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About 500 middle school students took part in the annual National Museum of Health and Medicine Brain Awareness Week here, March 11-15, to learn more about the human brain, its anatomy, traumatic brain injuries, and more. This was the first time NMHM held the annual even since moving from its former location in Washington, D.C., to the new facility here on Forest Glen Annex, and was presented in conjunction with the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives.

The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives is a nonprofit organization of more than 300 neuroscientists committed to advancing public awareness about the progress of brain research and presenting information about the brain in an understandable and accessible method.

The purpose of Brain Awareness Week is to bring middle school students to an understanding of the neurosciences by interacting with practicing researchers, clinicians and other individuals who study the brain, and allowing the students to participate in hands-on activities, according to Tim Clarke, Jr., NMHM deputy director (Communications).

Among those taking part in BAW were members of the NMHM Partners in Education program, including Walter Reed Institute of Research, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, the Army Audiology and Speech Clinic/Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

For its station at BAW, WRAIR Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience had a display titled “Dancing Crickets.” Using interactive models, students were able to learn about action potentials, the basis of neuroscience, using a hands-on teaching tool called cricket electrophysiology. Using live crickets, the students were able to obtain distinct biopotential patterns using a variety of stimulation, such as moving a leg with a probe, shining a light, or playing music from a phone.

“Inspiring a new generation of brain researchers or clinicians interested in treating brain injuries remains a major goal of Brain Awareness Week,” said Adrianne Noe, NMHM director. “Engagement in the manner that BAW offers to student participants, hands-on activities, opportunities to talk directly with leading researchers in brain sciences, may be a leading factor in encouraging young people to consider science and medicine as career paths.”

“Brain Awareness Week at NMHM also highlights the attention that is being paid to this issue by the Department of Defense and the military services,”

said Noe. “DoD is actively working in many arenas to promote research to improve diagnosis and treatments as well to develop new protective technologies to deter brain injuries in the future.”

“Brain injuries are a kitchen-table topic for so many families in this country,” said Andrea Schierkolk, NMHM public program manager and BAW coordinator. “People of all ages engaged in athletics or recreational activities are wearing helmets, or not, and families everywhere are discussing how to help loved ones dealing with a brain injury or disease.

Brain Awareness Week makes those topics accessible to our student participants.”

The National Museum of Health and Medicine, a Department of Defense museum established in 1862, inspires interest in and promotes the understanding of medicine - past, present, and future - with a special emphasis on tri-service American military medicine. NMHM is an element of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command headquartered at Fort Detrick, Md.

NMHM is located at 2500 Linden Lane, Silver Spring, Md., 20910, and is open daily (including weekends and holidays) from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Visit the website or call (301) 319-3300 for information on tour programs and special events.