Third Age Learning, Burlington

Art Gallery of Burlington     (Map)

Series #12: Schedule

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  Third Age Learning Burlington reserves the right to substitute speakers as necessary.
Date Details
September 14th
Unraveling the Great Cerebral Knot: Probing the Secrets of the Human Brain
Presented by:
Dr. Neil Fournier

Assistant Professor of Psychology at Trent University

The human brain is the source of our thoughts, perceptions, actions, and memories; it confers on us the abilities that make us truly human, while simultaneously making each of us unique. We are entering into a golden age of brain science in which neuroscientists from around the globe are making significant leaps in the understanding of the brain. Over the last decade, neuroscience has advanced to the level that we can envision a comprehensive understanding of the brain in action, spanning molecules, cells, circuits, systems, behaviour, and even thought. In this seminar, we will discuss our current state of knowledge about the human brain. We will review the general anatomy and function of the human brain and will discuss recent technological innovations that are opening new doors to explore how the brain encodes, stores, and retrieves new information. We will conclude our discussion on how these new innovations are shedding light on the complex links between brain function and behaviour—advances that are leading to new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. 

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September 21st
Memory and the Life Cycle of the Brain
Presented by:
Dr Myra Fernandes

Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience (Psychology) and adjunct in the Research Institute of Aging, University of Waterloo

The ability to encode, store, and retrieve information requires numerous cognitive processes. Identifying those critical for successful memory performance has long been a goal of psychologists and neuroscientists. In this presentation I will discuss the brain changes that accompany aging, and how these impact our ability to think, communicate and remember. I will review evidence from cognitive experiments, neuroimaging data, and studies of normal aging, that pinpoint critical processes, and brain regions, important for enabling contextually-rich high-quality memories and recollections of the past. I will also review the role of cardiovascular health and depressive symptoms on memory as our recent work suggests these also play a crucial and unique role in explaining individual differences in memory performance in healthy older adults.

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September 28th
The Brain - An Artistic Masterpiece
Presented by:
Becky Hewis

Expressive Arts therapist, Volunteer Coordinator Art Gallery of Burlington

We will start with an overview of what encompasses the term expressive arts -  understanding the basic differences between  of music therapy, drama therapy and art therapy, including fields of education and what to constitutes a qualified professional within their field, as well as typical places one would find expressive art therapists at work. We will look at how the field has grown in recent year.
As Becky’s education is in the field of art therapy, we will focus our discussion on art and the brain – looking at different areas within the field of art therapy where the science of the brain is vitally important to understand the extent to which we can use art to connect, to overcome barriers, to act as a means of expression and to expand our understanding of the brain.
We will then look at examples specific to Becky’s work with clients living with dementia to have a better understanding of the intersect of art and the brain for those living with dementia.

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October 5th
Physically Fit, Mentally Flexible: The Benefits of Exercise for Brain Health
Presented by:
Dr. Jennifer Heisz

Assistant Professor, Department of Kinesiology, and Associate Director (Seniors) Physical Activity Centre of Excellence, McMaster University

Age-related changes in the brain can compromise cognitive function. However, in some cases, the brain is able to functionally reorganize to compensate for some of this loss.  This talk will review the benefits of exercise on cognition in older adults and discusses a potential mechanism through which exercise may change the way the brain processes information for better cognitive outcomes. Specifically, older adults who are more physically active demonstrate a shift toward local neural processing that is associated with better cognition. The talk will also highlight practical tips for increasing physical activity to enhance brain and body fitness across the lifespan.

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October 12th
Language comprehension, conscious awareness, the brain….and what happens when it all goes wrong
Presented by:
Dr. John Connolly

Department of Linguistics and Languages, McMaster University

As you look at this program guide you take it for granted that you can read it or that someone can read it to you and you understand them…and you aware of what is happening around you all the while. All of these things “just happen” – until until they don’t. In this talk I will describe research in cognitive neuroscience using brain imaging tools to understand how speech comprehension and reading occur in the brain across both time – measured in thousandths of a second –  and space – measured in millimeters from one brain region to another. I will then describe what happens when the brain seemingly loses these abilities either abruptly as can be seen in many acquired brain injuries or more gradually as can be observed in some neuropathological conditions. I will present some research examining brain injuries ranging from concussion to coma and why traditional diagnoses of some of the resulting conditions are wrong over 40% of the time. Finally, I will present new research methods that enable the damaged brain to provide information about what skills it retains, which ones it has lost, and whether the diagnosed medical condition is correct or whether it falls into that 40+% error category. All of this information is now being used to study one of the most complex phenomena in brain research –  consciousness.

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October 19th
Brain Mechanisms Explain Emotion and Consciousness
Presented by:
Dr. Paul Thagard

Philosophy Department and Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, University of Waterloo

Is love a judgment, a body process, or a cultural interpretation?  Emotion theorists dispute whether emotions are cognitive appraisals, responses to physiological changes, or social constructions.   That emotions are all of these can be grasped by identifying brain mechanisms for emotions, including representation by groups of spiking neurons, binding of representations, and competition among representations. Emotions bind neural representations of situations, physiology, and appraisal into unified packages that can guide behavior if they outcompete other representations. Unlike traditional theories, this theory of emotion can also explain why people have conscious experiences such as happiness and sadness.

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October 26th
The Brain on Drugs
Presented by:
Dr. Bruce McKay

Associate Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Wilfred Laurier University

Dr. McKay’s lecture “The Brain on Drugs” will take the audience on a journey from brain chemicals to brain cells to brain circuits to the complexities of human behaviour when humans are “doing drugs” (both recreational and therapeutic). The lecture will address such questions as:

  1. “How do drugs affect the brain?” (here we will consider: What is a drug? How do chemicals often made by (or modified from) plants, fungi, etc., act as “drugs” in the human brain? How do drugs change the brain immediately during first-time use, and change the brain over the long-term after repeated use? Why do drugs produce tolerance and withdrawal and addiction?),
  2. “What happens to the brain and to behaviour when alcohol or drug use begins in early adolescence?” (in this part of the presentation I will address: When and why does drug use begin? Why are the negative short-term and long-term effects of drugs – on the brain, on behaviour, and on success later in life – so much more pronounced when alcohol and drug use begins in the early teenage years compared to the late teenage years? What kinds of tools and instruments does modern neuroscience use to study the brains of adolescent humans and animals on drugs?), and finally
  3. “How do we prevent or minimize drug use by adolescents?”

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November 2nd
Bacteria and behaviour: curious travels in another world
Presented by:
Dr John Bienenstock

Distinguished University Professor, Mc Master University; Founder, Brain Body Institute, McMaster University and St Joseph's Hospital, Hamilton

We share our lives with trillions of bacteria whose total genome exceeds our own by an order of magnitude. They influence our metabolism, immune and nervous systems and help us resist infections by pathogenic bacteria. It is also now apparent that common bacteria influence the behaviour of insects, fish and all vertebrates including mammals and that bacterial products form the basis of recognition of kin, expression of fear and aggression and choice of mate in rodents and fruit flies. What about us??

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