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Events and News

Brain Awareness Week

Brain Awareness Week logoBrain Awareness Week is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. 

"Brain Awareness Week is a great opportunity to showcase the talented neuroscientists we have at Belmont along with fascinating speakers from our community"  said Dr. Lori McGrew, professor of biology.

Neuroscience is a growing field, including a wide range of subdisciplines such as cognition, behavior, cellular neuroscience and computational neuroscience. Belmont's neuroscience major combines foundational courses in biology, chemistry, psychology and physics with upper level coursework in biology and psychology and culminates in a student-driven research project in neuroscience. The program prepares students for careers as research assistants and animal behavioralists among others or for entry into medical school or graduate school.

The Psychological Science and Neuroscience programs at Belmont will be hosting numerous events to celebrate Brain Awareness Week.  A listing of all of the events that are being held is shown below:
Flyer showing the Brain Awareness Week events


Honors Neuroscience Major Publishes Children’s Book Series

Crystal Lemus holding her booksHonors student Crystal Lemus has always had a passion for health and writing. Recently, she decided to combine both passions and write two children’s books titled, Angie the Acting Alligator Adjusts to Alzheimer’s Disease, and Freddy the Feverish Fish Fights Against the Flu. Both books are part of Lemus’s “Learn and Adjust” book series. The books follow the stories of animals and their journey’s specific health symptoms. Given their condition, they are then faced with a tough decision on how to react and how they will let the diagnosis affect their everyday life.

“The only times individuals tend to think about these conditions are when either they or loved ones are going through it,” Crystal wrote. “But I believe that children need to be exposed to what others feel and think in relation to these conditions, and this is just one outlet of doing so.” As a bilingual student herself, Lemus believes that these resources should be accessible to most, if not all, children and has published both books in English and Spanish.

While the books are available to children through and local libraries, Lemus is working with Tennessee’s Department of Education to make sure they are available to every child in the state. “Just because I want to be a health provider does not mean that I have to wait until then to do so. My job as an aspiring physician is to make my own resources and make them available to all that may be in need,” Lemus said.

Lemus is an Honors neuroscience major on a pre-med track. She plans to attend medical school upon graduation and hopes to write more books for the series in the future.

flyer for the George Naasan talk

McGrew and Students Attend Society for Neuroscience Conference

Dr. Lori McGrew, Biology professor in Belmont’s College of Sciences and Mathematics, took her senior research students to Washington, D.C. to attend The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Conference. SfN’s 47th annual meeting, “Neuroscience 2017,” is the world’s largest neuroscience conference for scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. More than 30,000 colleagues from more than 80 countries gathered at the world’s largest marketplace of ideas and tools for global neuroscience.

The conference opened Saturday morning with the Neuroscience and Society session. The speaker, Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, a physician and researcher, wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which explores the disease that has plagued humans for thousands of years. His new book, The Gene: An Intimate History, examines the quest to decipher how human heredity combines with life experiences to control our lives. In this lecture, Mukherjee spoke with SfN President Eric Nestler about the excitement and importance of communicating the promise of scientific inquiry to the public. He spoke eloquently about the role of researchers in communicating honestly with the public, the danger of over-promising and the obligation for research to either advance our understanding of the world around us or cure disease.

mcgrew presenting her research poster

During the afternoon, McGrew presented a poster in the History and Teaching session entitled “Measuring Student Learning Using Closed-Book Timed Exams Versus Open-Book, Take-Home Exams.” Students visited several other posters detailing current research in the field. The group wrapped up day 1 by attending the Presidential Lecture “Insights from Nonhuman Animals into the Neurobiology of Language” by Dr. Jarvis. This lecture presented a modern model of language from molecular, circuit, to behavior levels. Jarvis described key concepts of language, including vocal learning and brain regions that are necessary for vocal language. While most of his work involved songbirds, Jarvis played clips of mouse vocalizations that were modified to be detectable by human ears. These mouse songs were remarkably similar to bird song and are helping researchers to better understand language across species.

