The Evolving Brain

The astonishingly complex human brain is the product of hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Layered upon its ancestral core of ancient molecules and neural circuits, which have comparable functions in other animals, new structures have evolved that expand the capacity of the human brain to flexibly process information and to elaborate complex behaviors. Human brains are continuously remodeled by environmental forces and by the enormous sum of information generated by human inventiveness. These new technologies further expand the power of our brain to manipulate information and interact with countless others in remote environments that once were far beyond our reach. Today, sophisticated techniques allow us to probe the structure and function of our own brains and those of other species with the aim of better understanding how brains originated and where the evolution of our own brain will take us.
 
Lectures are held at Centennial Hall on the campus of the University of Arizona. Parking is available on a pay per use basis in the Tyndall Avenue Garage. All lectures begin at 7:00 PM and are free to the public. Call 520-621-4090 for more information.
 
Jan 27 2014
Time Traveling: What Our Brains Share with Beetle Brains
Nicholas J. Strausfeld, PhD, Director, Center for Insect Science and Regents’ Professor of Neuroscience

Emerging evidence suggests that distantly related animals such as mice and flies manifest similar behaviors because they have genealogically corresponding brain centers. The view is that a common ancestor had already evolved circuits for behavioral actions, memory of such actions, and their consequences more than half billion years ago. Evidence that those circuits have been inherited through geological time challenges how we as a species relate to animals that we view as wholly different from ourselves. 

Feb 3 2014
A Window into the Brain: Viewed through the Evolution of MRI Technology

Diego R. Martin, MD, PhD, Chair, Department of Medical Imaging and Professor of Medicine, UA College of Medicine
The evolution of MRI technology and its use to study brain structure and function has revealed much of what we know today about the evolving brain and has revolutionized clinical care. Rich visual content will be used to illustrate the technical elements that have been pieced together over time to form the modern MRI scanner. Each element of MRI technology will be introduced from the historical timeline as the scanner system is built piece-by-piece for the audience. Milestones and personalities will be introduced to add meaning and significance showing the innovative spirit and creativity of this technology’s development.

Feb 10 2014
The Evolution of Modern Neurosurgery: A History of Trial and Error, Success and Failure

G. Michael Lemole, Jr., MD, Chief, Division of Neurosurgery and Professor of Surgery, UA College of Medicine

The science and art of neurosurgery has advanced dramatically in the past few decades, and yet its history is firmly grounded in a paradigm of surgical trial and error.  Collaborations with allied specialties have made these “trials” safer, but much of what we know of functional brain anatomy comes from disease or iatrogenic perturbations.  This lecture will explore the keen observations and dogged persistence that led to our current state of the art.  We will explore how this surgical knowledge of the brain makes our current practice safer and how future technologies will advance our understanding with less invasive but more meaningful impact.

Feb 17 2014
The Literate Brain

Pélagie M. Beeson, PhD, Professor and Head of Speech, Language and Hearing Science

Written language represents a relatively recent cultural invention, and unlike the development of spoken language, literacy requires explicit and prolonged instruction. How is this accomplished? Do unique regions of the brain develop in support of reading and spelling, or are these skills dependent upon brain regions involved in other perceptual and cognitive processes? By studying disorders that arise following brain damage in previously literate adults, and by using brain imaging techniques to examine neural activity as healthy individuals engage in reading and spelling, a new understanding of the brain is being revealed. Further clarification comes from rehabilitation research that promotes the return of written language skills and provides a view of the brain’s plasticity.

Mar 3 2014
The Ancestors in Our Brains

Katalin M. Gothard, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Physiology, Neurobiology, and the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute

The human brain retains ancestral neural circuits that support behaviors geared toward satisfying basic biological needs. Superimposed on these core circuits are newly evolved structures that specialize in complex computations. These specializations convey flexibility to the brain and the ability to distill information into abstract thought. The ancient molecules and core circuits that make us social and emotional beings interface harmoniously with the newly evolved structures that make us thinkers and inventors of technology. 

Mar 10 2014
More Perfect Than We Think

William Bialek, PhD, John Archibald Wheeler/Battelle Professor in Physics, Princeton University

From its ability to appreciate beauty, to the reassembly of distant childhood memories, to our almost unthinking ability to respond to the unexpected, is our brain really "doing a good job" at solving the problems we confront as we move through the world? Has evolution granted us a rich inheritance of tools, or saddled us with artifacts of a distant past, limiting our ability to solve new problems? Many other animals, from insects to our fellow primates, do many equally remarkable things, but several examples will be presented allowing us to see how the human brain solves problems in an essentially perfect way — no machine operating under the same physical constraints could do better. Examining what is common among the problems that the brain is good at solving begins to suggest a more general principle that may be at work.

Lectures will be held at Centennial Hall on the campus of the University of Arizona.
View map to Centennial Hall

Parking

Parking is available in the Tyndall Avenue Garage.
View map to Tyndall Avenue Garage

Time and Cost

All lectures begin at 7 PM and are free to the public.

For More Information
Please call 520.621.4090

Course Overview

ECOL 596s is structured as a 1-unit graduate course with discussion, lecture and activities on the teaching of science in a high school classroom. The course is focused around an evening speaker series offered through the College of Science.

Teacher-participants meet once a week for three hours in the evening. In the first hour the class participates in an activity for teaching science in a high school science classroom or a presentation on a K–12 outreach opportunity at the UA. In the second hour the class attends the College of Science The Evolving Brain lecture. The third hour consists of discussion of the lecture and its application to the high school classroom.

This course is structured for science teachers at the 6–12 grade level, but K–12 teachers at all levels are invited to participate. Pre-service teachers who are not yet certified may also take the course and earn undergraduate credit. Teachers earn two units of graduate credit.

For More Information
John Pollard
(520) 621-8843
jpollard@email.arizona.edu

To Register
Contact Continuing Education and Academic Outreach

520-621-7724
Enrollment is limited.

Tuition and Fees
100% tuition (two units) is paid by the College of Science through funding provided by Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

Location and Time
Class location will be announced. Classes run from 6:00-9:00 pm on eight evenings from January 21 to March 17. Parking is available in the Tyndall Avenue Garage.
View map to Tyndall Avenue Garage

Educator Forum

Tuesday, January 21
Introduction Class
Attendance is mandatory.

Monday, January 27
Time Traveling: What Our Brains Share with Beetle Brains
Nicholas J. Strausfeld, PhD, Director, Center for Insect Science and Regents’ Professor of Neuroscience 
 
Monday, February 3
A Window into the Brain: Viewed through the Evolution of MRI Technology
Diego R. Martin, MD, PhD, Chair, Department of Medical Imaging and Professor of Medicine, UA College of Medicine
 
Monday, February 10
To Be Announced
G. Michael Lemole, Jr., MD, Chief, Division of Neurosurgery and Professor of Surgery, UA College of Medicine
 
Monday, February 17
The Literate Brain
Pélagie M. Beeson, PhD, Professor and Head of Speech, Language and Hearing Science
 
Monday, February 24
No class.
 
Monday, March 3
The Ancestors in Our Brains
Katalin M. Gothard, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Physiology, Neurobiology, and the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute
 
Monday, March 10
More Perfect Than We Think
William Bialek, PhD, John Archibald Wheeler/Battelle Professor in Physics, Princeton University
 
Monday, March 17
Final Class
Details to be announced.