10th annual expo focuses on importance of brain health
The Herald-Dispatch - 4/11/2018
HUNTINGTON - Three little boys gathered around a Marshall University student, leaning over the table on their tiptoes to get a closer look at the plastic model of the brain he was holding.
"You only have one brain," the student told them. "That's why you have to take care of it."
Learning to take care of their still-developing brains is the goal of the Marshall University Brain Expo, which took place Tuesday in the Marshall Memorial Student Center.
It's the 10th year for the expo organized by the College of Science, exposing thousands of West Virginia and Kentucky elementary school students to science and the brain. More than 800 students participated Tuesday.
The event featured 27 interactive stations where children explored various parts of their nervous system, learning how the brain controls their body and why healthy lifestyle choices lead to better brain health. Activities at the stations included touching a real brain, playing a memory game, coloring their own "brain hat," examining drug effects and building brain cell-shaped key chains.
The event is part of Brain Awareness Week, an annual global effort founded in 1996 by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives.
The Brain Expo at Marshall was founded by Dr. Nadja Spitzer and Dr. Brian Antonsen, both of whom are neuroscientists and faculty in the university's Department of Biological Sciences.
Spitzer said she started the expo after arriving at Marshall because she wanted to continue giving back to the community, a habit she developed while studying to get her doctorate.
She said she wants children to realize science is fun.
"It's nice to have all these undergrads representing it because they are studying science, so they bring their enthusiasm for science," Spitzer said. "Science is fun and interesting, and it's something you can do for a career. You don't have to be a mad scientist to be a scientist. You can just be a regular person and love science and do that for your job."
Over 200 Marshall students and faculty from the College of Science, the departments of psychology and communications disorders, the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and the School of Nursing oversaw the activities.
Spitzer said she hopes the students will form habits of community service like she did.
"That's something we as scientists more recently have been trying to do - get out in the community and explain what we are doing and why," she said. "It's very important for us to be able to speak to non-scientists and they get to learn that here."
The annual Brain Expo is now paired with a traveling brain show, with Marshall students traveling to classrooms across the region to deliver the brain health program.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.
Tips for a healthy brain
These guidelines are from the Marshall Brain Awareness Program:
1. Eat well: Your brain is the hungriest of all your organs. Avoid processed foods. Eat fresh foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Get your vitamins and minerals. Milk has calcium that is critical to brain health. Drink lots of water.
2. Exercise: Your brain loves the extra oxygen and the "happy hormones" released when exercising.
3. Sleep: Important things happen during sleep. While you sleep, your brain is busy cleaning up the mess, making memories and getting ready for the work of the next day.
4. Use it or lose it: Everyone's brain is always learning, changing and growing new connections. You're never too old to learn something, and when you do your brain makes and strengthens connections. Stimulate your brain by reading, solving problems and having meaningful conversations with people. (Social media is not the same thing.)