Brain Awareness Season

Brain Awareness Season began in 2000 as Brain Awareness Week. Now the three-month season attracts one of the largest groups of brain care and research experts in the U.S. Thousands of participants, from providers to policy-makers, gather to share information. All events are produced by the OHSU Brain Institute and are open to the public. They include:

  • The opportunity to hear from global leaders in neuroscience at that Brain Awareness Lecture Series.
  • Interactive neuroscience activities for all ages at the Brain Fair.
  • A free workshop for educators of all levels to learn about what role neuroscience plays in the classroom at the Teacher Workshop.

Brain Awareness Lecture Series

Our popular annual lecture series features some of the world’s top minds in neuroscience, from the OHSU Brain Institute and beyond. Some lectures prior to 2016 may be available on DVD. Email Kate Stout (stoutk@ohsu.edu) for inquiries.

Keynote speakers for the 2020 season will be announced here soon.

Good Vibes Only: Treating Addiction with Mindfulness
Katie Witkiewitz, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico
Can using mindfulness and meditation techniques help people reduce the intake of harmful substances and prevent relapse? Come hear about intriguing new scientific data on mindfulness and brain stimulation in addiction recovery.

Lifestyle Tweaks for Teen Psychosis
Lynne Shinto, N.D., M.P.H., Professor of Neurology, Oregon Health & Science University
For teens with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, the medication they need can also lead to an inactive lifestyle, with potentially negative long-term health effects. Can simple activities like yoga, meditation and cooking meals offset medication side effects and reduce psychotic symptoms?

Magic Mushrooms: Easing Depression and Anxiety at End of Life
Anthony Bossis, Ph.D., Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, New York University
Could the ancient practice of using psychedelic compounds for insight and healing have a legitimate and safe role in today’s health care? For many people, receiving a fatal diagnosis leads to psychological suffering, including anxiety and depression. Discover the intriguing implications of psilocybin-facilitated experiences in offering a sense of connection, meaning and transcendence at the end of life.

Trade Food for Thought to Power 86 Million Neurons
If an elephant has such a large brain, why aren't they smarter than primates? What biologic discovery led some primates to an evolutionary crossroads of cognitive capability? Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology and Biological Science, Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Vanderbilt, will explain why you may be surprised by the answer.
No presentation is available to view.

The "Secret Sauce" to Honing the Mind
Executive function skills - self-control, perseverance, creativity - are more predictive of success than IQ. What supports and what hinders these skills? Adele Diamond, Ph.D, Canada Research Chair Tier 1 Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, University of British Columbia, will discuss the benefits of play and movement.

Anxiety and Learning Problems: Could it be the Fats You Eat?
As essential nutrient our brains need for developing and maintaining our mental muscle and moods has been systematically removed from the modern diet - for convenience and "health food." Without it, we can't think, focus or control ourselves as well.  Bita Moghaddam, Ph.D., Ruth Matarazzo Professor and Chair, Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, OHSU, shows how food matters in youth and age.
No presentation is available to view.

The Criminal Brain 
Why do some people live lawful lives, while others gravitate toward repeated criminality? Do people choose to be moral or immoral, or is morality simply a genetically inherited function of the brain, like mathematical ability? Research suggests certain regions of the brain influence moral reasoning. Dr. Octavio Choi will explore how emerging neuroscience challenges long-held assumptions underlying the basis—and punishment—of criminal behavior.

Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind
Dual-function receptors in our skin make mint cool and chili peppers hot. Without the brain's dedicated centers for pleasure and emotional touch, an orgasm would feel more like a sneeze—convulsive, but not especially nice. Dr. David Linden, New York Times-best-selling author of The Compass of Pleasure, delves into how the organization of our body's touch circuits is a complex and often counterintuitive system that affects everything from social interactions to general health and development.

Sleep, Memory and Dreams: Putting It All Together
It's no secret that without a good night's sleep we feel mentally sluggish. But what does our brain do while we sleep? Is there a scientific reason we dream? Dr. Robert Stickgold will explore why dreaming and sleep are key to retaining, strengthening and processing new memories and skills. 

