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Henrico County’s ‘Best and Brightest’ Psychology and Biopsychology High School Students Participate in VCU’s Brain Day 2012

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Spring break is typically a quiet time on college campuses.

Not so at VCU, where 275 Henrico County high school advanced placement students and their teachers attended the 6th annual “Brain Day Conference” on March 14. 

Brain Day is a neuroscience initiative held in connection with National Brain Awareness Week, which takes place March 11-17. The conference is a joint initiative between the VCU Psychology Department and Henrico County Public Schools and is directed by Joseph H. Porter, Ph.D., professor of psychology and director of the biological psychology program, and Tim Donahue, a graduate student. 

“We want the students to come away from this experience with a good appreciation to how important the brain is to human function,” Porter said. “I also see this as a recruitment tool for VCU.  They are juniors and sophomores, who may not have decided yet on a college.  It would be fantastic to have some of these best and brightest students come to VCU.”

The conference featured guest speakers on topics related to the brain and behavior as well as a poster session in which students will present posters and interactive activities on a wide range of issues relating to the neurological and biological basis of human behavior. 

David Cifu,  M.D., professor and chair of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation, VCU School of Medicine, and national director for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Program, delivered a presentation titled “The Miracle of Gabrielle Giffords: Understanding How the Brain Rehabilitates.” 

Alex Meredith, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and neurobiology, VCU School of Medicine, delivered a presentation titled “What is ‘reality’ to the brain?”

“We’re trying to give the students an outstanding learning experience,” Donahue said. “These disciplines (psychology and biology) are not as separate as you think they are. The students are getting a better idea of how the brain processes thought and language and perception.”

The conference was instituted to provide advanced placement psychology students with an academic experience highlighting the intersection of research in neuroscience and psychology.

Attending this year were AP psychology students from Hermitage, Mills Godwin and Douglas Freeman. Students in the biological psychology VCU dual enrollment course at the Maggie L. Walker Governor's School also attended.

Which playing card is larger? They are actually both the same size but this research project on optical illusions shows how issues such as light and shadow, texture gradient, linear perspective and relative size can create a perception that the card on the left is larger.
Which playing card is larger? They are actually both the same size but this research project on optical illusions shows how issues such as light and shadow, texture gradient, linear perspective and relative size can create a perception that the card on the left is larger.
These students learned that giving each other a “high five” was more difficult when goggles distort perception.
These students learned that giving each other a “high five” was more difficult when goggles distort perception.
VCU’s 6th annual Brain Day Conference attracted 275 high school students from Henrico County.  Students showed off their own research during this afternoon poster session. Photos by Mike Porter, VCU Office of Communications and Public Relations.
VCU’s 6th annual Brain Day Conference attracted 275 high school students from Henrico County. Students showed off their own research during this afternoon poster session. Photos by Mike Porter, VCU Office of Communications and Public Relations.