Michael Friedlander maps the brain for teachers

Michael J. Friedlander, Ph.D.

Michael J. Friedlander, Ph.D.

Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, delivered a talk about brain development to Roanoke area middle and high school science teachers as part of the Bite of Science session at the Jefferson College of Health Sciences on February 25.

The Center for Excellence in Education is a national program dedicated to fostering interest in science and technology fields for high school and college students. The Teacher Enrichment Program assists the center by offering professional development opportunities to teachers and allowing them to interact with professionals in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. The program enables teachers to learn about research and development in these fields and share these discoveries with their students.

Friedlander discussed why it is important to understand how synapses in the brain work.

“We know that synapses are the business end, the real workhorses of processing information in the brain,” Friedlander said. “If synapses don’t work, you don’t think, you don’t see, you don’t hear, you don’t move, you don’t remember.”

Friedlander also discussed the importance of one part of the brain, the hippocampus. The hippocampus is vital to spatial memory and helps the brain map the world around it. When the hippocampus is damaged, people lose the ability to learn new information.

To give the participants an idea of what a working neuroscientist can do, Friedlander spoke about his upcoming expedition to Palmer Station, Antarctica, in 2015 with the National Science Foundation. Friedlander will be part of a team of both cardiology and neurology researchers trying to figure out why ice fish in Antarctica are dying.

The Bite of Science event was sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Education and the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation.