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Psychology in the News

Psychology Students Launch Brain Awareness Campaign

Members of the Psychology Graduate Student Association in collaboration with student organizations across the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, kicked off the inaugural 2018 Brain Awareness Campaign February 27, with a lecture by renowned neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky. The month-long campaign runs through March 31, and will feature a variety of lectures, brown-bag series, and outreach events aimed at increasing public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. 

“Our mission for this year’s campaign is to focus on a diverse array of topics and approaches to increase awareness of both brain research and health efforts, but also focusing more generally on approaches from psychology,” says J. Alex Grizzell, director of the UT Brain Awareness Campaign and a third-year PhD student in neuroscience. “From workshops and professional development events to seminars featuring UT professors and an array of invited speakers from across the country – we’re doing a lot to provide for our campus and community all that we can to show just a snippet of the tremendous advances in the field.”

UT’s involvement in Brain Awareness Week began in 2007 with Professor Emerita Sandra Twardosz in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. The goal of the week was to partner neuroscience and psychology undergraduate and graduate students with Child and Family Studies graduate interns and student teachers and implement brain-related lesson plans in area elementary and middle school classes. In 2013, the UT Advancement of Neuroscience club expanded the week and added events on campus.

The outreach component of this year’s campaign is still going strong. UT student researchers collaborated with teachers at local elementary and middle schools to help teach students of all ages “You too can be a neuroscientist!”

“Pulling from an extensive repository of in-class demonstration ideas built by UT students and faculty and using printed workbooks and other materials from our official partners this year, The Dana Foundation, we are prepped for working with any grade level,” Grizzell says. “We will also be working with these schools to encourage art projects related to brain and psychological concepts – and some of this art will be exhibited in Hodges Library as a part of our Brain Awareness Neuroscience Art Gallery.”

Outreach efforts extend outside of the classroom as well. Through a partnership with The Muse Knoxville, members of the Brain Awareness Campaign will present a variety of brain-themed demonstrations to children and parents, such as what is the brain and how does it process the senses, music, sports, and more.

“Scientists have learned so much more about the nature of human brain development and its impact on behavior over the past decade with the increasing availability of non-invasive brain imaging techniques,” says Deb Welsh, professor and head of the Department of Psychology. “I am thrilled that members of the Psychology Graduate Student Association, in collaboration with a number of other units on and off campus, are bringing some of this new knowledge to the citizens of Tennessee and the UT community with this campaign.”

Community partner sponsors of the 2018 UT Brain Awareness Campaign include NeuroScience Associates and The Pat Summitt Foundation.

“We are thrilled to partner with UT students on the 2018 Brain Awareness Campaign,” says Patrick Wade, executive director of The Pat Summitt Foundation. “Coach Pat Summitt was passionate about educating the public on Alzheimer’s disease and brain health through the work of her foundation. We’re excited about the variety and the quality of the educational programs being offered and we encourage the UT and greater Knoxville communities to take advantage of these great opportunities.”

In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, other issues the campaign events will feature include addressing the opiate epidemic in East Tennessee, the effects of light at night on the brain and behavior, and the biology of sex and gender.

“I think helping everyone understand how the brain works, how long it takes to develop, how it controls and impacts all other functions, and the consequences of damage on the rest of life will move us all to provide the best possible care,” says Theresa M. Lee, professor of psychology and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I am excited to see the impact this month-long campaign has on the research happening here in our college and in our East Tennessee community.”

Brain Awareness Week began in 1995 by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. It has grown to include more than 55 countries worldwide with more than 900 event programs each year. For more information about the UT Brain Awareness Campaign events, visit brainawareness.utk.edu.

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