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Tri-C brain series parallels president’s research initiative

Tom Kowalczyk, a biology professor at Cuyahoga Community College, describes how electrodes placed on the scalp of Carol Jarosz, of Westlake, cause brain activity to be plotted on the monitor. The demonstration of electroencephalography was one of several interactive displays at the college's Westshore Campus Sept. 11 as educators launched a yearlong series of lectures and discussions on the human brain. (West Life photo by Kevin Kelley)

By Kevin Kelley


In April, President Barack Obama proposed a $100 million initiative in which science researchers will endeavor to map the human brain. The 10-year research program, known as Brain Research Through Advancing Neurotechnologies, would also strive to develop new treatments for brain disorders like autism, epilepsy, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s.

Cuyahoga Community College’s Westshore Campus has built on the president’s interest in the brain with a yearlong lecture series on the human brain.

“It’s a year of events to get you thinking,” explained Terri Pope, a biology professor at the college.

At the launch of the series Sept. 11, Pope said it’s exciting to think scientists may one day be able to easily visualize individual thoughts.

“We are going to take a look at the brain like never before,” she said of Obama’s proposed science initiative.

Following Pope’s introductory remarks, attendees took turns at several interactive stations. One station allowed individuals to see their brain waves on a large monitor after electrodes were placed on their heads. Another table included several models of the human brain along with an actual brain preserved in a large jar.

The brain series at Tri-C’s Westshore Campus actually consists of two parts. The first is an evening lecture series taking place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month through May, except for January. The evening series is designed to be more interactive, said Robert Searson, the campus’ academic dean. Topics will be varied, with guest experts speaking some evenings. For example, the Oct. 9 session, entitled “Mysteries of the Brain,” will serve as a prelude to Halloween by examining dream interpretation and why many people like to be scared by things such as horror films and roller coasters.

The second component of the series is a brown bag lunch series, which will take place twice a month from 1 to 2 p.m. on Thursdays at either the Clemens Road campus or at Tri-C’s Corporate College West on Center Ridge Road. The lunch series will be more of an academic discussion, said Jerome McKeever, an associate professor of English. At several of the lunch gatherings, participants will view episodes of “Charlie Rose: The Brain Series,” which began airing on PBS in 2009. The lunch series is designed to supplement the curriculum of the campus’ honor students, Searson said.

Searson had set out to launch a series of lectures and other programs centered on a single theme to engage the campus’ students, faculty and the larger community, he said. The brain, he believed, would be a topic with wide appeal.

“The brain represents so much,” he said.

One goal of the brain series, Searson said, is to draw the general public to the Westshore Campus, which opened in January 2011.

“We think it’s part of our mission to educate the community,” he told West Life.

Searson also hopes that the brain series will encourage potential students to pursue the study of science, which can be very interesting. Although science can be academically challenging, it’s not an insurmountable discipline, he said.

For additional information and a full schedule of the brain series, visit




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