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Students visit MU for Brain Expo

Mar. 01, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- More than 600 elementary and middle school students spent Friday at the Memorial Student Center on Marshall University's campus to fill their noggins with information about the body part that actually fills their noggins at the Sixth Annual Brain Expo.

The event brought together students from Marshall and several schools in the Tri-State to exchange knowledge about the brain, how it works and what they can do to take care of theirs, said Nadja Spitzer, assistant professor in the department of biological science at Marshall.

Spitzer co-organizes the event each year with Professor Brian Antonsen, who also teaches in the biological science department at Marshall.

"We want them to realize their brain is an important asset that does many things for them in their daily lives," Spitzer said. "They tend to think about their brains in terms of book learning. They don't always realize that their central nervous system is key to throwing a good pitch, being fast on the football field or shooting a basketball. We want to help them know that science is cool, fun and exciting."

The event takes place in anticipation for Brain Awareness week in March, which aims to draw attention to brain science advances.

During the first year of the expo, there were fewer than 100 students, who visited about 12 stations, and Friday's event included nearly 630 students from nine schools, who visited two dozen interactive stations that tested their reflexes, engaged them in memory games, allowed them to create their own "brain hats" and helped them build brain cell-shaped keychains, Spitzer said.

Students from Williamson PK-8 School in Mingo County came to the expo for the first time this year after third-grade teachers Jacqueline May and Jennifer Sparks attended a summer training course in which Spritzer was a presenter.

"We thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for the third-graders," May said. "I hope they gain a lot of knowledge about the brain and its functions, and I hope this leads them to think about what they might do when they get older. Lots of these kids have not ever really been out of Mingo County, and by them being in Huntington and on campus, that might plan the seed in them to want to further their learning and education."

Eight-year-old Grayden Grace said he was familiar with Huntington, but he was really starting to become familiar with his own brain during the event.

"I saw how your brain acts when you sleep," Grace said. "It's pretty cool. It tells you what you need to do to take care of your brain."

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