Hands-on events educate students about brains

Haley Barnes, Rocket Contributor
March 6, 2014

Slippery Rock’s Psychology department is promoting a brain on drugs themed Brain Awareness Week called “Peace. Love. Brains!” March 10 through March 13 in Vincent Science Center, where hands on activities and an art show will be taking place.

“Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is a nationally recognized event whose goal is to raise awareness about anything involving the brain,” Courtney Pace, team leader of the art portion of the project said. “BAW is put on each year by the DANA Foundation, which is a private organization dedicated to spreading accurate and educational information about the brain and furthering brain research.”

Pace said that Dr. Jennifer Willford of the Psychology department is the primary coordinator of the event and this event has been a work-in-progress since the fall semester of 2013.

According to Willford, the viewing of the Art Gallery is on Monday, an activity called “Brains Unplugged!” is on Tuesday, a documentary viewing is on Wednesday, and an addiction panel is on Thursday. These events will happen in Vincent room 309 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Following the addiction panel is a “Letting Go of Stigma Floating Lantern Ceremony” at the ATS from 6:00-9:00 p.m.

“Students from the Psychology department came together early this past fall to begin planning for this year’s event at SRU,” Willford said. “The students chose to focus on the brain basis of addiction because they believed drug use was an important topic for college students and because they believed that stigma associated with addiction might be reduced if they could spread the word about the brain basis of the disease.”

Willford said that a group of Psychology students have spent several weeks reviewing current research on the effects of drugs on the brain. According to Willford, their research includes how drugs affect the adolescent brain, how drugs impact the function of the brain, and epigenetic of addiction.

“I am a Team Leader in charge of the art portion of the project, but there will also be hands-on brain dissections, a documentary viewing about drug addiction, an ‘addiction panel’ where recovering addicts and psychologists are willing to talk about their experiences, and a floating lantern ceremony to commemorate fallen or struggling addicts,” Pace said.

Pace encouraged all students to enter work into the art show and that some art professors offered extra credit for students who did. She said that any form of media was accepted to be displayed.

“There are many purposes of this exhibit,” Pace said.  “Primarily, we want to get students actively involved our cause and dedicating time to create a piece does exactly that. We also would like to give students the ability to display their work, especially non-art majors who would likely not get that chance otherwise. And of course, we want out message to be visually displayed. The artwork targets all audiences; essentially we want everyone to see the art not only to better understand our purpose but also to showcase our student’s talent.”

“Students are encouraged to attend the events to learn about the brain and brain research, as well as have a deeper understanding of addiction as a biological disease,” Willford said. “We’ve planned many events to hopefully attract students with a variety of backgrounds and interests. There is something for everyone! We will have snacks and t-shirt raffles at the events as well.”

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