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Brain Awareness Week 2018

Thursday, 8 February 2018 12:06pm

Brain Awareness Week is a global campaign to promote public interest in neuroscience research. The Brain Health Research Centre has partnered with the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand, the Otago Museum, Brain Research New Zealand, and the Otago Neuro Group to bring you a variety of exciting talks, discussions and workshops from Tuesday 6 March to Sunday 11 March.

All the events are free, and only two require bookings made in advance.

 thumb - BHRC  thumb - Otago Museum thumb - NFNZ  thumb - BRNZ

Tuesday 6th March

Alumni, Books and Conversation with Otago Lecturers - Musicophilia

Professor David Bilkey, Brain Health Research Centre
6.30pm for 7pm start, University Bookshop, 378 Great King St

From Oliver Sacks, the world renowned best-selling author of ‘Awakenings’, comes ‘Musicophilia’ a book about the human relationship with music; how it can move us, haunt us, and heal us.
Come along to this special brain week talk and hear Professor David Bilkey, a neuroscientist from the University of Otago, discuss the book and talk about how the brain responds to music.
You don’t need to have read the book – just come and listen about a fascinating topic from an expert in the field. Seating limited, RSVP to


Wednesday 7th March

  • Successful Aging: Lessons learnt from LiLACS NZ,

Prof Ngaire Kerse, Brain Research New Zealand
11am-12pm, Community House, 301 Moray Place, Dunedin

For the past seven years Professor Ngaire Kerse has run the ‘Life and Living in Advanced Age: Cohort Study’, also known as LiLACS NZ (Te Puāwaitanga o Ngā Tapuwae Kia Ora Tonu). The study aims to help people to better plan for their health and wellbeing in later life, to allow the older population of New Zealand to share their wisdom with future generations, and to inform the development of local and national policies to benefit older people. Come along and take part as Ngaire discusses what she’s learned over the past seven years.

  • Working with people with Mild Cognitive Impairment: The Ronnie Gardiner Method workshop

Prof Ngaire Kerse, Brain Research New Zealand
1pm - 3pm, Age Concern, 26 Bath St, Dunedin

Two of the major factors contributing to falls are dementia and physical frailty. The Ronnie Gardiner Method, developed by jazz musician Ronnie Gardiner, address them both. In this free workshop Professor Ngaire Kerse will take you through the method and learn how to do it for yourself. The workshop is aimed at those with MCI and their families and carers. This will involve movement so make sure you are wearing loose clothing and sensible shoes. Booking essential: contact Jane Reynolds 479-4066 or

  •  Living to 100 with All your Marbles

Panel discussion with Dr Liana Machado, Prof Cliff Abraham, Prof Ngaire Kerse, moderated by Associate Prof Christine Jasoni
5:30pm Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum

We’re now living longer than ever before, but as medicine keeps our bodies healthy for longer, can we do the same for our minds? In this panel discussion our experts will share what they have learned about the ageing brain, and what we can all do to live to 100 with our marbles intact!


Thursday 8th March

  • Brain on Display

11am - 2pm, Upper Octagon

The Brain Health Research Centre's giant Inflatable Brain will be on display in the Upper Octagon accompanied by a number of community brain agencies

  • Brain Tools from the Future: Genes, Machines and Viruses

Prof Allan Herbison, Prof John Reynolds, and Dr Louise Parr-Brownlie, moderated by Associate Prof Christine Jasoni
5:30pm Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum

In this panel discussion our group of experts will explain and discuss the futuristic seeming technologies that are now becoming available to scientists. Our researchers will cover revolutionary new tools for brain research and treatment, including: CRISPR, neuromodulation, brain implants, and optogenetics. Join us as we investigate this futuristic reality!

Friday 9th March

Brain 101: A Users Guide
Dr Blake Porter, Brain Health Research Centre
1.30-2.30pm, Community House, 301 Moray Place, Dunedin

What even is a brain? Why do we need it? What is it made of? And why do people keep telling me to take care of it? There’s a lot going on inside your head: it’s messy, it’s complicated, and it’s honestly a little gross to look at. Good thing Dr Blake Porter has you covered with this users guide, so come along and get the most out of your brain with this quick and easy Brain 101!

Saturday 10th March

“Your Brain: The Secrets that Matter”
Brain Day at the Museum with the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand and the Brain Health Research Centre, University of Otago
10am 5pm, Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum

• 10-11am
Parkinson’s Disease and the Chamber of Secrets
Dr Louise Parr-Brownlie
For the last 30 years, treatments for Parkinson’s disease have been focused on an area of the brain called the basal ganglia. While these treatments are helpful, side effects develop in the majority of patients. During this talk Dr Parr-Brownlie will share the journey from discovering that motor thalamus connections and cell activity are changed in the parkinsonian brain, and outline how this knowledge is being applied to develop and test a potential new treatment.

• 11am-12pm
Movement Matters, for your Brain and your Body
Professor Ruth Empson
The part of the brain called the cerebellum controls and guides movement by constantly listening to signals from the body and using thee to predict and refine movement; but growing evidence suggests that the predictive function of the cerebellum goes beyond ‘just’ movement and includes regulation of perceptions and emotions. In this talk Prof Empson will explore these key roles of the cerebellum and how cerebellar dysregulation could contribute to conditions as diverse as autism, traumatic stress, and dementia.

• 1-2pm
An Anatomical Head: its impact on trauma research
Professor Darryl Tong
Understanding the implications of subconcussive forces to the head and how it relates to potential long-term brain injury especially in sports and the martial arts is an important topic and Professor Tong is part of a team who has developed an anatomical head model (which incorporates a simulant skin, skull, and brain) for forensic blunt and ballistic trauma research. In this lecture he will discuss his research and how this could help future generations.

• 2-3pm
Concussion in Sport
Professor John Sullivan
In this lecture Professor Sullivan will discuss his research which investigates if players who sustained concussions during their rugby career demonstrate an elevated risk of depression and/or mild cognitive impairment later in life compared to matched non-rugby players, and whether any deficits are associated with the number of concussions. This will inform recommendations for the monitoring the management of the concussed player and enhance the understanding of the brain health of retired sportspersons.

Meanwhile in the Atrium:
• All Day
If you’re between talks, have some questions, or just want to learn more about the brain, come up to the atrium during Brain Day. The Brain Health Research Centre’s giant inflatable brain will be on display, with exhibits from the University of Otago’s Anatomy Museum, activities on Science Discovery ipads, human/computer interfaces, and furry neurons you can make yourself! It’s fun for the whole family and a great way to learn more about what exactly is going on inside your head.

• 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm
Supersize Your Brain - How to Get better at Anything
Dr Owen Jones (Barclay Theatre)

Sunday 11th March

“The Importance of Social Engagement in Ageing”
(all activities in the Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum, sponsored by Brain Health Research Centre, Brain Research New Zealand and Otago Museum)

• 12pm
free light lunch courtesy of Collaboration of Ageing Research Excellence (CARE)

• 1pm
A screening of the movie “Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont”, after which there will be a discussion about themes arising from the movie led by CARE director Associate Prof Debra Waters and psychogeriatrician Associate Prof Yoram Barak (Dunedin School of Medicine)

• 3.30pm
“How to optimise Brain Health”

Professor Ted Ruffman (Dept of Psychology)
Healthy aging is associated with some decline in cognition and social understanding. Such changes are linked to naturally occurring changes in the brain involving reductions in brain volume or neurotransmitters. Yet, at the same time, research has shown that there are ways to offset or reduce such declines.

• 4.30pm - 5pm
Entertainment from “Dunedin 60+ Club” Entertainers Group