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UMPI, local organizations partner to host Brain Awareness Week celebration

The University of Maine at Presque Isle is partnering with two community organizations—the Wintergreen Arts Center and TAMC—to celebrate Brain Awareness Week [BAW] in March. There are two main components to the region’s Fifth Annual Brain Awareness Week festivities: a children’s Brain Art Contest with community judging that took place on Friday, March 6, and a Celebration of the Brain event taking place on Thursday, March 26.

“Exploring science should be an exciting and creative venture,” Dr. Scott Dobrin, event organizer and UMPI Assistant Professor of Biology, said. “The focus of the UMPI Brain Awareness Week is to provide members of the community, young and old, fun ways to explore the brain and what it does for us. The children’s Brain Art Contest aims for young people to reflect upon how their brain functions and for the greater community to engage with their artistic depiction. The Celebration of the Brain will focus on brain injury. Attendees can challenge themselves on a Wii video game as they wear goggles to simulate a brain injury or speak to UMPI Athletic Training Students about effects and prevention of concussion. The Celebration of the Brain will also feature an award ceremony for the children’s art contest and numerous brain-themed, hands-on learning stations.”

Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is the global campaign to increase public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research, according to the official BAW website. During BAW, held in March, campaign partners organize creative and innovative activities in their communities to educate and excite people of all ages about the brain and brain research. Founded and coordinated by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and European Dana Alliance for the Brain, BAW’s 20th annual celebration takes place in mid-March.

Activities kicked off with a Brain Art Contest for local K-5 students, with help from the Wintergreen Arts Center. Officials collected nearly 50 submissions of student artwork inspired by the brain and had them on display at the Wintergreen Arts Center in time for Presque Isle’s First Friday Downtown Art Walk on March 6. Community members had a chance to vote for their favorite art pieces during the event. The contest links closely with the Next Generation Science Standards being adopted in Maine at the middle and high school levels. Primarily, organizers explained, the material fit into the life science core: LS1A Structure and Function, LS1B Growth and Development, LS1C Organization and Energy Flow, LS1D Information Processing, and LS2D Social Interactions and Behavior. A winners’ ceremony for the Brain Art Contest will be held during the Celebration of the Brain event at UMPI. Prizes will be awarded to the winning student artists in two age categories.

The Celebration of the Brain event will be held on Thursday, March 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Campus Center. Community members of all ages are invited to take part in this family-friendly event, being held in partnership with TAMC’s Rehabilitation and Therapy Services. Students from the Bio-Medical Club will have several hands-on stations with brain-themed topics available. Also during the event, participants will have the chance to experience neuro-based challenges while competing in Wii games and other brain-focused games with family and friends. For example, participants will don special prism glasses to simulate neurological defects.

“The Wii is a unique therapeutic intervention option that is often considered more enjoyable and interesting than conventional exercises,” Renee Guerrette, CTRS-CBIS, TAMC Outpatient Rehabilitation Care Coordinator, said. “The games are used to challenge areas of balance, coordination, strength, visual and cognitive skills. The Wii provides patients with feedback about their progress, encouraging them to advance themselves to a higher level each time they participate. The Wii is also a great tool to be used in the home, resulting in more exercise participation and recovery outcomes.”

During the event, Athletic Training students also will be on hand to discuss effects and prevention of concussions and other brain-related injuries. A highlight of the evening will be the awards ceremony for the Brain Art Contest, where students in two age categories (grades K-2 and 3-5) will be honored. This event is open to campus and community members of all ages. Pamphlets and other materials that provide fun information and activities about the brain and brain function will be available at the event.