Alcohol and the brain (YouTube)
The positive health benefits of red wine have been popular news headlines for many years. In moderation, alcohol has been seen to improve cardiovascular health, immune system response, and even prevent gallstones. On the other hand, the negative health and social impacts of alcoholism are apparent in just as much news coverage. Dr. Kathleen Grant explores how behavioral neuroscience informs how, why, and when the risks of alcohol may outweigh the benefits.

Gaming and the brain (YouTube)
The generation just coming of age has been exposed to more electronic technology than any one prior to it. Video games in particular have drawn scrutiny as influencing the obesity epidemic, attention deficits, and pronounced violence of our youth. They also show promise as educational tools, memory enhancers, and improving high-level thinking. Dr. Adam Gazzaley presents the science behind your brain on games.

Marijuana and the brain (Youtube)
Oregon recently joined only three other states to legalize recreational marijuana. As consumption of the plant's products becomes more a mainstream activity, its health benefits and risks will be at the forefront of policy discussions. Dr. Nephi Stella explains the role marijuana plays in cutting edge neuroscience research.

The quest for consciousness
What is consciousness? What is hiding in our unconscious mind? And how can you harness both for a more fulfilling life? Consciousness is like an orchestra, and our brain is its conductor. Stemming in part from a long-standing collaboration with the late Nobel Laureate Francis Crick, Christof Koch, Ph.D., will be exploring how the flickering of nerve cells in the brain leads to information processing and the unforgettable experiences that make us who we are.

Alzheimer's disease is a world affair
Alzheimer's tops the list as the most feared diagnosis — even more than cancer or heart disease. It's for good reason: One in three people will die with Alzheimer's or some form of dementia. But Nicolas Bazan, M.D., Ph.D. has created a message of exploration and hope: Although Alzheimer's silences the mind, science can help solve the puzzle of the disease. In addition to being a scientist, Dr. Bazan is also the executive producer of the movie Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind, based on his book which has won several film festival awards.

Touching a nerve: the self as brain
Increasingly, philosophers have come to recognize that understanding how the brain works is also essential to understanding the mind. Patricia Churchland, B.Phil., a ground-breaking philosophical neuroscientist, author, educator and MacArthur Award winner will explore the impact of scientific developments on our understanding of consciousness, the self, free will, decision making, ethics, learning and religion.

Breaking the brain: the impact of concussion at any age
Robert Stern, Ph.D.
During collision sports such as football, the developing brain is at particular risk. Nearly 10 percent of athletes in contact sports suffer from concussions: about 135,000 each year for athletes between the ages of five and 18. Concussion rates in the high school game are 78 percent higher than in college, and brain injuries such as concussion lead to structural changes. Concussion may be a risk factor for mood swings, behavioral problems, motor dysfunction and even Alzheimer's disease—especially for football players who start very young. Robert Stern, Ph.D., one of the world's top researchers on the effects of trauma on the brain, will discuss concussion at all ages.

Art and the learning brain 
At a critical time in public education, critics are scrutinizing all aspects of curriculum and teaching styles. As it turns out, arts integration actually improves memory, retention and creativity. Mariale Hardiman, Ed.D. has developed a rich exchange between teachers and neuroscientists. The results are showing in teacher and parent satisfaction, classroom atmosphere and student outcomes: Her Brain-Targeted Teaching Model is recognized as a national model for both arts programming and integration.

The brain and concussion: What is the impact of traumatic brain injury on soldiers and society?
While the General Peter Chiarelli, former U.S. Army General and chief executive officer of the non-profit One Mind for Research won't be able to present his lecture in person in Portland, he has prepared a video presentation for the Portland audience. And he has sent One Mind for Research's chief financial officer, Janet Carbary, to speak about their  group's  work to fund research to treat and cure traumatic brain injuries and other brain injuries and diseases. Congressman Blumenauer, the founder of the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus will be at the lecture and will speak to these issues.

