Brain Awareness Day


Dyed cross-section of a brain.

Eleni Aneziris and Ashley Hong

On Friday, March 28, Stony Brook University’s Neuroscience Axis Club came to Ward Melville’s AP Biology and InSTAR classes as a part of Brain Awareness Week. The club consists of undergraduate and graduate students, mostly majoring in biology, neuroscience, and psychology.

Scientists used to believe the heart was the control center of all thoughts and decision making humans are capable of, and that fear was due to a person having cold blood. Now, we have more evidence to support the theory that the brain controls every single function in the human body, even those that we are not consciously aware of. In AP Biology, club member Mike described the brain as being “…the organ that will control the muscles, the feelings, the sensations, the organs.”

While trying to figure out the correct answer to a test question, your brain not only facilitates the conscious thought process; at the same time, it is also making sure that you breathe normally, that your heart is not out of sync, and that your body temperature remains constant. It is truly a magnificent organ.

AP Biology students were able to observe signals being sent in the muscles of cockroaches and earthworms, as well as their own hands, by attaching a SpikerBox to an iPad and recording the action potentials being fired. In the two organisms, they did this by playing music through the attached cables, and having the sound stimulate the muscles. In their hands, they simply had to flex and relax their muscles to observe the electrical signals. In addition, they were also able to dissect a sheep’s brain, and identify each section of the brain and discuss its functions. Club member Mike explained to us, “[The cortex] is where your sensory information becomes emotion.” He continued to explain that creativity is considered a complex human emotion, specifically because “…it is much more complicated than fear. Fear is processed in the amygdala. There’s no center for creativity.”

Students from Stony Brook University prepared several presentations for the junior and sophomore InSTAR classes as well. In his presentation of “Graphene Nanoplatelets and Next Generation MRI Contrast Agents,” one presenter highlighted the benefits to using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology. Another presenter spoke about her “Child Connectivity Project,” an undertaking that investigates children who develop depression from ages 9 to 11.

In addition to these detailed presentations, the students also spoke about their experiences with research, and focused especially on the hardships and obstacles that they faced as they entered the beginning stages of their science research journeys. One student revealed that he had sent over 20 emails in order to get into a lab. Another student claimed that she had dedicated herself to a field that she lost interest in, and discussed the way in which she changed the direction of her course studies.

Due to the fact that the students of Ward Melville’s InSTAR classes prepare and focus on doing research in a laboratory setting, the students of the Neuroscience Axis Club spoke of the qualities of researchers and offered numerous pieces of advice to the high school students. They stated that all researchers should have patience and be willing to grind it out. Although sometimes, when results may not turn out the way that they should, one has to know how to just keep trying. As club member Irene said, “It doesn’t matter what results you get. It only matters how you interpret them.”

AP Biology and InSTAR student Nima Mohammadi later commented about the event, “It was really beneficial that Stony Brook students could come to Ward Melville and be able to talk to us about the brain.” He then went on to say that, “The fact that brain research is such a specific field helps us see how after going to college, we can really specialize in the fields of research.”

It is through opportunities like Brain Awareness Day that Ward Melville students are able to explore their interests and be exposed to potential fields that they would be interested in pursuing. Neuroscience Axis Club member Irene explained that this was their goal and said, “We’re helping spread awareness about brains; it’s something we love to do.”