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Brainy Days Recap
Growing Community Outreach

By Aly Paz, Ph.D.

Pushing progress in neuroscience research was the underlying theme throughout year-round community outreach efforts for the Florida Atlantic Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute.

“With all the developments and advancements currently exploding in neuroscience, this is an exciting time to be a neuroscientist,” said Nicole Baganz, Ph.D., director of community engagement and programming for the institute.

The celebration of neuroscience during the month of March included the annual “Brainy Days” series with a kickoff debuting new insights into autism research, such as the importance of providing caregivers with early access to training.

The series continued with keynote speaker Sy Montgomery, naturalist and New York Times bestselling author of “The Soul of an Octopus.” Montgomery shared her exploration into the intelligence and consciousness of octopuses.

Brainy Days’ grand finale included a science-meets-arts event co-sponsored by the Mind, Music and Movement Foundation, featuring a panel of experts who discussed alternative therapies for neurodegenerative diseases like yoga and meditation. The event concluded with a performance by the Voices of Parkinson’s Chorus and movement, dance and meditation demonstrations.

“Brainy Days is a spectacular way for us to spotlight developments in neuroscience research, explore topics that are of interest to the community and bring that conversation into a public space,” Baganz said. “Our community programs are designed to spark curiosity in minds of all ages.”

That pique of curiosity begins when people are young. The Institute’s Advancing STEM Community Engagement through Neuroscience Discovery (ASCEND) program hosted its fifth year of the semester-long after-school program for middle school children called NeuroExplorers. Using cutting-edge digital tools, virtual reality and state-of-the-art technologies, neuroscientists lead students through hands-on lessons and experiments to inspire a new generation of junior neuroscientists.

ASCEND lessons were also “taken to the streets” through the MobileMinds program, which brings neuroscience activities to more than 2,500 students across Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. These classroom activities allow neuroscientists to connect with students from varying backgrounds, introducing them to opportunities to explore brain science.

As part of the Institute’s ongoing partnership with Palm Health Foundation, MobileMinds was also featured during “The Art of Learning: A Cross-Curricular Art Show & Symposium” held at Florida Atlantic’s A.D. Henderson University School.

“It is an incredible honor to bring those discoveries and knowledge to our community,” Baganz said. “Our goal is to advocate for brain research and to promote mental health.”

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