The brain and the heart: Does brain health equal heart health?
Is there such a thing as brain food? What is lifestyle medicine? Brain and heart degeneration can be altered very profoundly, but it needs to happen earlier, before symptoms of decline appear. Learn the very latest on the best ways to improve brain and heart health, along with new research related to the brain/heart connection. Joe Quinn, M.D., and Kent Thornburg, Ph.D., lead a discussion.

The brain and the adolescent mind: Why is it so special and vulnerable at the same time?
Bonnie Nagel, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital; member, OHSU Brain Institute 

The brain and cancer: How does your brain affect cancer — and its future treatments?
Joe Gray, Ph.D.
Gordon Moore Endowed Chairman, OHSU Department of Biomedical Engineering; Director, OHSU Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine; associate director for translational research, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute

Creating brain resiliency: What is the secret to healthy aging?
Richard Hodes, M.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, Maryland

The subconscious mind: What are our deep and secret thoughts?
David Eagleman, Ph.D.
Director, Laboratory for Perception and Action; director, Initiative on Neuroscience and Law; author, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, Baylor College, Houston, Texas

Deep brain stimulation: What can probing deeply into the brain do?
Kim J. Burchiel, M.D.
Co-founder, OHSU Brain Institute; Raaf chair, OHSU Department of Neurological Surgery; president, Society of Neurological Surgeons, Portland, Oregon

The latest research in autism: Why is autism like a broken mirror?
Eric Fombonne, M.D.
Director, Autism Research Center, OHSU Brain Institute; professor, OHSU Department of Psychiatry, Portland, Oregon

Neuroimaging: How do we peer deeply into the brain? 
Marcus Raichle, M.D.

Professor of radiology, neurology, neurobiology and biomedical engineering
Washington University in St. Louis

Nature vs. nurture: A story of adoption, reunion, neuroscience and shock therapy
Larry Sherman, Ph.D.
Senior scientist, Oregon National Primate Research Center, OHSU Brain Institute; professor, OHSU Department of Cell and Developmental Biology; president, Oregon Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, Portland, Oregon

Alzheimer's and the brain: What can we do?
Gary Small, M.D.
Director, UCLA Center on Aging, Los Angeles
Alzheimer's disease affects five million people in the U.S. It's true that we have no "cure" for the disease, but Dr. Small shows how genetics account for only part of the risk. Multiple, large-scale studies have found healthy lifestyle choices lower risk and may delay the onset of symptoms, sometimes for years. The only "cure" for Alzheimer's is prevention, and the Alzheimer's Prevention Program shows how to take control.

Law, ethics, humanity and the brain: How do they get along?
Henry Greely, J.D.
Director, Stanford Law School Center for Law and Bioscience, Stanford
Neuroscience increasingly allows us to explain, predict, and even control aspects of human behavior. The ethical issues that arise from these developments extend beyond the boundaries of conventional bioethics into philosophy of mind, psychology, theology, public policy and the law. In classrooms, courtrooms, offices and homes around the world, neuroscience is giving us powerful new tools for achieving our goals and prompting a new understanding of ourselves as social, moral and spiritual beings.=

New understandings of the brain: Why do we need them and what do we do with them?
Alan Leshner, Ph.D.
Executive Director, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C.
Advances in neuroscience are raising medical hopes for millions of people. Once futuristic ideas are now becoming reality and improving the lives of soldiers, accident victims and others. But with these benefits come critical social and ethical issues.

Creativity and the brain: What is it, who has it and how do we achieve it?
Jonah Lehrer
Author, Imagine: How Creativity Works and Proust Was a Neuroscientist, Los Angeles
Can we learn how to be more creative? As it turns out, we can, says Jonah Lehrer. Lehrer is the journalist whose writings on neuroscience—for Wired, The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine, among others—become immediate flashpoints for discussion. In his new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, Lehrer, the bestselling author, most recently of How We Decide, shows us that creativity is not some near-mystical trait that some people seem to possess, and which others try desperately to capture. We can—all of us—take practical steps to become more creative in everything we do.

