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Blair High School Students Marvel at Human Brains (in Jars) and More on National Brain Awareness Day

Published on Thursday, March 9, 2017 | 6:27 am

Blair High School Students marveled at the rare sight of human brains in jars and hands-on demonstrations about how the brain functions from leading scientists, doctors and researchers from Huntington Medical Research Institute (HMRI) in celebration of National Brain Awareness Day on Wednesday.

“This is a terrific opportunity for Pasadena Unified students to learn from experts and interact with leading scientists,” said Dr. Marisa Sarian, Pasadena Unified’s Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education.

“Our continuing partnership with HMRI is creating unique possibilities for Health Careers Academy students to expand their understanding of the brain and get experience in biotechnology, neuroscience, and other medical careers outside the classroom.’’

Huntington Medical Research Institutes is a Pasadena medical research institute founded in 1952 with the goal of developing knowledge and technology to change the way physicians diagnose and treat diseases.

This year, Brain Awareness Day activities include presentations such as The Heart’s Impact on the Brain, Sparks: Electrical Signals from the Brain, My Head Hurts: Migraine, The Developing Brain, and Brain (MRI) Imaging.

“Brain Awareness Day is a great opportunity for HMRI physicians and scientists to partner with Pasadena Unified to educate kids and remind parents in our community that our brains are vulnerable and need protection — at all stages of life,” said Dr. Marie Csete, President & Chief Scientist of HMRI. “We are eager to use this special day to bring awareness to a plethora of important brain-related issues and inspire kids to potentially pursue an interest in the sciences.”

For several years now, HMRI has been providing complimentary brain imaging scans to eligible Pasadena Unified student athletes through its traumatic brain injury monitoring program.

This year’s event featured hands on presentations in topics of brain health and disease all the way from development of the brain in the embryo through the aging brain through de-aging of the brain from Alzheimer’s disease, according to Csete.

The biggest attraction for students was the array of human brains floating in jars.

“I think most of the [students’] reaction to the human brain in a jar was ‘yuck’, but there was some definite fascination. You really don’t get a sense of what the brain is like until you see it in 3-D and so I think it was really important to expose them to that,” said Csete.

Blair High School’s Health Careers Academy prepares students for a range of medical careers. The curriculum includes college-preparatory courses, guest speakers from partner organizations, job shadowing, student research, career exploration visits, and internships with health professionals.

“It’s amazing that the students are having the opportunity to work with these scientists and actually see the scientists actually come into their classroom and see these presentations of amazing technology and the work that’s going on right now. We’re hoping that it will inspire some of the students to become more interested in science–to really spark that curiosity and that doesn’t happen every day. It’s never happened to Blair before and we’re hoping that we can bring it back in the future as well,” said Blair High School Biology Teacher Michele Manzanares.

The Health Careers Academy is one of Pasadena Unified’s nine College and Career Academies which prepare students for college and careers and are aligned with college entrance requirements, industry needs, and career projections.

For six decades, HMRI has been making biomedical discoveries that have set new precedents in medical knowledge across the nation and around the world.

“I’m surprised at how little consciousness there is in kids about their brains and so there were some surprising questions,” explained Csete. “I really want to get the concepts of brain health down for them so that they can really feel empowered to understand their brain and protect their brain,” said Csete.

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