Brains that keep on giving

Over the last 3 days I have devoted a great deal of my time to Theme H as I have become a ravenous consumer of all things historical, public, and societally impactful. Lucky for me, the Society for Neuroscience seems more than happy to address my hunger. The numerous Theme H events and presentations I attended at this year’s meeting were illuminating, informative, and beautiful organized and executed. Some highlights are below.

I am a councillor for the Maine Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience and attended the Chapters Workshop on Sunday. Our chapter is newly chartered and we are eager to expand our efforts from just annual meetings so far to include more public outreach, engagement, and neuroscience education. If you too are interested in such endeavors, or even if you are not, I strongly urge you to check out what your local chapter is up to and to look into what other chapters are doing. Hearing about the work of several chapters which was showcased and celebrated during the workshop was inspiring. I furiously typed out a million fantastic ideas during the presentations and was particular impressed by the work of the Ottawa, Canada chapter. They invited submissions of art, in all formats, from the local and scientific community and mental health groups, on what the brain means to them. In collaboration with local business owners they advertised, procured a venue and held an art show. The art was auctioned and the proceedings were donated to a local charity. This enterprise, to me, is elegant on so many levels. It is creative, inclusive, informative, and goes beyond just educating the public and raising brain awareness but supports local business and gives back to the community. Simply brilliant. Get in touch with me if you want more information about this or any of the other awesome things I learned about on Sunday and I will be happy to help direct you to the right folks for more detailed info.

On Monday evening I attended the annual FUN social. This social is called FUN because, well it’s fun, but also it stands for the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (fun acronym too!). This is an outstanding event for so many reasons. Undergraduate students present their research and the energy and enthusiasm at this event are unwavering from year to year. The FUN group also provides a significant number of travel awards to undergraduate students, efforts that should be lauded. I also think the social is a great chance to learn about some of the amazing mentors out there. As usual, it was a bustling, lively, and heavily attended affair. If you’ve never been, consider dropping by one year to show your support for the future generations of neuroscientists and be blown away by the high quality work they do.

On Tuesday I attended the Public Advocacy Forum on brain development. This was definitely one of those “preaching to the choir” sessions–them being the preachers, me being the choir. But it was still great! I thought one interesting piece was the economist on the panel from the Federal Reserve. I don’t want to break into song or anything (or do I?) but I believe the children are our future…and this was clear in that particular presentation. Investing in children and protecting them from early life adversity has really big economic payoffs, in addition to the zillion other benefits. The only piece, overall in the session, that I think was potentially undersung was the importance of early life nutrition. That’s my research bread and butter so I think about that a lot, but even so I sometimes still feel that even in the neuroscience world its role is understated with regards to mental health.

That concludes my highlight reel for Theme H things that I enjoyed at this year’s meeting. But I learned so much more than just these few things and I know they will feature in my thinking, efforts, and certainly future entries. So stay tuned.

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