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Inspiring the Next Generation of Neuroscientists

May 19, 2017 Print

Have you ever held a human brain in your hands...or ever imagined doing so?

Thanks to McLean Hospital’s new educational outreach program, many students around Greater Boston have had the chance not only to hold an actual brain, but also to learn about the inner workings and boundless potential of the mind. Launched in March 2016, the program has brought interactive lessons on neuroscience to students at local schools, science fairs, and museums.

Researchers holding a brain
Maddox and Morrison, along with more than a dozen volunteers from McLean’s research programs, delighted more than 5,000 children, adolescents, and adults during recent exhibits at Boston’s Museum of Science and at the AAAS conference in Boston

Establishing the educational outreach program has been a key goal for Stephanie A. Maddox, PhD, and Filomene G. Morrison, since they arrived at McLean from Emory University in 2015.

“The primary goal of the program is to expose the public to neuroscience and help foster an excitement for neuroscience research,” said Morrison, who is a PhD candidate at McLean and Emory University. “We also hope to encourage future generations of students to be tomorrow’s scientists and neuroscientists,” added Maddox.

To inspire these budding scientists, Maddox and Morrison, both researchers in McLean’s Neurobiology of Fear Laboratory, have created a program that combines experiential activities, discussions with neuroscientists, and interactions with human and other animal brain specimens. Last year, they presented the program at the Boston Museum of Science’s “Brain Awareness Week,” the Statewide Black Clergy for Unity STE2MArts Youth Summit, and the “Project Success” summer research program at Harvard Medical School. They also met with students at schools throughout Massachusetts. Leading into 2017, Maddox and Morrison already had a full schedule of events lined up, including being the signature exhibitor at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting and trade show in Boston. During the two-day conference, the McLean exhibit drew more than 6,000 people.

At these events, participants “were able to hold a human brain,” Morrison reported. “We’ve never failed to be amazed at the excited and surprised expressions that are on the faces of those who are able to see and hold a human brain for the first time.”