On Sunday, the groups started the day by attending sessions on brain imaging in Danio rerio, studies of traumatic brain injury and mechanisms of memory. One of the dynamic posters demonstrated a technique for characterizing neural activity in swimming zebrafish by immobilizing their heads in agar gel. That evening, the students presented their research at the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience poster session and social. Students Elizabeth Sparks, Christian Candler, Rebecca Derby and Kara Garrett presented their research findings at the FUN poster session during the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

photo of students presenting their research postersCandler and Sparks presented a poster entitled “Assessment of Memory in Danio rerio following treatment with Natural Sugars, Artificial Sweeteners and Tomoxetine Hydrochloride.” Garrett and Derby presented a poster entitled “The effects of hormones and pathogens on cortisol levels in Danio rerio.” On Monday morning, McGrew attended a workshop focused on evidence-based methods in teaching neuroscience while the students visited some posters describing gender bias in research animals and the role of hormones in memory before returning to Nashville.

Garrett Presents Research at VCAR Science Day

Kara Garrett performs experiments in the lab.

Dr. Lori McGrew, professor of biology, and senior neuroscience major Kara Garrett, one of McGrew’s research students, attended Vanderbilt University’s Center for Addiction Research (VCAR) first annual Science Day on October 17. The symposium included presentations by Dr. Stephen Loyd, Tennessee’s medical director of the division of substance abuse, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and the neuroscientist who first cloned opioid receptors Dr. Brigitte Kieffer.

The talks were followed by a poster session where Garrett presented research she conducted as part of Dr. McGrew’s 2017 Summer Scholars group. Her presentation, “The effects of various pathogens on cortisol levels of Danio rerio measured from holding water compared to full body collection” was well received and the pair was invited to return next year.

Student Travels Tennessee to Capture Powerful Stories

Crystal Lemus travels Tennessee for her work with TBI survivorsBelmont junior and neuroscience major Crystal Lemus will spend the last few weeks of her summer working for The Brain Injury Association (BIA) of Tennessee where she is assisting with one of the organization’s publications. Focused on the everyday life of traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors, the publication seeks to share powerful stories and make the general public more aware of TBIs and their impact. In this role, Lemus is traveling the state, through a travel grant, to gather stories and share mental health information and resources.

Lemus got involved with the association through her work as a research intern at Vanderbilt’s Psychiatric Lab. With goals surrounding education and support of Tennessee’s TBI survivors, promoting awareness, peer mentoring and more, Lemus started her work with BIA in a fundraising and funding research role. Thanks to her success, she was given the opportunity to be the organization’s primary administrative writer, lead support groups, contribute to mental health curriculum and travel the state to collect survivor stories.

“Advocating for mental health has always been one of my top priorities,” Lemus said. “The more people I am able to reach, the better. Mental health is a real issue, and the world needs to know just how much importance is weighed on the matter.”

After graduation, Lemus said she hopes to go on to medical school and become a physician, all the while advocating for mental health. With these goals in mind, the opportunity to work along BIA was a perfect fit. “Not only am I learning more about mental health and traumatic brain injuries,” she said, “But I am also being exposed to legislation and current policy concerning healthcare. This information is a need to all pursuing medicine. To be well-rounded, we must be up to date on healthcare policies, and this is my way of maintaining my exposure.”

Though the opportunity to learn more and more about her future career field is a significant benefit, Lemus said the biggest reason she took this opportunity was to express her love for people. “Wherever the art of medicine is love, there is also a love of humanity,” she said. “Through this project, my main goal is to advocate for a more humanistic approach to traumatic brain injuries.”


Lemus Receives Leadership Award

Photo of Crystal Lemus and her leadership award
Crystal Lemus, Honors Neuroscience major, was awarded the 2017 Dr. Andrew Johnston Emerging Leader Award during the recent Division of Student Affairs awards ceremony. This award is given each year to an underclassman that does an exemplary job at representing student leadership.  Crystal has been involved in starting a Nu Rho Psi National Honor Society in Neuroscience chapter at Belmont.  Crystal said “It truly was an honor to represent the College of Sciences and Mathematics at the Leadership Awards in such a great way.”