Addiction and the brain: What is the toll it can take on the brain and on society?
Nora Volkow, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Bethesda
Addiction is both subtle and profound. It sneaks up on individuals and ruins families. Through neuroscience, we know more about addiction today than ever before. One of the country's leading experts on addiction, Dr. Nora Volkow, will explore how addiction starts, what it is and what can be done about it. She will present the most current findings on addiction which could ultimately lead to breakthroughs in preventing it.

The brain on fire: Can inflammation cause diseases that destroy the brain?
Story Landis, Ph.D.
Director, National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bethesda
Inflammation is part of the body's natural immune response to tissue damage. However, chronic inflammation is associated with many diseases. Why does the brain "turn on itself?" What is neuroinflammation? In the brain, it's thought to play a role in aging and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
By linking so many illnesses to inflammation, researchers are now rethinking their assumptions about what makes us sick and looking for ways to treat inflammation—and perhaps avoid these outcomes. Much of the scientific work that is discovering the causes and potential treatments for such neuroinflammatory diseases is being done by The National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Window into the brain: a new approach to depression
Helen Mayberg, M.D.
Emory University
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a revolutionary technology—electrodes implanted in the brain so that low-voltage electrical currents stimulate regions to counteract disease. This relatively new medical technique, already benefitting thousands of Parkinson's disease patients, may one day be employed to treat a wider range of diseases including: depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette's syndrome, dystonia, chronic pain and depression.

From genes to brains: a new understanding of autism
Daniel Geschwind, M.D., Ph.D.
UCLA

Autism is a tragic disease, for the patient and for the family. It is a poorly understood disorder. Nevertheless, the frequency among U.S. children is greater than that of pediatric cancers, diabetes and AIDS combined. Even more concerning: the prevalence of autism is increasing—one of every 110 children is diagnosed with the disease. In recent years, few medical conditions of childhood have stoked deeper concern—and ignited greater controversy. What is happening? Where does it come from? What can be done? 

Pain and the brain: perception and the pathways to relief
Howard Fields, M.D., Ph.D. 
UCSF
Pain is both a sensation and a motivation. Our expectations, mood and perspective on pain powerfully influence how much something actually hurts—and the decisions we make every day. The relief of pain and production of pleasure are closely related functions in the brain. Both have strong influences upon and are influenced by learning. Most people think of pain as a result of physical injury or disease, but psychological factors also play a huge role in pain perception. Pain is intimately tied to brain functions that govern behavior and decision making, including expectation, attention and learning. Pain competes for our attention and reaches far into our psyches. Neuropathic pain is especially difficult to live with and to treat. It is the result of damage to the body's nervous system and can cause excruciating pain. 

The brain and the immune system: How the body can turn on itself and cause such problems as M.S., Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, stroke and other disorders
Stephen Hauser, M.D.
UCSF
Sometimes our bodies turn on us. The immune system becomes our own worst enemy. This can especially happen with the brain and nervous system causing a neuro-inflammatory response that can lead to such diseases as MS, Alzheimer's, Stroke, and Parkinson's. Neuroinflammation is a new and rapidly expanding field that has revolutionized our understanding of chronic neurological diseases. This field has grown to encompass researchers with backgrounds in many diverse fields, including pathology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, clinical medicine, and epidemiology. Important contributions to this field have come from work with populations, with patients, with postmortem tissues, with animal models, and with in vitro systems.

How we decide: from brains to behavior
Jonah Lehrer
Author, "How We Decide"
At times, man is faced with life or death decisions or forced to make choices that have lifelong impacts. But how exactly does the brain make decisions when faced with complex problems? Are our brains efficient and well equipped to make choices? At what age do we develop good decision making abilities and why are some of us better equipped to make tough choices? Does reason or emotion rule?

