Downtown Science Café @ Magpie's Gourmet Pizza

Watch all recorded Downtown Science Cafe Talks on Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium's YouTube Channel


Series Title: Everybody's Talking about Dopamine: New Insights in Brain Science

Dopamine has been called the “celebrity molecule” because it gets so much attention. Why all the interest in dopamine? Because scientists have realized that this one vital molecule plays so many important roles in our brains. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger that carries signals between our neurons (brain cells), so dopamine it is a big part of how we learn, focus, and feel every day. It also keeps us hooked to our phones.

Scientists in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona do groundbreaking research on how dopamine works in our brains – how it affects decision making, sleep, and speech, and how it impacts Parkinson’s disease. In this Café series, we’ll learn about the research that is happening now, research that helps us understand dopamine and how it shapes human behavior.



Spring 2019 Science Café Presenters:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019 at 6:00PM

Dopamine is Not Just For Pleasure Anymore

Dr. Lynn CarterPresenter: Stephen Cowen, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Arizona

Although dopamine has been called the “pleasure molecule,” scientific research indicates that this neurotransmitter plays many nuanced roles in learning, motivation, and decision making. In this Science Café, UA researcher Stephen Cowen will discuss what experiences in the world trigger dopamine release, how the brain regulates its own dopamine levels, and how dopamine influences our sleep.

Coming Soon: Stephen Cowen Science Café Talk


Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 6:00PM

What Birdsong Can Teach Us about How We Communicate

Dr. Alfred McEwenPresenter: Julie Miller, Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience, Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Science, Department of Neurology, Bio5 Instiute, University of Arizona

Birdsong is learned during critical developmental periods, just like human speech. Both auditory feedback and social interactions are important to birdsong development, and the process happens in specialized vocally-dedicated brain circuitry. The same brain circuitry enables human speech and language development. Dopamine, a neuromodulator, plays a key role in this specialized brain circuitry. UA researcher Dr. Julie Miller studies how birds learn their songs to better understand how our brains make human vocal communication possible. In this Café she’ll explore her insights into the brain science connections between birdsong and human speech.

Julie Miller's Science Café Talk



Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 6:00PM

How Dopamine Influences Parkinson's Disease, and How UA Leads the Way On Treatment

Bashar RizkPresenter: Ying-hui Chou, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Arizona

One factor in Parkinson’s disease is a lower production of dopamine in the human brain. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique that can improve dopamine production. This technique was invented in 1985 and has been closely investigated as a potential treatment tool for a number of clinical populations including Parkinson’s disease (PD). Dr. Ying-hui Chou directs the Brain Imaging and TMS Laboratory at the University of Arizona. She will talk about how to integrate brain imaging and TMS techniques to develop non-invasive brain stimulation protocols to improve motor and non-motor symptoms for individuals with PD.

Coming Soon: Ying-hui Chou's Science Café Talk


Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 6:00PM

Dopamine and Decisions

Tod LauerPresenter: Bob Wilson, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Director, Neuroscience of Reinforcement Learning Lab, University of Arizona

Dopamine has been characterized as the “reward molecule” but it is so much more! In this Café, UA researcher Bob Wilson will explore the pivotal role of dopamine in learning and decision making. He’ll also reveal how we can measure our own dopamine levels simply by looking at our faces!

Bob Wilsons Science Café Talk



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