APU Celebrates Brain Awareness Week

by University Relations

Azusa Pacific University participated in its first celebration of Brain Awareness Week (BAW) March 12–18, advancing public awareness of the brain and neuroscience research. Universities and organizations in more than 82 countries celebrate BAW, first recognized in 1996. APU hosted the first-ever Brain Awareness Fair at Center Middle School in Azusa, giving 250 seventh graders the chance to engage in hands-on activities teaching them about the brain. Some of the activities, developed in part by 28 APU senior neurobiology students, included viewing mice, sheep, and human brains; seeing and hearing the electrical signals of neurons in a live cockroach leg; using Fatal Vision Goggles to simulate the effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain’s use of sight, motor ability, and reaction time; and participating in an egg drop to illustrate the importance of helmet safety.

“By presenting science in a fun, interactive way, we hoped to inspire some of these middle school students to pursue science majors in college,” said Skyla Herod, Ph.D., assistant professor in APU’s Department of Biology and Chemistry and the Brain Awareness Week organizer. “I am really excited to be organizing activities for Brain Awareness Week for the first time at APU. Our university now joins other prestigious Southern California institutions in showcasing our students, collaborating with research efforts, and serving the community through educational outreach.”

APU also hosted a series of three lectures by noted neuroscientists: Robert Bilder, Ph.D., director of the Michael E. Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity and a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; Pat Levitt, Ph.D., USC’s director of the Zilkha Neurogenetics Institute and chair of the Department of Cell and Neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine; and Warren Brown, Ph.D., director of the Travis Research Institute and professor of psychology in the Department of Clinical Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. Geared toward nonscientific audiences and including a question-and-answer session, lecture topics spanned the brain’s role in creativity, public policy development, and relationship to the human soul. Throughout BAW, booths on Cougar Walk were staffed by neurobiology students educating the Azusa Pacific community on current brain research.

“More and more schools participate in Brain Awareness Week. It’s exciting that APU now takes part in this significant event by helping to educate both the university community and the local community about the brain,” said David Weeks, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “We look forward to this becoming an annual event and a stepping stone toward courses and programs in neuroscience that are becoming increasingly popular among students and scholars.”