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Seeking illumination? Attend Brain School 2015.

Brain School 2015 focuses on beginnings

With 86 billion neurons and more than 100 trillion synapses in your brain continuously passing information up to 200 miles an hour, your brain is right to believe it’s your most important organ.

As part of Brain Awareness Week, the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute will host its third annual Brain School to share neuroscientific nuggets and introduce the latest brain research.

“The brain is a remarkable living machine,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “It not only manages cognition, but it also remembers the past, plans the future, and coordinates all the body’s life-sustaining processes and complex tasks, including social interactions with others.”

Friedlander will launch the series on March 16 with a presentation on Vernon Mountcastle, the Roanoke native who has been lauded as one of the founders of the field of modern neuroscience. In “Understanding the Cerebral Cortex: The Legacy of Roanoke’s Vernon Mountcastle,” Friedlander will explain how Mountcastle gave us the first contemporary insights into the functional organization of the cerebral cortex and continued to contribute to the field, up to his death at the age of 96 this past January.

Pearl Chiu, an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, will speak on the “Development of the Social Brain” on March 18. Chiu studies how people make decisions and how the normal development of neurological behavior can become disrupted by addiction, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and autism spectrum disorders.

Michael Fox, an associate professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, will present a talk titled, “The Developing Brain: Conception to Birth,” on March 23. Fox researches how the connections in the brain form and how missed connections or improperly formed connections can lead to neurological disorders.

Craig Ramey, a professor and Distinguished Research Scholar at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, will wrap up Brain School 2015 on March 25, with his talk, “How the Earliest Experiences in Life Affect a Baby’s Brain and Behavior.” Ramey studies how early education can influence the cognitive and social development of children.

The international Brain Awareness Week – the brainchild of The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives – celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Although official observation is from March 16 through March 22, the week is intended to inspire brain-focused education and outreach throughout the year.

Attendance in Brain School 2015 is free, yet limited by space restrictions, so preregistration is required. All seminars will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. following a free public reception at 5:30 p.m.

Written by Ashley WennersHerron