Battling brain disorders: the critical importance of mental health advocacy for the individual and for society
Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Rhode Island
Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Oregon, filled in when Congressman Patrick Kennedy was not able to attend

The mercurial mind: bipolar disorder and creativity
Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D.
Psychiatrist and author
How can one survive if their brain is constantly riding an emotional rollercoaster? That is a question faced by those who suffer from bipolar disease, otherwise known as manic-depressive illness.This relatively common mental disorder can cause unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and even influence one's ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. It can also lead to unbridled exuberance and creativity. What does make the artistic temperament so unique and so volatile?

The emotional brain: the mysterious underpinnings of emotional life
Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D.
Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science and Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology 
New York University
We know our emotions by their intrusions (welcome or otherwise) into our conscious minds. Understanding emotion in the human brain is clearly an important quest, as most mental disorders are emotional disorders. Emotions become powerful motivators of future behaviors. Mental health is maintained by emotional hygiene and mental problems, and to a large extent reflect a breakdown of emotional order.

The executive brain: the frontal lobes and the civilized mind
Jordan Grafman, Ph.D.
Chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Can the characteristics of leadership be defined and mapped in the brain? Can we change our own brains to resemble those of outstanding leaders? Are there training programs for more "leader-like' brains? Is there such a thing as "executive intelligence"?

Neuroplasticity: The amazing adaptability of the brain
Mike Merzenich, Ph.D. 
University of California, San Francisco 

The arts and cognition panel
Featuring: Helen Neville, Ph.D. (University of Oregon), Chris Coleman (Portland Center Stage), Dan Wieden (Wieden + Kennedy), Mike Posner, Ph.D., (University of Oregon) 

Aging brain plasticity: It's never too late to learn or improve
Carl Cotman, Ph.D.
University of California, Irvine 

10th anniversary celebration of OHSU Brain Awareness: Brain Chemistry for Lovers
Valerie Day, with Portland Chamber Orchestra, Pianist Darrell Grant and Larry Sherman, Ph.D., Oregon National Primate Research Center

In search of memory
Eric Kandel, M.D.
Many adults can easily recall their childhood phone number or school locker combination. Where are these memories stored in the mind and how can we hold on to them for so many years? Answering questions like these earned neuroscientist Dr. Eric Kandel the Nobel Prize. Hear how his memory research helped form the basis of modern neuroscience. You may also learn why you always forget where you left your car keys.

The developing human brain
Pat Levitt, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University
Do our childhood experiences affect the development our brains? Is it possible to prevent depression or disability by addressing these problems early in life? Dr. Pat Levitt is an expert in diagnosing and disrupting abnormal brain development. As a parent, learn what you can do to spot early warning signs and attack brain disorders head on.
55 minutes

Gender and the brain
Larry Cahill, Ph.D.
Men may be from Mars and women may be form Venus, but sometimes it feels like we're from different solar systems entirely. Dr. Larry Cahill is an expert on gender and the brain. His research has identified the many differences and similarities between the male and female brains and has resulted in some mind-boggling findings. Hear how our brains can sometimes cause conflict but often compliment one another.

The sleeping brain
Al Lewy, M.D., Ph.D.
Oregon Health & Science University
Can sleep improve your memory and your mood? What's more important when it comes to sleep, quantity or quality? Distinguished sleep neuroscientist and body clock expert, Dr. Al Lewy reveals the silence of sleep in a lively lecture guaranteed not to make you drowsy.

2007

Hearing and the brain
Teresa Nicolson, Ph.D., OHSU Daniel J. Levitin, Ph.D., McGill University

The senses and substances
Martin Paulus, M.D., University of California, San Diego

Vision and the brain
David Wilson, M.D., Casey Eye Institute, OHSU

Pain and the brain
Alan Basbaum, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco

Our sense of self
John Frohnmayer, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts

2006

Behavior and addiction and the brain
Bob Hitzemann, Ph.D., Oregon Health & Science University
John Crabbe, Ph.D., Oregon Health & Science University

2004

The bard on the brain: Understanding the mind through the art of Shakespeare and the science of brain imaging
Paul Matthews, M.D., Oxford University

2003

The brain/body connection: Inside the mind of Ira Flatow
Ira Flatow, award-winning host of NPR's "Talk of the Nation: Science Friday", shares his passion for all things scientific.

