3/15/10

Brain Awareness Week on Campus to Explore
Gender Differences

Off-campus, many new events and activities for children and their families

Ever wonder why girls tend to develop language skills before boys?? How men seem to be able to navigate by their own internal compass?? Why do women use both sides of their brains to listen to a conversation but men use only one side?

It's no surprise: men and women behave differently. Are such differences sexist stereotypes, or are there real gender differences hardwired in our brains from birth?

2009 Brain Awareness Day participants included faculty members and students from Moravian and several other LVAIC colleges.

From March 15-20, Brain Awareness Week (BAW), you can learn all about brain gender differences through a variety of lectures, films, and activities on campus and at other Lehigh Valley college locations:

  • Monday: Dr. Debbie Bangasser, NRSA postdoctoral fellow at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, will lecture on "Sex Differences in the Brain: from Mating to Mental Illness" at 4:30 p.m. in PPHAC Room 102.
  • Tuesday: At noon in the HUB, have fun with games and activities designed to challenge your brain and demonstrate brain gender differences. (Sarah Johnson, assistant professor of psychology, is organizing.)
  • Wednesday: Listen to Dr. Jennifer Swann, Lehigh University professor of biology, speak about "Sex Differences in Brain and Behavior: Why a woman can’t be more like a man!" at 4:30 p.m. in PPHAC Room 102. (For a complete list of Lehigh Valley BAW events, click here.)

Expanded Community Programming

Neuroscience students and faculty members from Moravian College also are teaming up with the Bethlehem Area Public Library (BAPL) to provide community programs, including "Ask the Neurologist" on Tuesday March 16, 7:00 p.m. and "Norbit the Neuron’s Brainy Story Time" on Wednesday March 17 at 7:00 p.m. (Click here for events at BAPL.)

"Some programs are for adults, some are for children—all of them are free." said Cecilia Fox, director of the Moravian neuroscience program and lead organizer for BAW in the Lehigh Valley. "We're hoping to raise awareness about the brain and benefits of brain research to a wider audience."

At the 2009 Brain Awareness Day, biology major Loura Khallouf '10 explains brain anatomy to a young visitor at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

The week will culminate with Brain Awareness Day on Saturday March 20, 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., a service learning day at the Bethlehem Area Public Library. Neuroscience faculty and students from Moravian College, Muhlenberg College, Cedar Crest College, Lafayette College and Lehigh University will be partnering for the first time to provide hands-on neuroscience activities for the public. Workstations will include reflex and sensory testing, EEG (brain wave) readings, optical illusions, helmet safety and a brain anatomy station, where children and their families can compare animal and human brains.

"We want to demystify the concept of animal research and teach why it is beneficial," explained Dr. Fox. "One of our objectives is to increase public confidence in research, so that voters will choose candidates who support scientific initiatives."

Launched in 1995 by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, Brain Awareness Week was begun at Moravian by Dr. Fox, who later invited colleagues at other local colleges to participate. As president of the new Lehigh Valley Society for Neuroscience Chapter, she has expanded the scope and reach of 2010 Brain Awareness Week to include more guest speakers and outreach programming. Every year, she chooses a different interdisciplinary theme because it allows exploration of the brain from a variety of perspectives.

"Brain Awareness Week offers something for everyone—I want to convey the sentiment that science can be accessible to everyone," she said.

Upcoming Neuroscience Events

Later this month, Moravian neuroscience students will "take the show on the road," bringing their interactive neuroscience activities to 100 third-graders at the Lehigh Valley Academy.

Next month, on April 17, Moravian will host its first Lehigh Valley Society for Neuroscience (LVSfN) Undergraduate Research Conference in conjunction with the 25th Annual LVAIC Undergraduate Psychology Conference, also to be held at Moravian. Dr. Fox (neuroscience) and Dr. Johnson (psychology) are working together to coordinate the related conferences. For more information, click here; also watch for details in an upcoming issue of IC.