Four brain scientists who recently joined the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC will share extraordinary insights and emerging concepts from research about the brain during the research institute’s eighth annual Brain School.

The one-hour interactive programs, presented via Zoom, are free and open to the public beginning at 5:30 p.m. on March 16 and March 18. Two researchers from the research institute will give presentations each night, exploring captivating themes in brain research from genetics and molecular biology to human behavior and brain development.

“The brain is a sophisticated computational machine, endowing each organism, including humans, with powerful abilities to navigate and adapt in the face of changing circumstances as well as serving as the source of creativity, passion, memory, and emotions. Every year we look forward to sharing our enthusiasm for brain research and the discoveries that emanate from it with our community during Brain School,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology.

Friedlander is an elected member of the Dana Brain Alliance, the foundation that started and organizes International Brain Awareness Week to educate the public about the wonders of brain science and the impact it has on our everyday lives. Working with the Dana Brain Alliance, the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute has been designated annually over the past eight years as the official coordinating entity for brain awareness week in Southwest Virginia.

To watch the virtual lectures and ask questions, tune in via Zoom at the appointed times for the events, or watch the live webcast.

2021 Brain School Schedule:

  • Tuesday, March 16, at 5:30 p.m.: Introduction to Brain Awareness Week and Brain School, presented by Friedlander.
  • Tuesday, March 16, at 5:35 p.m.: Healthy Moms, Healthy Infants: Maternal Influences on Brain Development
    Studies show that when expecting and new mothers are stressed, it can affect the baby’s development. Nutrition, feeding habits, sleep, and social interactions can also influence brain development during the first few months of life. Brittany Howell, assistant professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research, will explore how environmental factors, nutrition, and mother-infant bonding influence early brain development.
  • Tuesday, March 16, at 6 p.m.: Fishing for Insights: What Zebrafish Tell Us About How The Brain Works
    Yuchin Albert Pan, associate professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, is a neurobiologist who studies the development and function of cellular circuits in the brain in one of nature’s most fascinating vertebrate species the zebrafish. The transparency of the fish’s body, combined with the power of genetics and molecular tools to label cells, allows for unprecedented views into the living functioning nervous system in health and disease to study disorders of eye movement control and characteristics of autism.   
  • Thursday, March 18, at 5:30 p.m.: Building Baby’s Brain
    Consisting of billions of base pairs, the human genome serves as a blueprint that guides brain development and function. Anthony-Samuel LaMantia, professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, an acclaimed neuro-geneticist, and a leading investigator of DiGeorge syndrome, which has been linked with autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia, will explore how genes regulate brain development.
  • Thursday, March 18, at 6 p.m.: Why Do We Eat What We Eat?
    Diet and food choices are not only influenced by our environment, but also by our biology. Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, assistant professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, will discuss how our brain biology and physiological factors influence why we choose certain foods.

Members of the public are encouraged to submit questions via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the neuroscientists to answer during Brain School.