Arkansas Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience
Brain Awareness Day

2014- Saturday March 15, Discovery Museum

On Saturday, March 15, 2014, the ACSfN sponsored Brain Awareness Day at the Museum of Discovery in downtown Little Rock from 9 am to 4 pm. This year’s event was overall a success, with more than 1000 children and adult visitors participating in the several interactive exhibits that focused upon various aspects of the central nervous system.

Presented by: Dr. Jeff Padberg, Dr. Tucker Patterson, Susan Lantz, Matthew Fogle, Dr. Andrew James, Dr. Amrita Puri and numerous students.


Institutions involved: University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, National Center for Toxicological Research, Hendrix College and the University of Central Arkansas.

Dr. Amrita Puri’s exhibit
Dr. Jeff Padberg’s exhibit
Dr. Matthew Folge’s exhibit

Dr. Andrew James’ exhibit

Drs. Lantz/Patterson’s exhibit

Graduate student’s Exhibit

2013- Saturday March 17, Discovery Museum

ACSfN members from several local institutions helped to organizing and present the exhibits:
Dr. John Bowyer (NCTR) and Matthew Fogle (NCTR),
Dr. Andrew James (UAMS),
Dr. Amrita Puri (Hendrix & UCA),
Dr. Jeffrey Padberg (UCA).

Student participants included:
Jennifer Lenow (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences); Johnathan Rylee, Brad Moffitt, Alexis Bucks, Jordan Fletcher, Brooke Skinner, Jared Hogan, Thomas Groves, Taylor Mathis (University of Central Arkansas),
Kathryn Armstrong (Hendrix College).


2012- Saturday March 17, Discovery Museum


The following ACSfN members were involved in organizing and presenting the exhibits and interacting with the attendees: Dr. John Bowyer (NCTR), Dr. Tucker, Patterson (NCTR), Susan Lantz (NCTR), Matthew Fogle (NCTR), Dr. Andrew James (UAMS), Dr. Amrita Puri (Hendrix), Dr. Jeffrey Padberg (UCA), Dr. Abdallah Hayar (UAMS), Rosemary Cornett (UAMS) and many undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix College. These included: Jonathan Young, Pallavi Jaivijay, Sonet Smitherman (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences); Brett Pike, Sam Pike, Chelsey Sherwood, Monica Runge, Nicole Scroggins (University of Central Arkansas); and Sylene Cortez, Alexandra Stauter, and Zach Saul (Hendrix College). The specific exhibits (photographs included) presented this year included:

John Bowyer, Ph.D. NCTR had an exhibit titled, The “Your Brain on Jell-O”. It was an interactive exhibit that allows children to touch artificial brains made out of Jell-O and powdered milk to show them how fragile the human brain is and its overall size, shape and form (sulci and gyri, etc.). Children, 5 years of age and older, used cake frosting to place artificial arteries on the Jell-O brains. Younger (less than 5 years of age) children used a “brain mold” to make a Moon Sand brain.

Matthew Folge, Senior scientist at the National Center for Toxicological Research, showed that surrogates of brain function are often used to infer their existence and to observe processes that influence them. The most directly observable surrogate of brain function is behavior and by defining specific rules under which a particular behavior is elicited, it is possible to study very specific brain processes. While several functional domains attributable to the nervous system are still mysterious, it is possible to define many that are thought to be of great importance such as learning, the ability to recognize specific stimuli, short- and long-term memory, etc. Additionally, it is reasonable to presume that many of these important functional domains will be shared across species and, thus, if designed appropriately, tasks designed to elicit behaviors associated with learning, for example, should be useful for assessing learning in a variety of species. A battery of behavioral tasks, known at the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) Operant Test Battery (OTB) has been designed to assess: learning, short-term memory and attention; color and position discrimination; motivation and time perception. The OTB has been used for years in the assessment of monkey and child intelligence and at the Discovery Museum, this same instrument was provided for visitors to experience. While monkeys use the exact same apparatus (intelligence panel) of levers, lights, and press-plates to perform these tasks for banana-flavored food pellets, children—and interested adults—were rewarded with candy treats.

