(includes Brain Awareness Week, people to people, putting it on paper, taking the high-tech road, focus on neuroethics)
One of our missions is to spread the word about advances in neuroscience and immunology—as well as the social and ethical questions they may raise—as well as how best to support teaching artists and use the arts in education. From the hands-on activities that our Dana Alliance members share with students to the workshops we sponsor primarily for experts, we endeavor to be of service to people at all levels of knowledge.
We sponsor public talks and events, meetings, conferences, symposia, workshops, and training sessions for people of all ages in the United States and abroad. Our books, journals, and other publications reach even more people. And our redesigned, growing Web site acts as a reliable reference as well as a source of up-to-the-minute science and education news.
Participating actively in much of our public work are the members of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and the European Dana Alliance for the Brain. These 455 eminent neuroscientists (including 15 Nobel laureates) have pledged to promote public awareness of and interest in brain science. They fulfill this responsibility by giving public lectures, offering tours through their labs for interested students, writing for Foundation and other publications, and serving as expert resources for journalists and others through our Neuroscience Resource Service. They translate their work from the language of scientific papers to language that non-scientists can understand. And they willingly answer questions.
Here are some highlights from 2007:
Brain Awareness Week
One of the Dana Alliance's signature programs, Brain Awareness Week (BAW) has grown steadily in scope and size since it was launched in 1996. In 2007, more than 2,100 institutions and organizations in 69 countries joined the Dana Alliance as partners for the week of education and events highlighting brain science. Countries with groups participating for the first time were Nigeria, the Philippines, and Singapore.
The program now is organized jointly with the Society for Neuroscience. In 2007, the Dana Alliance and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) collaborated on a joint online BAW report. Posted on the SfN site, the report features best practices, innovative activities, photos, and lessons learned from seasoned BAW event organizers to help others plan and run their own events. The goal is to inspire BAW partners to take their programs to a new level and to attract more participants. The Alliance and the Society plan to continue and expand their collaboration in 2008 and beyond.
Brain Awareness Week events include lectures and hands-on sessions suitable for adult audiences, children, and everyone in between. One of the fastest-growing categories of groups joining the campaign is K–12 schools. School leaders also have shown interest in implementing brain-awareness activities throughout the year, not just during the second week in March. That response has led us to focus more on creating information and resources targeted to school-age children and their teachers.
For example, the middle-grades brain workbook It's Mindboggling! is the most popular publication the Alliance has produced. It has been translated into nine languages and is requested and downloaded throughout the year. The follow-up, More MindBogglers, launched during Brain Awareness Week, March 10–16, 2008.
Typical events during Brain Awareness Week in 2007:
- At Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, people were invited to examine the neurological nature of fear by analyzing the readout from a magnetic resonance imaging scanner while a volunteer test subject inside reacted to classic scenes from scary movies.
- Fifth-grade students at Jacksonville Elementary School in Phoenix, Maryland, gave presentations to younger students about ways to keep their brains healthy as part of "Be Good to Your Brain Week." Each weekday, they addressed a different topic, including food for the brain, exercising to grow neurons, sleeping to learn, keeping your brain safe, and remembering how not to forget.
- The Makerere University Brain Awareness Team in Kampala, Uganda, sponsored a series of events that drew more than 800 people. In one, young students manipulated models of the brain to learn about its physiology. In another, experts explained symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder to people who had witnessed fearful events during the civil war in Uganda, helping them recognize symptoms in themselves and others and offering ways to cope.
- In Croatia, more than 100 primary and secondary schools held events. Many had their students conduct an experiment in "handedness," drawing a picture using their right hand, then their left, to illustrate the concept of hand dominance and how and why the brain decides which hand will be dominant.
- In Indianapolis, Indiana, members of the Cathedral High School Psychology Club hosted a neuroscience movie night and sponsored a BAW Fashion Show, where students dressed up as their favorite parts of the brain.
- At the Nashville Adventure Science Center, Vanderbilt Brain Institute's tenth annual Brain Blast featured 100 neuroscience undergraduates, graduates, and faculty staffing 22 booths of hands-on activities, including reflex tests and "brain inspections."
People to People
The Dana centers: In addition to sponsoring events and discussions in many venues, we host many events at our Dana Center in Washington, DC, and our Dana Centre in London. Interviews with distinguished scientists and forums on the cutting edge of science are recorded and are available as video or audio streams on our Web site.
Among the events at the Dana Center in Washington were two public conversations, one with David Nathan, M.D., president emeritus of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and one with James Watson, Ph.D., the Nobel Prize–winning co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and Dana Alliance vice chairman. A noontime session featured European Dana Alliance member Norbert Herschkowitz, M.D., and Elinore Chapman Herschkowitz offering advice to parents based on their decades of experience, much of it distilled in their Dana Press book, A Good Start in Life: Understanding Your Child's Brain and Behavior from Birth to Age 6.
