Inquisitive students and their teachers from the Washington, D.C., area will explore the fascinating and multifaceted human brain at the 12th annual Brain Awareness Week celebration at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, on March 16 and 17. Students in grades 5 through 8 will engage in interactive activities sponsored by six institutes from the National Institutes of Health that focus on brain health and research. Students and teachers will see an actual human brain and talk with NIH scientists about how the brain works to create the human experience, as well as careers students might explore in the neuroscience field.
Brain Awareness Week is an annual international partnership of government agencies, scientific organizations, and university and volunteer groups. It was begun 16 years ago by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, a nonprofit organization of more than 200 preeminent neuroscientists dedicated to advancing brain education.
“Brain Awareness Week is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about the most exciting and complex organ in their bodies,” said the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Nora D. Volkow. “They will explore how the brain works and what happens when it becomes altered by disease or drugs. We hope that what they see, learn and experience will inspire them to become neuroscience researchers who will one day make ground-breaking discoveries about the brain.”
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Students will play an interactive game called NIDA Brain Derby. They will be divided into two teams to answer questions related to how drugs act in the brain and body, and how young people’s brains are influenced by illicit drugs. The winners will receive a Brain Scientist certificate.
National Institute on Mental Health
Students will be fooled into thinking that a rubber hand is actually part of their own body and how mirror therapy can reduce phantom limb pain in amputees. Students will also explore the Memory and the Brain activity, to learn how memories are stored in the brain, and what happens when even a small part of the brain is damaged.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Students will play Cool Spot Carnival, which uses materials from the NIAAA website for kids to show how alcohol interferes with sensory perception, movement, and balance. Carnival activities also include games such as Pick Your No's—which demonstrates effective ways to say no to alcohol. Students will then play a football-toss game while wearing fatal vision goggles that simulate being under the influence of alcohol.
National Institute on Aging
Students will be engaged in a discussion about brain aging focusing on how the brain and cognitive function—thinking, learning, and memory—change with age. The presentation will also focus on emerging evidence about a possible connection between some healthy lifestyle habits and prevention of cognitive decline, like Alzheimer’s disease, in later life.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Students will learn about the four lobes of the human brain in the Brain Lobe-oratorium. This hands-on exhibit will show what each lobe does relative to perception, thinking, personality, and behavior.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Step inside NICHD’s novel, multi-sensory exhibit and see the amazing Drunken Brain, pulsating with electricity and basking in a world of colored lights and eerie sounds. Dr. Dennis Twombly will explain some of the effects of alcohol on the brain, and how alcohol exposure during pregnancy and adolescence can lead to possible brain damage and alcohol addiction later in life.
National Museum of Health & Medicine
The Brain Collector: Archie Fobbs, collections manager of the National Museum of Health and Medicine's Neuroanatomical Collections, will use specimens from the world's largest brain collection to demonstrate functional aspects of the brain and the important roles it plays in everyday life. Students will learn about basic malfunctions of the nervous system and their consequences. For more information about the museum, visit
This event is located on an Army post, so media wishing to attend must contact Melissa Brachfeld at 202-782-2671 to pre-register. If applicable, vehicle information (make, model, color, license plates and state of registration) should be provided. Media should use the main entrance at 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW, which intersects with Elder Street.