Andrew James (Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, UAMS) had an exhibit geared for children under 10 entitled “Your Brain and You!”. This hands-on exhibit offered many activities describing the shape of the brain. Visitors could color and create their own brain headband, sculpt brains out of Play-Doh, draw and color a brain, or apply a temporary brain tattoo. Adults received informative flyers about magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research conducted at the Brain Imaging Research Center at UAMS, while children learned how MRIs work from a display using magnets and iron filings.

Jeff Padberg (Assistant Professor, Department of Biology at University of Central Arkansas) presented an exhibit entitled "What can we learn from animal brains?" This exhibit was designed to introduce the audience to how and why we can use some animals (rats and armadillos) as models to learn more about the way our own brain is organized. Stained sections of armadillo and rat brains were presented on a microscope, along with a rat atlas, and the presenters described how different structures visible in the sections are also present in human brains. Additionally, a rat dissection was performed, and heart, lungs, liver and brain were placed into a dish for viewers to touch (after they had donned nitrile gloves), to further illustrate the similarity in organs between rats and humans. Paper copies of a visual illusion (the "dragon illusion", from Gathering for Gardner) were assembled and given to attendees, after they listened to a very brief explanation of why it is perceived the way it is. Finally, instructional posters describing the features of the armadillo that make it an interesting subject from an evolutionary neurobiology point of view were displayed and discussed with interested parties.

Susan Lantz, biologist, and Dr. Tucker Patterson, Associate Director, from the National Center for Toxicological Research, provided a display offering several types of educational literature on the brain. The literature was provided by the DANA Alliance and offered information for all age groups in the form of workbooks, games, brainteasers and ideas to keep your brain active. Question and answer brochures about neuroscience research were also provided as well as pencils with brain erasers, bookmarks, buttons and fun stickers promoting brain awareness week. The display also had a large brain balloon indicating the various brain regions and an interactive poster where children could match the physical activity or one of the five senses to its corresponding brain region.

Amrita Puri (Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology, Hendrix College) presented an exhibit entitled “Visual Illusions: Fooling the Brain!”. Visitors experienced and explored a variety of visual illusions, and learned how the mechanisms employed by our eyes and brain to support visual perception can also deceive us.

Dr. Jeff Padberg, UCA, "What can we learn from animal brains"

Dr. Andrew James, UAMS, “Your Brain and You!”

Dr. John Bowyer, NCTR, “Your Brain on Jell-O”

Dr. Matt Fogle, NCTR, “Operant behavior”

Dr. Amrita Puri (Hendrix): “Visual Illusions: Fooling the Brain!”

Hendrix College Students

Dr. Tucker Patterson, NCTR, "Educational literature on the brain"

Susan Lantz, NCTR, "How does your brain work"


2011- Saturday March 12, Discovery Museum
  • 5 “Hands-On” Demonstrations:
    - Andrew James & students (BIRC): Functional MRI & Neuroimaging
    - Matt Fogle/John Chelonis (NCTR/ACH): OTB Display
    - John Bowyer/Susan Lantz/Tucker Patterson (NCTR): Jell-O Brains & more
    - Jeff Padberg & students (UCA): How scientists study the brain
    - Mita Puri & students (Hendrix): Discover how our eyes and brains can deceive us!

John Bowyer, Ph.D., NCTR, “Your Brain on Jell-O”

Matt Fogle, NCTR, “Operant behavior”

Mita Puri & students (Hendrix): Discover how our eyes and brains can deceive us!

Hendrix College Students


2010- Saturday March 20, Discovery Museum

John Bowyer, Ph.D., NCTR, “Your Brain on Jell-O”

Jason Chang, Ph.D., UAMS, “Eye and Brain Models”

Barbary Clancy, Ph.D., and students, UCA, “Rodent anatomy and development”

Dave Davies, Ph.D., UAMS, “How the skull protects the brain”

Matt Fogle, NCTR, “Operant behavior”

Andy James, Ph.D. & Andi Ham, UAMS, PRI,“Brain imaging and misc fun stuff”

Updated 5/2/2015