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NIDA News Release Contact: Beverly Jackson
Michelle Muth
301-443-6245
FOR RELEASE, Monday, March 13, 2000

Students Learn What's Really on Their Minds
Brain Awareness Week Activities to be held March 15-16


Some local students are going to find out what's really on their minds next week, as they are offered the chance to touch and feel and learn all about the human brain during a special program co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. The program will take place at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, March 15 and 16, 2000 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each day.

The local students will become certified "brainiacs" during a hands-on educational program presented by some of the country's top brain researchers. They will play games, solve puzzles, and ask questions like: Why can I get to the top level of my hardest video game, but I forget the simplest word on the spelling test? Why do some people get addicted to drugs? Is there really such a thing as ESP?

"Brain Awareness Week" is now an international event, with 41 countries and more than 1000 organizations participating. The week, March 13-19, was launched by the Dana Alliance in 1995 as a way of educating the general public about the importance of brain research. The program begins on Wednesday, March 15 at 10 a.m. with an overview session "Your Brain and You" by Dr. Gerald Fischbach, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and a Dana Alliance member. He will talk to seventh and eighth grade students from the Takoma Educational Center in Washington, DC. After the plenary session, the students will meet in smaller groups at the following different stations:

  • The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke scientist Dr. Cheryl Kitt will present on "Know Your Brain," and show the students brain slices through a microscope, MRI's on a light box, brain samples with magnifying glasses, and "brain toys."

  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse will bring along "Sara Bellum"--the image of this middle-school-age girl is the mascot for the institute's Mind over Matter education program about drugs. Dr. Lucinda L. Miner and Dr. Cathrine Sasek will use Sara to help explain the effects of drugs on the brain. In addition, the children and teachers will be able to take home copies of the Mind over Matter material, including several posters and other items specially designed for them.

  • The National Institute on Aging's scientists Dr. Molly Wagster and Dr. Steve Snyder will show a short video and explain how the brain develops and changes from birth to old age and how the neural changes can be "seen" in the behaviors that we exhibit over the years. Students will have an opportunity to discuss how enriched environments can benefit both the young and old.

  • The National Institute of Mental Health will explain "The Wonders of Your Brain." Dr. Jay Giedd, Chief of Brain Imaging, and Elizabeth Molloy, Director of the Twin Project, will talk about how scientists learn about the brain and how it grows. The students will see slides of the brain at work, and with games, puzzles, and teasers will learn how they can exercise their brains while having fun.

  • The Dana Alliance will show a segment of a documentary film on sports and the brain, as part of the "Exploring Your Brain" series, presented through WETA-TV in association with the Dana Alliance.

  • The National Museum of Health and Medicine will display normal and diseased human and mammal brains preserved in fluids. The students will also be able to touch and hold a real human brain that has been preserved through a unique process called "plastination."

The program will repeat with different speakers at noon on Wednesday, with 5th and 6th grade children from the Hebrew Day School of Silver Spring, Maryland; and again Thursday, March 16th at 10 a.m. with fifth and sixth graders from Shepherd Elementary of Washington DC; and finally at noon with fifth through eighth graders from The Owl School of Washington, DC.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine, founded as the Army Medical Museum in 1862 to study and improve medical conditions during the American Civil War, is a division of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. The Museum's Neuroanatomical Collection includes approximately 37,000 specimens, some of which date back to 1884. Today the collection is widely used for research and educational projects. Open daily except Christmas from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the museum is located at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue and Elder Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. Admission is free.

The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives is a non-profit organization of more than 190 preeminent neuroscientists, including seven Nobel Laureates, whose commitment is to advance education about the public benefits of brain research. The Dana Alliance is supported by the Charles A. Dana Foundation, a private, philanthropic, organization with interests in neuroscience and education.

The National Institutes of Health is the federal agency dedicated to biomedical research, and the participating institutes are the premier supporters of research on the brain and nervous system. The NIH is located in Bethesda, MD.

Contacts: NIH - Margo Warren (NINDS), 301-496-5751;Constance Burr (NIMH), 301-443-4536; Michelle Muth (NIDA), 301-443-6245. National Museum of Health and Medicine - Erin Roy, 202-782-2671. Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives - Barbara Rich, 212-112-4040.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports more than 85 percent of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and other topics can be ordered free of charge in English and Spanish by calling NIDA Infofax at 1-888-NIH-NIDA (644-6432) or 1-888-TTY-NIDA (889-6432) for the deaf. These fact sheets and further information on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the Home page at http://www.drugabuse.gov.

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