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ASU's Society for Neuroscience presents 5th annual Brain Awareness Day, April 11

April 8, 2009 -- The ASU Society for Neuroscience will celebrate the 5th annual Brain Awareness Day in the Round Room of the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library, 315 W. Oak,  on Saturday, April 11, from 11a.m. to 3 p.m. Dr. Shivan Haran, Dr. Amy Pearce, and Dr. Malathi Srivatsan will offer demonstrations and provide displays to help explain brain function, joined by members of ASU’s student chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. The event is free and open to the public, and door prizes will be awarded.

According to the event organizers, it will be a kid-friendly, fun, and informative event for the entire family, illustrating how our senses and brain functions work together in our everyday life.
Attendees can participate in more than 20 different activity stations, such as making brains and nerve cells out of modeling materials, testing reaction time, and more. Popular local entertainer Chippy Kazoo will again be on hand to offer juggling lessons to participants. Dr. Shivan Haran will bring robots, as well.

In a recent article in The Jonesboro Sun, Dr. Amy Pearce and Dr. Malathi Srivatsan have written, "
The brain is our most important and complex organ. Like all of our organs, it needs to be looked after to stay healthy. But how do we keep our brains fit?"

They continue, "Find out more by attending for the Fifth Annual Brain Awareness Day, the event for exciting, stimulating and educational activities designed to challenge your brain, improve brain fitness and explain how brains work." The complete text of the article follows below:

"Brain Awareness Day will be held in the Round Room of the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library on Saturday, April 11, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. All ages are welcome, and this event is free and open to the public.

Many studies tout mental gymnastics, a form of cognitive fitness training. Examples include playing chess or challenging video games, solving riddles, or learning a foreign language, among many others.

Such forms of mental stimulation can improve cognitive performance, but critics contend that the effects seem to be very task-specific. That is, the trained tasks benefit from practice, but the benefits may not transfer very well to other tasks in which one is not trained. In other words, the more you play Scrabble, the better you are at Scrabble, but not at Sudoku.

We have known for some time that physical exercise is good for our hearts and lungs, helps in weight management and in improving sleep and mood. Several new studies confirm that physical exercise is also good for our brain.  Physical exercise is shown to increase the production of a growth factor, the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the brain. This neurotrophic factor is shown to slow down cell death that occurs in the brain with aging and in Alzheimer’s disease.  Further, BDNF is known to help reduce depression.

As we age, brain tissue shrinks in a pattern that matches a decline in mental performance. The shrinkage is most obvious in the outer covering of the brain known as the cortex. The cortex is made up of two types of tissue called white and gray matter. The older we get, the greater the decline in brain density in the white and gray tissue.  Yet, even in old age, any mental exercise that requires learning and memory helps in growth and formation of new connections in the brain. Thus, both physical exercise and greater brain fitness actually slow this age associated decline.

Both mental and physical exercises are needed to maintain a healthy brain, so taking a multi-pronged approach seems best.

In studies where people participated in one of four groups (aerobic training only, memory training only, combined aerobic and memory training, or no training), results showed that memory increased in all but the control group. However, the combined memory and exercise training group showed the most improvement.

People who keep their minds challenged and bodies fit can reduce the rate at which their brains shrink with age. Staying mentally and physically active keeps the part of the brain involved in memory, (known as the hippocampus), healthier for longer and improves cognitive performance.

It is even believed that aerobic fitness training, such as running, helps to create new brain cells, or neurons, in the hippocampus and increases brain volume in the cortex. This may be due to increases in the number of blood vessels and the formation of new connections between neurons.

Challenging your neurons can even ward off certain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and help in managing depression and Parkinson’s disease.

The Arkansas State University Society for Neuroscience encourages you to keep your brain sharp and healthy by engaging in stimulating mental and physical activities and maintaining curiosity throughout your lifetime."

(This article (#200) was written by Amy R. Pearce, an associate professor of psychology, and Malathi Srivatsan, an associate professor of biological sciences at Arkansas State University. For more information contact Dr. Amy Pearce, 870-972-3282,, or Dr. Malathi Srivatsan, 870-972-3082,, at Arkansas State University.  In order to communicate its research to the public, ASU’s Department of Biological Sciences has produced a series of articles about various aspects of science, including research and opinions. The department shares faculty with the Arkansas Biosciences Institute (ABI) at ASU. Contact the department by telephone at (870) 972-3082, by e-mail at, or see for more information.)

For more information contact Dr. Amy R. Pearce (  or Dr. Malathi Srivatsan (


Figure caption: Members of the Arkansas State University Society for Neuroscience welcome visitors to the 2008 Brain Awareness Day. Photo by Denisce Warren.



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