jochen Ditterich. Those involved with this handful of events hope it will stir interest and will be a great educational experience.
“People should understand how the brain works and that there are still many unknowns,” Ditterich said. “Just as it is difficult to repair a car as we don’t know how a car works, it is difficult to treat disorders of the brain without a solid understanding of how it works.“
Visits to elementary and high schools
Starting next Friday, elementary and high school students will engage in fun activities to learn about the brain. High school students, for example, will be able to observe different species of brains to see the comparative different sizes and shapes.
“We’re also going to bring sheep brains, which they can actually touch, hold and see the different internal structures,” Waimey said.
Graduate students will also talk about the development of the brain and will present a poster on human patients with stroke and different problems with the brain.
Davis Farmers Market booth
On Saturday, Mar. 14 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the NPB Club will host activities and exhibits at a booth. Events include neuroscience trivia, vision-altering prisms and the chance to “make your own neuron.“
“Since we are going to do a public day of outreach, we’re not going to go crazy with in-depth scientific work,” said NPB Club President Florence Dorazi, a senior NPB major. “We will have a fun illusion activity that’s fun for all ages.“
Free public lecture on illusions
On Monday, Mar. 16, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Buehler Alumni Center, Ditterich will discuss how the brain interprets the outside world through vision in a public lecture titled “To see or not to see: What visual illusions tell us about the brain.“
“I will address how visual perception works and what it means to see,” Ditterich said. “It turns out our visual perception is highly selective.“
Ditterich will present visual illusions that trick the eye into perceiving light, color and movement when they are absent.
“I think [the audience] will probably be surprised with the phenomenon I will demonstrate,” he added. “It will help you think of the incredible job your brain will be doing.“
JANET HUNG can be reached at email@example.com.