Brain Awareness Week Goes Virtual in 2021

April 29, 2021

Brain Awareness Week Logo

Brain Awareness Week (BAW), for the 26th year, was a success! The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges this year, but despite the obstacles, partners organized events in 45 countries and 32 states.

Due to the pandemic and its restrictions on public gatherings, this year’s campaign was largely a virtual celebration, with more than 70% of events held online. Partners found creative ways to adapt their traditionally in-person activities to a virtual format and attracted wider audiences at reduced costs. Most popular were Zoom events featuring a single speaker or moderated panels. The official campaign hashtags #BrainWeek and #BrainAwarenessWeek were prominent in social media posts; teachers used Dana fact sheets, lesson plans, and puzzles in their virtual classrooms.  Also common were web-based brain fairs, lab tours, art competitions, and trivia contests. Many events focused on the COVID-19 pandemic with topics relating to its impact on our mental health, stress, anxiety, sleep, mindfulness, meditation, and music therapy.

The Dana Foundation now has three BAW grants programs, administered by FENS, IBRO and Dana. The grants funded 97 programs in 42 countries. This support helped partners to implement their programs and reach broader and more diverse audiences. Alliance members Edward Bilsky (Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences), Katalin Gothard (University of Arizona), Lisa Monteggia (Vanderbilt University), Rae Nishi (formerly Marine Biological Laboratory), Michael Wyss (University of Alabama, Birmingham), Malgorzata Kossut (Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology), Francesca Cirulli (Istituto Superiore di Sanità), Roland Pochet (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Eva Sykova (Institute of Neuroimmunology SAS, Bratislava), and all committee members stepped-up and volunteered their time to review hundreds of grant applications.

Brain Awareness Week’s success is due to its campaign partners worldwide and their commitment to fulfilling the campaign’s mission to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science. From extensive events to simple tweets, all BAW activity contributes to advancing understanding about the brain and the promise of brain research.  Check out the Partner Reports page for activities around the globe.

Here is a small sampling of members’ activities in the Czech Republic, Washington, Florida, Italy, Turkey, Canada, New York, India, Maine, Croatia, Maryland, Belgium, and Slovenia:

Josef Syka (Institute of Experimental Medicine) organized Brain Week which included over 60 virtual lectures, workshops, study plans, and more for adults and students.

Eric Chudler (University of Washington) organized a Virtual Open House and dedicated his Neuroscience for Kids page to BAW.

Randy Blakely (Florida Atlantic University) organized and presented at Brainy Days:  A Celebration of Neuroscience 2021 with talks by Allan Levey (Emory University), BJ Casey (Yale University), and Susan Amara (NIMH, NIH).

Piero Paolo Battaglini (University of Trieste) gave a talk on Cervello, Corpo e Mente (Brain, Body, and Mind) at a program organized by Biologi per la Scienza.

Ferhan Esen (Eskişehir Osmangazi University) organized several activities, including “Let’s Walk for Our Brain Health” and a Zoom event Brain and Sense Organs.

Judy Illes (University of British Columbia) organized and spoke at Livewire: A Stimulating Night of Neurotechnology.

Wendy Suzuki (New York University) gave an online workshop for Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan on Harness the Power of Exercise on Your Brain.

Shubha Tole (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research) and Manzoor Bhat (UT Health, San Antonio) participated in Regional Centre for Biotechnology’s BAW Webinar Series.

Monica di Luca (European Brain Council) gave the Welcome and Introduction at “Patient Engagement in EU-Funded Brain Research Projects,” sponsored by the European Brain Council, European Federation of Neurological Associations, and GAMIAN-Europe.

Michael Burman (University of New England) organized “UNE’s Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences Virtual Brain Fair.”

Marija Heffer (The Faculty of Medicine Osijek) planned over 30 talks on topics such as “What would happen if you didn’t sleep?”; “Vaccine side effects: How dangerous are they?”; “Bioterrorism”; “Lockdown makes me depressed”; “Virus-part of me”; and “Genetic engineering and disease-gene drive and malaria.”

Walter Koroshetz (NINDS, NIH) participated in a videocast announcing the winners of the BRAIN Initiative Challenge, a competition for high school students.

Roland Pochet (Université Libre de Bruxelles) coordinated the Belgian Brain Council’s 2021 BAW events.

Maja Bresjanac (University of Ljubljana) organized a series of virtual talks titled “Man is not an Island.”

Thank you BAW partners for another successful campaign!