Two sessions in 2007 focused on aging, including a presentation on new research on treating Alzheimer's disease that panelist and Dana Alliance executive committee member Marilyn Albert, Ph.D., had learned just days before at the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Prevention of Dementia in Washington, DC. And neuroscience met psychoanalysis during a discussion featuring Professor Pierre Magistretti, European Dana Alliance vice chairman, and Francois Ansermet; they are the co-authors of the 2007 book Biology of Freedom: Neural Plasticity, Experience, and the Unconscious.
Magistretti and Ansermet also discussed their ideas at the Dana Centre in London in 2007. Other events in London included evenings devoted to spinal cord injury and recovery, art and the brain, the right to die, and amusia (the inability to recognize musical tones or rhythms or to reproduce them). "Teenage Blues, Whatever" included a performance of an excerpt from the play Cracked, as well as a panel discussion. The program drew a crowd with a range of ages and attitudes, as did discussions of organ and tissue donation and the compassionate mind.
With his book In Search of Memory: The Emergence of the New Science of the Mind awarded best book by the National Academies in 2007, Nobel laureate and Dana Alliance vice chairman Eric Kandel, M.D., gave a lecture in May on the same theme at the London School of Economics.
Targeting boomers and their elders: The Dana Alliance works as a partner with organizations such as the Conference Board and NRTA: AARP's Educator Community (formerly known as the National Retired Teachers Association) to spread solid information about how people can maintain their brains and their overall health as they grow older.
The message is consistent: Epidemiological studies worldwide looking at people from middle to old age found four factors that predict a person will maintain good cognitive function. (There has been some work with animal models that supports this idea, but little clinical research in people.) The factors are:
- increased mental activity,
- increased physical activity,
- increased levels of social engagement, and
- control of vascular risk and stress management.
Our Staying Sharp program, with NRTA, started as a series of public forums, held in cities across the United States, bringing together leading neuroscientists for an exchange with the audience. A session in San Diego in November 2007 drew nearly a thousand people.
More information on our cognitive fitness initiatives is available on our Web site.
Music and the brain: Dana will be a sponsor of a series, developed in 2007, presented by the Library of Congress and the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center on new research associated with music and the brain. Six public lectures are planned over the 2008–2009 season, on topics such as listening and the brain, the cognitive neuroscience of music, and the mind of the artist. Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., a Dana Alliance executive committee member and author of books including The Unquiet Mind and Exuberance: The Passion for Life, will lead a symposium on depression and creativity.
Putting It on Paper
All our publications, presentations, Web stories, and media such as radio and DVDs are vetted by experts in the fields, if not produced by them originally. Many of our projects, from the pamphlets and larger publications we hand out at events to weighty reference books such as the Dana Guide to Brain Health, are collaborations among many specialists in science or arts education to make sure that what we say is clear, complete, and accurate.
Reporters often turn to Dana materials for background information and to the Dana News Office staff to connect them with well-spoken scientists, clinicians, and teaching artists for interviews. In a 2007 Library Journal feature article advising librarians to develop a basic collection in the neurosciences, the majority of the titles recommended were either written by members of the Dana Alliance or published by Dana Press.
Choice, the magazine of the Association of College and Research Libraries, named the Dana Press immunology title Resistance: The Human Struggle Against Infection, by Norbert Gualde, to its list of Outstanding Academic Titles of 2007. Our trade books are regularly reviewed in widely read media such as Publishers Weekly, Scientific American Mind, Science, Nature, Neurology Today, and USA Today, as well as on Web sites such as AmericanScientist.org and Salon.com.
Thousands of regular readers request and receive our annual Progress Report on Brain Research and Advances in Brain Research. Tens of thousands receive our bimonthly newsletter BrainWork or one of our periodical roundups of news: Arts Education in the News, Brain in the News, or Immunology in the News. Our guides, including the Dana sourcebooks on brain science and immunology, Brain Connections, and booklets we've developed with NRTA, are well-regarded and often requested. A full list of our publications may be found in a later section of this report.
Taking the High-tech Road
Each year, we are extending our reach in print, radio, and DVD as well as new media, including Web text, audio, and video. In 2007, we increased Dana's staff for news reporting, offering new content on our Web site each week.
We translated The Dana Guide to Brain Health, our compendium of information on the brain throughout life, from book form to Web form in 2007. Internet users can browse through sections on brain development through life and diseases of the brain or search for the specific information they want. The section is built so its authors and other contributors will be able to offer updates to the pages, ensuring that the information remains up-to-date.
While we continue producing our Gray Matters series for radio, which is heard on public radio stations across the nation, in 2007 we expanded our audio offerings on the Web. We sponsor a series of podcasts produced by the science journal Nature, Nature Neuropods, that appears every other month.
Many of our free print publications are also available on the Web. In the case of our In the News periodicals, this means we can update and highlight validated news stories each week rather than once every month or two. Our online-only publication, Cerebrum, the online journal of opinion, has a steady following, while Cerebrum 2007, our book collecting the essays from 2006 and the first of what will be an annual anthology, sold well in the stores. In 2008 selected articles from BrainWork and Cerebrum will be recorded and available as podcasts for downloading and listening.
