Brain Awareness Week 2013


BAM Takes Action and Evokes Excitement and Intrigue into Neuroscience Research

Jessica Colby-Milley
B@M: April 8th, 2013

From March 11 to 17, the Neuroscience community of Montreal opened their doors and reached out to over 8,000 children and adults to promote brain research during the annual worldwide Brain Awareness Week campaign. Over the course of a week, 300 neuroscience presentations were given in Montreal elementary and high schools. A Scientific Café on the neuroscience behind love, sex and chocolate was also held, as well as an open house showcasing the state of the art facilities and research being conducted at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI). Brain Awareness Week in Montreal is made possible each year through the passion and dedication of the volunteer organization Brain Awareness Montreal (BAM).

A key mission of BAM is to reach out to school-aged children to spark their curiosity and interest in understanding the workings of the brain. During Brain Awareness Week 2013, this mission was achieved on an impressively large scale. Through the neuroscience presentations delivered in English and French at both elementary and high school levels, thousands of students in the greater Montreal area were reached in one week. Volunteers, many of whom are graduate students in neuroscience, delivered the presentations, designed to teach the specific topics in a fun and interactive way. At the elementary school level, the presenters spoke on the five senses, while the high school students learned about the effects of drugs on the brain. It may not come as a surprise that one of the highlights for both age groups was the unique opportunity to see, touch and learn from a real brain during the presentations. As explained by Cristina McHenry, president of BAM, it is this sort of hands-on approach that is the most effective method to get kids excited about neuroscience.

During Brain Awareness Week, students from the greater Montreal area were invited to the MNI open house, on March 15.   The children attended three workshops featuring demonstrations of different imaging techniques, including ultrasound and magnetoencephalography as well as presentations delivered by graduate students explaining their specific topic of research, such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Following the workshops, the students attended a keynote lecture by Dr. Joe Schwarcz, Director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society. With the charm of a magician and knowledge of a chemist, Dr. Schwarcz is famous for demystifying science in the most entertaining and engaging ways. As he spoke on natural and synthetic dyes, Dr. Schwarcz began demonstrating a chemistry experiment, or as perceived by the students, a magic trick. The students were in absolute awe as they watched the chemical solution prepared turn from gold to blue, at Dr. Schwarcz’s command. Dr. Schwarcz later revealed the science behind the magic and explained to the students that the colour change they were seeing was a chemical reaction known as an oscillating clock, which continued to occur without his intervention.

Dr. Schwarcz delivers the keynote lecture during the MNI open house.

As Dr. Schewarcz's keynote lecture comes to a close, students gather around to ask and see more!

Brain awareness week is not the only time of year when neuroscience knowledge and research is brought to life from the textbook pages and laboratory benches, and shared across the community. BAM also organizes Scientific Cafés throughout the year where a panel of experts discusses and answers questions on a chosen topic of interest. Previous Cafés have featured a diverse range of themes such as, Multiple Sclerosis, the power of the unconscious and the most recent, on love, sex and chocolate. The Scientific Cafés are hosted in an informal setting and are one of the few scientific outreach programs that are targeted to adults. These programs are a great way for adults who may not have a background in science to learn about the brain and neuroscience research. BAM will be holding their next Scientific Café, on concussions, April 24, 2013, at Café Campus. If you would like to know more about the programs offered by BAM or even get involved as a volunteer please visit for further details.



Question period at the Scientific Café on Love, Sex and Chocolate.


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