OAKLAND -- On Saturday, the Health Education Center at Samuel Merritt University will open its doors to the public for a free brain health expo that promises to engage your interests and provide participants of all ages with information about the most complex organ of the human body.

The day will be filled with hands-on interactive activities, an "Inside the Brain" lab experience and four guest speakers, covering topics that include introducing the brain, brain injury prevention, stress management techniques and ways to improve memory.

The "Get to Know Your Brain!" event is part of the Brain Awareness Program developed by Dr. Barb Puder, who teaches medical neuroscience at the university. The event's purpose is the idea that the more you know about something the better decisions you can make about it -- in this case, the brain.

"If you understand how a part of the body works, you are more likely to appreciate it better and take better care of your health in that area," Puder said. "If people understand how important the brain is and some of its functions, they can take better care of it."

Hands-on activity centers will fill the Bechtel Room, facilitated by students from the university's masters of science program in occupational therapy. Topics include brain dominance and hemispheres, sleep and dreams, vision, how one learns, Alzheimer's disease and reflexes and reaction time, among others.

Each topic can be adjusted for age so there will be many interesting things for children to do, such as participating in a neuron race, tasting jelly beans and putting their hands in a "brain box" to identify an unknown object.


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"These are the kinds of things that you can pick and choose to do, like going to a science museum or Exploratorium," Puder said.

At a brain anatomy station, visitors will be able to view and examine real human brains, opting just to look or donning goggles and gloves to actually examine parts of the brain and spinal cord while students explain what they do.

Guest speakers will be scheduled throughout the day starting with an introductory brain talk by Puder, appropriate for children and adults. The three remaining talks will be geared toward high schoolers and above. Following Puder, Guy McCormack, Ph.D., will discuss memory and ways to keep your brain in its best shape throughout your lifetime. Mike DeRosa, Ph.D., will then discuss how to prevent and heal traumatic brain injury, followed by Frank Staggers Jr., M.D., on the effects of stress and stress reduction on the body.

Regardless of level of knowledge, the topics presented in the activity centers and talks are ones that anyone can participate in and benefit from, especially considering an emerging doctrine regarding how the brain is always changing. Puder explained that the brain is very "plastic," always changing in the form of neurons and neural circuits.

"The more active we keep our brain, the more we engage it intellectually throughout our lifetime, the healthier our brain is," Puder said. "Every time we learn something new, we're making a different type of connection in our brain."

The brain expo is a great way to make new connections and have fun at the same time.

"We're trying to get people really aware of their brain and have an appreciation for it," Puder said. "Hopefully, they will make good lifestyle choices to protect, enhance, exercise and challenge their brain."

IF YOU GO
What: Brain Expo
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Samuel Merritt University, 400 Hawthrone Ave., Oakland, 510-869-6511, ext. 4876
Details: The expo is free, and lunch will be provided.
Information: 510-869-6511, ext. 4876, or www.samuelmerritt.edu/news/2013/learn-all-about-brain-health-free-expo-saturday-march-16