Be Brain Aware

As a museum, OMSI is lucky to have cultivated relationships with community partners like the Oregon Health & Science University. Twelve years ago OMSI began a partnership with OHSU's Brain Institute to promote their Brain Awareness Season. The season is a chance for OHSU to share the latest, most riveting knowledge about neuroscience through workshops, community activities, and a lecture series. The Brain Institue and OMSI hosted the twelth OHSU Brain Fair here at the museum earlier this month.

This free annual event showcases interactive exhibits, craft activities, demonstrations, prizes, and a chance to view real human brains up close! I attended this year's fair and learned a lot about my brain, along with seeing some pretty amazing and out of the ordinary sights. Below are some neuroscience facts highlighted at Brain Fair.

OHSU insect hormone research

Prothoracicotropic hormone controls the process of complete metamorphosis in insects like ants, moths, and butterflies. These creatures go through four distict life stages (egg, larvae, pupae, and adult) rather than molting into a larger version of their juvenile form - like a dragonfly or grasshopper. By studying how steroid hormones (like those that cause insect metamorphosis) affect the nervous system of a moth, researchers can apply that knowledge to see how molesules support development and learning.

Over 50,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease annually in the United States. OHSU's Parkinson Center of Oregon has been involved in research regarding the safety and effectiveness of drugs to combat this disease for over 20 years.

OHSU pain receptor study

Menthol, an ingedient in mint, activates the same nerve cell receptors for pain that cold air or ice water do. Researchers can use this receptor to study acute and chronic pain as a result of nerve injury. 

Women have less ADH enzyme (alcohol dyhydrogenase) in their stomachs than men. This is a major reason why women feel the effects of alcohol in the body sooner, since more of if ends up in the bloodstream. This could be one reason men, and not women, are more likely to become alcoholics.

OHSU medical students displaying a human brain

A synaptic cleft (the space between two neurons in the brain) is usually 20 nanometers across. A nanometer is a billionth (0.000,000,001) of a meter! Students and faculty at OHSU have been bringing human brains to Brain Fair to demonstrate the unique and incredible attributes that make it such a powerful tool.

You can find out more about OHSU's Brain Awareness Season here!

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