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Neuroscience in the Community

February 21, 2017 Print

Education is one of the fundamental elements of the McLean mission and this winter and early spring, the hospital’s commitment to educating the public about mental health and neuroscience will be on display during a number of community events.

During Presidents’ Day weekend (February 18-20), several McLean research staff were at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting showcasing hands-on demos, interactive activities involving the brain, and neuroscience talks. Thanks to Filomene G. Morrison and Stephanie A. Maddox, PhD, from the Neurobiology of Fear Laboratory, who are spearheading McLean’s new educational outreach program, more than 5,000 students, educators, families, and journalists had an opportunity to learn about the brain.

Neuroscience in the community
Researcher Syed Bukhari spent time at the AAAS meeting teaching kids, parents, journalists, and teachers about the human brain

“Interacting with the public to help foster excitement for science is a wonderfully rewarding experience,” said Maddox. “From seeing the expressions on faces when they see a human brain for the first time to answering questions about neuroscience, I hope that engaging the public in community outreach will help encourage today’s students to become tomorrow’s scientists and also aid in reducing stigma for mental illness.”

Also making a splash at AAAS was Staci Gruber, PhD, director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program at McLean Hospital. Gruber was asked to organize a speaker series about medical marijuana—“Assessing the Impact of Medical Marijuana: The Grass Could Be Greener”—which featured Gruber, Mark Ware, MBBS, MRCP, of the McGill University Health Center and Ryan Vandrey, PhD, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Gruber’s talk, “Marijuana on the Mind: Assessing the Impact of Medical Marijuana,” drew a standing-room-only crowd.

“Being able to deliver important scientific information about hot topics, like medical marijuana, to an audience that takes what they learn and utilizes it in their own way is very important,” said Gruber. “There were a number of educators and journalists in the audience, and they were extremely inquisitive and interested in the discussion. AAAS gave us a great community outreach opportunity.”

On Friday, March 17, from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and Saturday, March 18, 10 am to 3 pm, Maddox and Morrison will be at the Museum of Science for Boston’s Health Fair: Brain Works. They and other guest scientists and engineers will join museum staff to explore the connection between the brain and technology, including brain mapping and manipulation. Educators from the Hall of Human Life and other exhibit halls will host hands-on activities, including an opportunity to touch a real brain.

Finally, the outreach team will be back in the community again on April 15. Morrison and Maddox will be at the Cambridge Science Festival to help make science accessible and fun for people of all ages.