February 28, 2019

Get all your brain questions answered at SIU’s 2019 Brain Awareness Month

by Hannah Erickson

Brain Awareness MonthCARBONDALE, Ill. — With brain disorders and traumatic brain injuries increasing at record rates across the nation, a group of graduate students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are working to bring awareness to the topic with a full schedule of March events.

Joining in the national effort to increase public attention to the progress and benefits of current brain research, SIU’s Cognitive Sciences Graduate Organization are hosting their second annual Brain Awareness Month. With guest lectures, panel discussions and student workshops, the goal is to remove stigmas and give people freedom to talk about real issues and concerns.

Highlighting current research and resources for community members

While brain related injuries and disorders affect a large percentage of the population, many people do not feel comfortable talking about these topics. For Jennica Young, doctoral candidate in the Brain and Cognitive Science degree program, this month is all about starting conversations and pointing people toward valuable research in this field.

“People don’t talk about brain injuries enough,” Young said. “This is a really good opportunity to raise awareness about how common this is. Many people have concussions or brain injuries, and they think they are suffering alone. We want this to be a time to let them know that they aren’t alone.”

The events are set up in an interactive format, so people can truly access the information they need.

“We want to give people information about what types of research is being done,” Young explained. That way if an issue ever comes up, people can work with their doctors and make informed decisions.

“Traumatic brain injury has been termed in the literature as the silent epidemic,” fellow doctoral candidate Nicholas Sanislo said. “Doing this type of outreach and public awareness is our way of doing our part in the field.”

Guest lecture on traumatic brain injuries

The month of events launches with a guest lecture by two psychology professionals, both SIU alumni. The topic of discussion is, “Animal models for exploring and treating psychiatric-like dysfunction after traumatic brain injury,” and will address a variety of aspects related to brain injuries.

Kris Martens, teaching assistant professor at West Virginia University, and Cole Vonder Haar, assistant professor at WVU, will give the lecture at 12 p.m. on March 8 at Guyon Auditorium.

Both Martens and Vonder Haar each received a Ph.D. from SIU and performed post-doctoral research on issues related to traumatic brain injuries. The duo will share from their findings and discuss possible treatment options for those suffering from TBI.

Panel discussion on brain related disorders

During the last week of March, a panel discussion with three experts from Neuro Restorative will give community members an opportunity to hear about local resources and ask questions. 

The discussion will break down complex issues in an understandable way, serving as a great resource for parents with kids in sports or those with questions about traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorders or other similar brain related conditions. 

The panel discussion is set for 4 p.m. on March 26 at Morris Library room 752/754. By bringing in local experts, the goal is to give community members a tangible way to connect with information that may be helpful to them, Young explained. 

Special guest panelists include: 

  • Lindsay Rhoades, Speech Language Pathologist QBISP (Qualified Brain Injury Support Provider).
  • Jeremy Rosene, Counselor, MS, LCPC, CRC, CCTP, CBIS, QBISP.
  • Alyson Wolz, DNP, APRN, PMHCNS, BC, Doctor of Nursing Practice, Psychiatric/Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist, Board Certified Brain injury Specialist. 

Workshop corresponding with Math Field Day

Brain Awareness month 2In addition to the scheduled events in the month, the psychology students are also hosting a workshop for local kids that corresponds with SIU’s Math Field Day, March 19. Regional high school students will have opportunities to hear about current research and tour the labs and other on-campus facilities.

The students will get to see the difference between human and rodent brains and participate in hands-on experiments and sample research projects, Young explained. The workshop will give students a broad exposure to a variety of STEM fields and research areas.

Go to math.siu.edu/mfd to learn more about SIU’s Math Field Day.

Campaign for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Working in partnership with the psychology department and the graduate and professional student council, the students are selling t-shirts for $15 to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and for brain awareness event next March.

Pagliai’s Pizza will also donate a portion of its proceeds on March 26 to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

For more information, contact Jennica Young, jennicay@siu.edu.