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>This post was originally posted on the 14th of March, 2009, somewhere else that no longer exists<

Brain Awareness week starts on Monday and I thought this was a good time to launch this blog. International Brain Awareness Week is the brainstorm of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiative, and has now entered its 14th year. The objective of BAW is to promote public awareness of brain research by working with partners around the world to create events that highlight the public relevance of brain science. This is the third year that New Zealand has joined the campaign, and this year Brain Awareness Week activities will be taking place in Wellington, Dunedin and Auckland.

This is my third year participating in the organization of Brain Awareness Week at the University of Auckland. Together with the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand, the University of Auckland and the Auckland Neuroscience Network are holding for the third consecutive year an Open Day to be held on the 21st March in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. The day will include public lectures from regional neurologists and neuroscientists, research displays by the Auckland Neuroscience Network, and the participation of community support service. This is a unique opportunity to learn about how our brain functions, what basic and clinical research advances are being made and to receive brain health advice.

Diego Golombek, a professor at the National University of Quilmes in Argentina and winner of the 2007 Ig Nobel prize says:

It is obvious that these activities are essential. The brain is one of nature’s most fascinating things and knowledge about it is not the private domain of neuroscientists, but must be extended to society as a whole.

I asked Martin Giurfa, Director of the Centre for Research in Animal Cognition, CNRS at the University Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France, for his opinion on Brain Awareness Week and here is what he had to say:

Why Brain Awareness Week is important? Firstly, because it is a great opportunity to learn new things having fun: movies, concerts, conferences, etc, all in the same week, with the main topic of brain research, build an attractive program to better understand how our brain and other brains work, and to learn about last progresses in brain research. Secondly, and the order does not necessarily reflect my hierarchy, because it is a good way for researchers to make clear why their work is useful and where and how contributors’ taxes are used. I hate the image of scientists being enclosed in a cristal tower: BAW is a good opportunity to leave it and go to the people to exchange ideas!
Thirdly, because this is a potential way to stimulate scientific vocations and thinking in young people (go to the schools!); in an era in which it is said that less and less young people choose scientific careers, the kind of message we pass to them is critical: if it is a message of hope, challenge and excitment, as when one faces brain as a research object, we can imagine that perhaps one or two will be gained for the cause… And that it is not bad…

Martin Giurfa is organising his local version of Brain Awareness Week.

Why do I care?

Well, I care for many reasons. One of course is the ability to get the public excited about neuroscience and learn about the latest research that goes on behind the University walls. Another, as Diego Golombek so eloquently says, “because it is time for scientists to pull their heads out of the lab and talk about the wonders, greatness and miseries of their profession.”