Most of the events at the Dana Center in Washington, DC, are now recorded for Webcast and podcast; we also record some events off-site, such as the "Transforming Arts Teaching" seminar in 2007. People who subscribe to one of our RSS feeds receive an Internet alert whenever we post a new Webcast, podcast, or item on our blog.
Some of the most popular sections of the site are Brainy Kids, BrainWeb (a list of validated sources for further information), and Brain Resources for Seniors. Because we started using an upgraded content management system in 2007, we can post updates to these sections quickly and date them so people will know they are current. The new system also allows groups to apply for our arts grants online.
We also are working on the information and resources available to improve the Web sites for Brain Awareness Week. Soon there will be more resources for people who wish to host events during our March brain festival, and it will be easier to register as a partner, submit event information for posting on our international calendar, and order free Dana materials.
Extending our reach to non-English speakers, in 2007 European Dana Alliance member Eva Sykova oversaw the translation from English to Czech, Polish, and Hungarian of several Dana publications (It's Mindboggling, Q&A About Brain Research, excerpts from issues of BrainWork, and the five Staying Sharp pamphlets). These and other publications also are available in French, German, Italian, and Spanish, via our Web site.
Responding to the need to be available 24/7 and in emergencies, we have put in place a business contingency plan for our network—external (Web) and internal—that will keep us online and available no matter what.
Focus on Neuroethics
The Foundation and the members of the Dana Alliances have been leaders in defining and bringing attention to the field of neuroethics, the branch of ethics devoted to the implications of advancing brain research. We seek to promote an exchange of ideas among neuroscientists and non-scientists, including lawyers, philosophers, policy makers, businesspeople, and everyone else interested in these questions.
We have helped to sponsor three major conferences: the seminal “Neuroethics: Mapping the Field,” in Palo Alto, California (2002); “Neuroscience and the Law,” at the Dana Center in Washington, DC (2003); and “Hard Science—Hard Choices,” at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC (2005). Through Dana Press, we released books based on each event.
Neuroethics Society: In 2006, Dana was among the sponsors of a neuroethics workshop in Asilomar, California, run by the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, to discuss how to advance the field and engage more non-scientists in the debate. Workshop participants established the independent Neuroethics Society, which aims to provide those interested in the growing field with a solid base for sustained dialogue and interaction.
The society’s first executive committee meeting was held at the Dana Center in Washington, DC, in 2007. Its first public meeting will take place November 13–14, 2008, in Washington, DC, at the headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Members of the society's executive committee participated in a public panel discussion, "How Smart Are We About Smart Drugs?" on the ethics of using drugs to enhance cognitive and emotional abilities, at the Dana Center in May; a Webcast of the event is on the Dana Web site.
Neuroscience and the Law: We continue to support two-day seminars for federal and state judges, under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, on how advances in neuroscience could affect court procedure. Topics include the latest science about addiction and violence, whether brain scans can tell if a person is telling the truth, and questions of coma and conscious states. These "Judicial Seminars on Emerging Issues in Neuroscience" were held twice in 2006 and once in 2007. In 2008, with our support, the association plans to hold four, two in partnership with the American Bar Association. Information from previous sessions and about future sessions appears on the National Center for State Courts Web site, www.ncsconline.org.
Online: A Dana-funded program at Columbia University’s Center for Bioethics includes creating college-level Web-based coursework targeted to medical students, scientists, and doctors but also available to anyone who stops by. The course "Neuroethics: Implications of Advances in Neuroscience" features sessions on topics including neuroimaging, drugs and brain enhancement, and recognizing disorders of consciousness. It is available at http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/neuroethics/index.html.
Researchers at the bioethics center are developing neuroethics training courses for high school teachers that will include Web-based supplements to classroom teaching, as well as a neuroethics sourcebook along the lines of the Dana sourcebooks on brain science and on immunology, offering a basic introduction and resources for students and teachers.
In 2007, we added aneuroethics section to our own Web site highlighting news, events, and quality resources by us and by others. Webcasts available include "Mind Wars," a forum linking audiences at the Dana Center in Washington, DC, and the Dana Centre in London in September 2007 and featuring professors of ethics, neuroscience, and peace studies. During the event, Johnathan Moreno, author of the Dana Press book Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense, and other experts used current research to forecast advancements in neurological warfare, including fear- and sleep-reducing drugs and hormones for facilitating interrogations.
In print: The fifth volume in the Dana Foundation Series on Neuroethics, Defining Right and Wrong in Brain Science: Essential Readings in Neuroethics, was published by Dana Press in summer 2007. This collection, edited by Walter Glannon, Ph.D., includes seminal writings on past, present, and future ethical issues facing neuroscience and society.
The Neuroscience of Fair Play: Why We (Usually) Follow the Golden Rule, by Dana Alliance member Donald W. Pfaff, Ph.D., was published in fall 2007. Pfaff explains how specific brain circuits cause us to consider an action toward another as if it were going to happen to us, prompting us to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. And the cover highlight of the 2007 edition of our annual Progress Report on Brain Science is an essay by Dana Alliance and Foundation board member Steven E. Hyman, M.D., president of the Neuroethics Society, describing the growth of this emerging field.
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