Spotlight on Organizations Making a Difference in Neuroscience
The Aspen Brain Forum is a non-profit organization with a mission to organize, fund, produce, and host an annual high-level meeting of international brain researchers held in Aspen, Colorado leading to breakthroughs in brain science. ABF is an industry leader on Brain and Health, Brain and Learning. They are currently sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences. The goal of this organization is to present and disseminate the most cutting-edge innovations in brain science to an elite, intimate, and interactive meeting of up to 150 scientists, and also to advance cross-disciplinary and multi-institutional collaboration. The annual Aspen Brain Forum has had an enormous impact in creating “a major jump forward in the capabilities of the human brain and nervous system, and will redefine how we as a species imagine, work, think, and heal.”
The Dana Foundation is a private philanthropic organization that supports brain research through grants, publications, and educational programs. The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI) is a nonprofit organization of more than 335 eminent neuroscientists, including ten Nobel laureates. It is committed to advancing public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research and to disseminating accessible information about the brain. DABI is supported entirely by the Dana Foundation. DABI organizes and coordinates the global Brain Awareness Week campaign, which it created in 1996 to increase public understanding of the brain and brain research. It also partners with organizations on the cognitive fitness initiative “Staying Sharp,” a series of public forums and educational materials on aging, which are presented with support from the MetLife Foundation and AARP. The Lending Library program offers brain models and materials to university neuroscience departments to use in outreach education in their community and local schools.
Brain Highways began as a small, pilot program at Paul Ecke Elementary School in Encinitas, California. Their goal was to find a common thread that explained why so many of today’s kids were struggling with learning disabilities in school. Using developmental neurobiology, Brain Highways has developed a unique program that helps in the brain development of kids of all ages. Using cross-lateral movements, proprioception activities, and many other exercises, kids can benefit behaviorally, as well as in the school setting. Positive results from the brain- based research led to other public school administrators’ requests for Brain Highways training for their teachers. Brain Highways has centers in San Diego and Denver, but their online program attracts families from all over the United States, as well as from far away places such as Hong Kong, Kenya, and India, who have successfully participated in this program.
MindUp is the Hawn Foundation’s educational initiative which is anchored in current research in cognitive neuroscience, evidence based classroom pedagogy, and mindful education, and houses the precepts of social, emotional, and attention learning. MindUp’s program and lesson plans, when implemented in schools through teachers trained with a neuro-based curriculum, have the potential to have a long term impact on brain function and social and emotional behavior. Their goal is to “establish social and emotional learning as an essential part of education.”
The Society For Neuroscience hosts mentoring sites for neuroscientists at all career levels to join others in the neuroscience community. The site features mentor matching, discussion forums, and a research library. The program is designed to help neuroscience mentors and mentees around the world find and connect with one another.
The New York Academy of Sciences is the world’s nexus of scientific innovation in the service of humanity. Since 1817 the Academy has brought together extraordinary people working at the frontiers of discovery and promoted vital links between science and society. One of the oldest scientific organizations in the United States, the Academy has become not only a notable and enduring cultural institution in New York City, but also one of the most significant organizations in the international scientific community. Its Mission statement is to advance scientific research and knowledge, support scientific literacy, and promote the resolution of society’s global challenges through science-based solutions.
The American Brain Foundation, the foundation of the American Academy of Neurology, is an independent 501(c)(3) organization that aims to become the world’s leader in raising money to cure brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, autism, and epilepsy. These diseases affect more than 50 million Americans in the United States alone. Since 1993, the Foundation has raised more than $16 million dollars for research into brain disease. The mission of this organization is to support vital research and education to discover causes, improved treatments, and cures for brain and other nervous system diseases.
IBRO has launched a global advocacy initiative in response to the growing need for public awareness of the benefits of neuroscience research. Its committee, representing several large organizations that support neuroscience, work together with the IBRO to provide funding and leadership for developing advocacy programs locally and throughout the world.
The NorthEast Undergraduate Research Organization for Neuroscience (NEURON) is a conference held in a number of universities. The conferences’ goals are to provide a forum for neuroscience undergraduate and graduate students to discuss their work, and to provide faculty an opportunity to discuss curricular and research issues in neuroscience, biopsychology and related areas.
Spotlight on Women of the Month
Goldie Hawn established a non-profit group (the Hawn Foundation) to promote academic success through neuro-based curriculums. The MindUp program is the foundation’s main focus, which teaches social and emotional learning in over 200 schools world-wide. The MindUp program was established with the goal to teach kids to be aware of their own thoughts and emotions, and to give them the ability to “think about their thinking.” Awareness over one’s own mind allows better control at directing attention and calming down, all valuable tools in the classroom. A team of educators, neurologists, psychologists, and social scientists developed a curriculum for MindUp to be implemented in elementary school. The program includes learning to meditate, a practice that both calms the mind and focuses attention on the task at hand. The MindUp program is an excellent example of the different areas of study where neuroscience and neuro-based research can be used. Through this program, Goldie Hawn wants to “change education as we know it.”
Helen Mayburg is a neurologist who is most famous for her work researching the brain function of patients with neurological diseases, including neuro-imaging and the study of deep brain stimulation. Mayburg’s research efforts over the years have drastically changed the way patients are treated today. This includes her studies on the neurology of depression and disease pathology. Treatments such as deep brain stimulation now help many patients with treatment-resistant depression.
Amishi Jha is an accomplished neuroscientist who is currently working in her lab at the University of Miami. Her focus on attention, mindfulness, and awareness has resulted in a multitude of studies that increase knowledge of the brain and its functions. She also examines how disease, stress, and attention disorders affect the brain, and the ways in which the effects can be reduced. One recent research project happening in the Jha lab is work with active duty soldiers and their spouses before they are deployed, and the prevention of PTSD, anxiety, and depression using mindfulness training. More information can be found at http://www.amishi.com/STRONG.