News & Events

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 early March.

There are three main components to the region’s Fourth Annual Brain Awareness Week festivities: a Brain Art Contest with community judging taking place on Friday, March 7; a Brain Game and Wii Challenge on Tuesday, March 11; and a Ceramic Brain Painting and Concussion Discussion event on Thursday, March 13, to include an award ceremony for the Brain Art Contest winners.

“This is our fourth year celebrating BAW; we hope to continue to awaken young minds to the marvels of the brain,” Dr. Rachael Hannah, event organizer and UMPI Assistant Professor of Biology, said. “I am especially excited this year as this event ties in both President Obama’s ‘BRAIN’ Initiative and UMPI’s new vision and mission with personalized learning. BAW events allow members of our community to explore science outside of the classroom and learn about the brain. In partnership with TAMC’s Rehabilitation and Therapy Services, this year’s focus is on brain injuries and what happens to our brains after an injury. I am delighted to have UMPI students speak about concussions during the brain painting event and student art awards ceremony.”

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 19th annual celebration takes place in mid-March.

Activities kick off with a Brain Art Contest for K-12 students throughout central Aroostook County, with help from the Wintergreen Arts Center. Officials have been collecting submissions of student artwork inspired by the brain since early February and will have them on display at the Wintergreen Arts Center in time for Presque Isle’s First Friday Downtown Art Walk on March 7. Community members will have 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, LS2D Social Interactions and Behavior, and LS4B/C Natural Selection and Adaptation.

A winners’ ceremony for the Brain Art Contest will be held on Thursday, March 13, during the Ceramic Brain Painting event at UMPI (see below for details on that event). Prizes will be awarded to the winning student artists in three age categories. For more information about these events, please contact Dr. Scott Dobrin at scott.dobrin@maine.edu.

“What better way to think and learn about our brains than through a creative expression in art?” UMPI Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Dobin said. “We hope students have fun while they learn about how the brain helps us and that they’ll have a better understanding of how brain disorders affect those afflicted and their families. The public display of the artwork is great for the participants—the community will certainly enjoy the various perspectives on the given topics.”

On Tuesday, March 11, from 5-7 p.m., organizers will host a Brain Game and Wii Challenge at the Campus Center’s Multi-Purpose Room. 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. 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. For more information about this event, contact Dr. Hannah at rachael.hannah@maine.edu.

“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.”

A returning favorite, the Ceramic Brain Painting Night, will take place on Thursday, March 13 from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Campus Center’s Multi-Purpose Room. As they have for the past three years, participants will learn about brains—this year, the focus will be on a “Concussion Discussion”—and then use that information and their imaginations as they work in pairs to paint a plaster brain. The brains have been made by UMPI Assistant Professor of Fine Art Hyrum Benson and students in the BioMedical Club. During the event, Athletic Training students will deliver a short public seminar, discussing concussions and other brain-related injuries. A highlight of the evening will be the awards ceremony for the Brain Art Contest, where students in three age categories (grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-12) 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. For more information, contact Dr. Hannah.

The public is invited and encouraged to attend and take part in all of these free events.