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Researchers at UBCO show off neuroscience labs for Brain Awareness Week

March 13-19 marks Brain Awareness Week, and the UBCO invited the public to take a tour through their labs, giving them a closer look at the importance of neuroscience research and the progress they’ve made when it comes to understanding the brain.

Dozens of people showed up to Friday’s event, to learn about all the different types of brain sciences that UBCO students are studying.

“From stroke research to the aging brain, to the science of how you stay upright and balanced and walk — there’s tons of different brain activities and interactive activities going on, and demonstrations,” explained research coordinator, Sara Klick.

Klick says the research being done at the university is vital and could someday save lives.

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“There are so many victims unfortunately of stroke or brain injury, concussions and all of these various different things that something that you can’t really see,” said Klick.

“Brain science is incredibly important to research because we need to be able to figure out what’s going on in a place that is not as obvious.”

One PhD student researching neuromuscular aging spent the day demonstrating two clinical tests that she uses, focusing on the fine movements of the hand muscle, and how the brain communicates with the muscles involved.

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“We are using this test to compare between older adults and younger adults, and between male and female, and disease population and healthy,” said PhD student Parisa Alaei.

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“This helps us understand how your brain communicates with your muscles, and how both sides of your brain work together.”

In fact, researchers have found the more a person focuses on the muscle they want to move, the more strength and muscle memory will be gained.

“The brain is where the signal originates, and it’s what drives the systems beneath it in the lower-brain areas and the spinal cord to actually produce muscle force,” said research assistant, Eli Haynes.

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One visitor at Friday’s event says he was amazed to see how advanced the neuroscience research department at UBCO is.

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“Some of the different experiments that they’re doing and the tests they’re doing, even things like coordination and those types of things. I can see the application in medical practice down the road that this will develop, and I just found it to be quite interesting,” said Rick Boychuk.

“I thought it was really interesting when they put the magnetic current on my head, and they could have my arm move. It shows the interconnectedness of our nervous system.”

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