Lecture information

  • When: All lectures start at 7 p.m.
  • Where: Newmark Theater, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland, OR
  • Questions? Email orbrains@ohsu.edu 
A representative from the Oregon National Primate Research Center speaks to a lecture patron.
Diana Gordon from the Oregon National Primate Research Center speaks to a patron at a Brain Awareness Lecture.

Brain Fair

Discover the amazing things our brains can do at our free Brain Fair. Science fans of all ages will be fascinated by hands-on exhibits, displays and more.

March 7, 2020
Location: Oregon Museum of Science & Industry

Stay tuned for more details!

A group of young people watch a neuroscience display.
Learners of all ages watch a neuroscience display at Brain Fair.

Fair information

When: Saturday, March 7, 2020

Where: Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, 1945 SE Water Street, Portland, OR

Cost: This event is free and no museum admission is required.

Questions: Email orbrains@ohsu.edu 

Teacher Workshop

Sponsored in partnership with OHSU's Office of Science Education OpportunitiesThe Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness and the OHSU  Brain Institute, the annual Teacher Workshop is a unique opportunity designed to give teachers an insight into what role neuroscience plays in the classroom.

This event is free, but registration is required.

Saturday, April 25, 2020
7:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Teaching in the age of social media
Alan Teo, M.D., M.S., Associate Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Public Health, OHSU

Without a doubt, social media has changed how educators and learners interface with each other inside and outside the classroom. Can social media be harnessed for positive outcomes, while avoiding what we see play out in the news – bullying, suicide, and attention lapses? Teachers at all levels are invited to learn more about social media’s lasting impacts on students at our annual Teacher Workshop.

Alan Teo, M.D., will discuss his work on the potent influence of social contact and relationships on our mental health. He will identify links between social media use and psychological well-being, and explore the perils and promise of social media as it relates to suicide and suicide prevention in young people.

As youth spend more and more time in digital worlds, concern about social isolation in the real world has grown. In this context, Dr. Teo will also touch on his research into a psychological condition called hikikomori, which is an extreme variant of social withdrawal that most commonly occurs in young people.

Alan Teo, M.D., M.S. is a Core Investigator in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Health Services Research & Administration (HSR&D) Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care, and an Associate Professor at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), with dual appointments in the Department of Psychiatry and School of Public Health.

Dr. Teo has conducted work that has been featured in: TIME, BBC, NPR, the New York Times, and several other news outlets.

Be Physically Active 2Day (BEPA 2.0)! Getting Kids Active with Classroom-based Brain Boosters
Kathy Gunter, Ph.D., Professor and Extension Physical Activity Specialist, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University

Learn about the development of and resources available to implement BEPA 2.0.  BEPA 2.0 is a classroom-based physical activity program aligned to K-5 state and national health and physical education standards. BEPA 2.0 can be used in and outside of the classroom and before, during or after school to increase children’s physical activity time at school.

A speaker presents a lecture to a full auditorium.
Dr. Joanna Christodoulou presents a lecture on dyslexia and the brain at the annual Teacher Workshop.

Workshop information

  • When: Saturday, April 25, 2020
    • 7:30 a.m. Continental breakfast and networking
    • 8 a.m. Teaching in the Age of Social Media
    • 10:30 a.m. Getting Kids Active with Classroom-based Brain Boosters
    • 12:30 p.m. Adjourn
  • Where: OHSU Auditorium, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR
  • Cost: This event is free for educators of all levels
  • Questions? Email orbrains@ohsu.edu 

Do you live outside the Portland area?

There may be an opportunity for you to participate via videoconference. 

Please contact Kate Stout (stoutk@ohsu.edu, (503) 494 0885) for more information.