Students Present Research at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego

Lori McGrew, Professor of Biology, took six students to the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience which drew over 30,000 neuroscientists from around the world to San Diego, California.  The students, Austin Demaagd, Curt Brown, Mohamed Darwish, John Longenecker, Stephane Morin and Sam Zacovic, presented their research at the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience poster session.  Their poster entitled “Assessment of Anxiety and Working Memory in Danio Rerio Following Treatment with Sodium Chloride, Apomorphine, Isoflurane, Ethanol, and Piracetam” detailed the findings that they generated as part of the Belmont Summer Scholars Program. This past summer McGrew led a group of students utilizing Danio rerio (zebrafish) as a model organism and focused on assessment of anxiety or memory in the fish. 

In addition to discussing their own work, the students had the opportunity to meet other neuroscientists and to learn about the latest discoveries and techniques.  Some of the other zebrafish researchers shared data about changes in neurotransmitters that result from socialization and social structure, using fractal patterns to detect movement disorders and the pharmacology of sleep-wake cycles.  The special lectures included Mu-ming Poo’s “Random Walk in Neurobiology”, Thomas Albright’s “Reforming Forensic Science: Insights from Research on Vision and Memory” and the always popular Christopher Reeve stem cell research data blitz. This quote from the SfN website summarizes the conference’s impact, “As the largest source of emerging news about brain science and health, the meeting featured nine press conferences with 38 neuroscientists presenting findings on a wide variety of topics including new technologies, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, autism, and sensory development.”

Belmont students presenting their research poster at the Neuroscience conference The group of Belmont students that attended the Neuroscience conference

Sam Zacovic, Mohamed Darwish, Austin Demaagd and Curt Brown showcase their Summer Scholars research at the Society for Neuroscience conference.

Curt Brown, Mohamed Darwish, Austin Demaagd, Sam Zacovic, Stephane Morin and John Longenecker pose for a photo at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego, CA

McGrew Leads Elementary School Students in Sheep Brain Dissection

mcgrewDr. Lori McGrew, Neuroscience, visited the Encore class at Glenview Elementary school in Nashville on Monday, March 7, 2016.  The students had been studying neuroscience, so Dr. McGrew brought some sheep brains for the students to dissect.  They talked about how scientists use brains from animals to learn more about what happens in people.  McGrew also explained the research she does with zebrafish.  McGrew said the students were very enthusiastic and asked some great questions.

McGrew and Students Present at Neuroscience Conference

Belmont Professor of Biology Dr. Lori McGrew and her student research team presented their research at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) recently held in Chicago. The conference boasts more than 30,000 colleagues from more than 80 countries at the world’s largest marketplace of ideas and tools for global neuroscience.

sfnDr. McGrew presented a poster in the history and teaching theme entitled “Applying the ‘Flipped Classroom’ Approach to Teaching Hybrid Neuroscience Courses.” Seven Belmont students presented a poster at the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience chapter meeting describing their research using zebrafish under McGrew’s mentorship. Participating students included biology students Lindsey Cheek, Lindsey Dennis, Araceli Garland, Donald Hoyle, Tessa Shupe and Brandy Sweet and neuroscience student Samantha Gould.

The students also had the opportunity to attend a number of conference events including the presidential lecture on neurexins and their role in autism and nanosymposia on anxiety, depression, learning and ethics.  In addition to these conference events, McGrew attended a workshop on teaching neuroscience to non-scientists.


Dr. Lori McGrew, Associate Professor of Biology, recently had her Neurobiology class visit a non-human primate lab at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Jeff Schall, a neuroscientist who uses macaque monkeys to study brain regions involved in controlling eye movements, provided the class with a tour of the facilities and the opportunity to watch some of the monkeys performing their visual discrimination tasks. The group also discussed important ethical considerations of working with primates as well as the sort of information that can only be obtained by using primates or humans. Michelle Howell-Young, a Belmont alumna, is Schall's lab manager and works extensively with the macaques.