Let’s celebrate the brain!

University of Manitoba Café Scientifique session moderator, Dr. Thomas Klonisch with the scientific panelists: Dr. Marshall Pitz, Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie, and Dr. Sachin Katyal (left-to-right). Photo credit: Dr. Sari Hannila

Each year the Winnipeg Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience celebrates Brain Awareness Week, as part of the global campaign to promote public interest in neuroscience research.  The local chapter and the Manitoba Neuroscience Network held several activities during the week-long celebration the past March.

One of the notable highlights of this year’s Brain Awareness Week was visiting speaker, Dr. Luda Diatchenko (PhD, MD) from McGill University.  She is currently the Canada Excellence Research Chair and is one of the leading experts in the genetic basis of pain and is paving the way for the development of personalized analgesic medicine.  During her visit to the University of Manitoba Bannatyne campus, Dr. Diatchenko gave a scientific lecture showcasing her work on pain and individualized treatments for chronic pain.  Neuroscience trainees were also very pleased to host Dr. Diatchenko during a networking luncheon.

There were also several events throughout the week for non-researchers.  This included the University of Manitoba Café Scientifique series, a two-hour interactive panel discussion for the public that included lively conversation from specialists. “The Battle Against Brain Tumours: Developing New Treatments through Innovative Research” drew a full house at McNally Robinson that consisted of non-researchers and esteemed neuroscientists alike.  Standing-room-only emphasizes how frightening a brain tumor diagnosis could be.  Indeed, brain cancer is often hopeless, with glioblastoma and medulloblastoma being some of the most aggressive and fatal cancers.  Conversation about the exciting advancements in the field of brain oncology were driven home by riveting ideas surrounding the use of stem cells and molecular biology in the development of new tools and treatments against brain tumors.  This panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Thomas Klohisch (Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Manitoba) and included input from panelists, Dr. Sachin Katyal (Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Manitoba; Research Institute of Oncology and Hematology, CancerCare Manitoba), Dr. Marshall Pitz (Medical Oncology, University of Manitoba; Chair, Brain Tumour Disease Site Group, CancerCare Manitoba), and Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie (Department of Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, University of Manitoba; Regenerative Medicine Program; Canada Research Chair in Neuro-Oncology and Human Stem Cells).  This Café Scientifique session was co-sponsored by the Manitoba Neuroscience Network with the Office of the VP Research.

Another Brain Awareness Week event was the free neuroscience craft workshop with local bookbinder and artist Ann Stinner.  Daring faculty members, staff, and students channeled their inner artists to learn and create beautiful hand-made one-page books with artwork inspired by neuroscience.  This pop-up workshop was held in the University of Manitoba Brodie Centre Atrium and sponsored by the Manitoba Neuroscience Network, Manitoba Craft Council, and HSC Winnipeg.

Other notable events surrounding Brain Awareness Week included the annual Winnipeg Brain Bee, and for the first time, Neurocraft, an art exhibit that bridges neuroscience and art.  In another public panel discussion at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café, the Neurocraft exhibit was celebrated by artists, scientists, and the public.  “Brainstorming: What Can Art and Neuroscience Learn from Each Other?” was presented by the Manitoba Neuroscience Network and Manitoba Craft Council.

The 2017 Brain Awareness Week took place March 13 – 18, 2017.  The 2018 Brain Awareness Week will take place next year, March 12 – 18, 2018.