Thank you to all the Brain Awareness Week enthusiasts who entered our 2020 Brain Awareness Week Sticker Design Contest! The Dana Foundation received many wonderful and creative design submissions, and we’re pleased to announce that we’ve narrowed it down to our five finalists. Now it’s YOUR turn to choose the winning design! [Read more…] about Help select the campaign sticker for Brain Awareness Week 2020
“Several years ago, science writer Helen Thomson, consultant to New Scientist and contributor to the Washington Post and Nature, decided to travel around the world to interview people with “the most extraordinary brains.” In the process, as described in Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through the World’s Strangest Brains (Ecco/Harper Collins 2018), Thomas discovered that “by putting their lives side-by-side, I was able to create a picture of how the brain functions in us all. Through their stories, I uncovered the mysterious manner in which the brain can shape our lives in unexpected—and, some cases, brilliant and alarming ways.” Thomson wasn’t just learning about the most extraordinary brains in the world, but in the process was “uncovering the secrets of my own.” Keep reading book review Here, over at the Dana Foundation.
(Editor’s note: Pathways responsible for higher-order thinking in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), or executive center of the brain, remain vulnerable throughout life—during critical early-life developmental windows, when the PFC fully matures in the early 20s, and finally from declines associated with old age. At all ages, physical activity and PFC-navigated social connections are essential components to maintaining brain health. The Experience Corps, a community-based social-engagement program, partners seniors with local schools to promote purpose-driven involvement. Participating seniors have exhibited immediate short-term gains in brain regions vulnerable to aging, such as the PFC, indicating that people with the most to lose have the most to gain from environmental enrichment.)
Over the last decade, scientists made two key discoveries that reframed our understanding of the adult brain’s potential to benefit from lifelong environmental enrichment. First, they learned that the adult brain remains plastic; it can generate new neurons in response to physical activity and new experiences. Second, they confirmed the importance of social connectedness to late-life cognitive, psychological, and physical health. The integration of these findings with our understanding of individuals’ developmental needs throughout life underscores the importance of the “social brain.” The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is particularly integral to navigating complex social behaviors and hierarchies over the life course. [Read more…] about Promoting Healthy, Meaningful Aging Through Social Involvement: Building an Experience Corps
What should everyone learn about the brain?
At the national level, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) describes what adults should know in its seminal work Science for All Americans. AAAS also recommends learning goals for K‑12 students in its Benchmarks for Science Literacy[2,3], and Atlas of Science Literacy[4,5], and the National Research Council (NRC) offers a similar set of goals in its National Science Education Standards. States and school districts use the AAAS and NRC recommendations as a basis for the design of their own standards, which then inform the development of curriculum and assessment materials (those commercially developed as well as those developed with grant funds). In addition, the neuroscience community has developed its own set of core concepts that K‑12 students and the general public should know about the brain and nervous system and has correlated those concepts to the national standards.
Between the AAAS and NRC recommendations, there are some areas of broad consensus on what students should know. According to AAAS’s Benchmarks and Atlas, for example, students in the elementary to middle school grades should understand the following ideas:
- The brain enables human beings to think and sends messages to other body parts to help them work properly.
- The brain gets signals from all parts of the body telling it what is happening in each part. The brain also sends signals to parts of the body to influence what they do.
- Interactions among the senses, nerves, and brain make possible the learning that enables human beings to predict, analyze, and respond to changes in their environments.
The National Research Council’s Standards offers very similar concepts in [Read more…] about The Brain in Science Education: What Should Everyone Learn?
(Editor’s Note: In 1990, Congress designated the 1990s the “Decade of the Brain.” President George H. W. Bush proclaimed, “A new era of discovery is dawning in brain research.” During the ensuing decade, scientists greatly advanced our understanding of the brain. The editors of Cerebrum asked the directors of seven brain-related institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to identify the biggest advances, greatest disappointments, and missed opportunities of brain research in the past decade—the decade after the “Decade of the Brain.” They also asked them what looks most promising for the coming decade, the 2010s. Experts focused on research that might change how doctors diagnose and treat human brain disorders.)
Neuroscience is at a historic turning point. Today, a full decade after the “Decade of the Brain,” a continuous stream of advances is shattering long-held notions about how the human brain works and what happens when it doesn’t. These advances are also reshaping the landscapes of other fields, from psychology to economics, education and the law.
Until the Decade of the Brain, scientists believed that, once development was over, the adult brain underwent very few changes. This perception contributed to polarizing perspectives on whether genetics or environment determines a person’s temperament and personality, aptitudes, and vulnerability to mental disorders. But during the past two decades, neuroscientists have steadily built the case that the human brain, even when fully mature, is far more plastic—changing and malleable—than we originally thought.1 It turns out that the brain (at all ages) is highly responsive to environmental stimuli and that connections between neurons are dynamic and can rapidly change within minutes of stimulation.
Neuroplasticity is modulated in part by [Read more…] about A Decade after The Decade of the Brain – Educational and Clinical Implications of Neuroplasticity
Arts education influences learning and other areas of cognition and may deserve a more prominent place in schools, according to a wave of recent neuroscience research.One recent study found that children who receive music instruction for just 15 months show strengthened connections in musically relevant brain areas and perform better on associated tasks, compared with students who do not learn an instrument.
A separate study found that children who receive training to improve their focus and attention perform better not only on attention tasks but also on intelligence tests. Some researchers suggest that arts training might similarly affect a wide range of cognitive domains. Educators and neuroscientists gathered recently in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., to discuss the increasingly detailed picture of how arts education changes the brain, and how to translate that research to education policy and the classroom. Many participants referred to the results of Dana Foundation-funded research by cognitive neuroscientists from seven leading universities over three years, released in 2008.
“Art must do something to the mind and brain. What is that? How would we be able to detect that? asked Barry Gordon, a behavioral neurologist and cognitive neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University, who spoke May 8 during the “Learning and the Brain” conference in Washington, D.C. “Art, I submit to you without absolute proof, can improve the power of our minds. However, this improvement is hard to detect.”
Study links music, brain changes
Among the scientists trying to detect such improvement, Ellen Winner, a professor of psychology at Boston College, and Gottfried Schlaug, a professor of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, presented research at the “Learning, Arts, and the Brain summit May 6 in Baltimore. Their work measured, for the first time, changes to the brain as a result of music training.
For four years, Winner and Schlaug followed children ages 9 to 11, some of whom [Read more…] about Brain Scientists Identify Links between Arts, Learning