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Students at Brainworks Program to Learn How a Hop, Skip and Jump May Protect the Brain

Contact: Sandy Van | Email: sandy@prpacific.com

Los Angeles - March 16, 2015 - Could push-ups and hula hoops put students on the path to becoming brain-health scientists?

About 140 seventh- and eighth-graders attending Cedars-Sinai's Brainworks program March 23 will learn how hopping, skipping, jumping and other elements of a regular exercise routine may help improve brain health. An exercise station – a new feature of the 17-year-old program – will be one of nine areas where students will interact with Cedars-Sinai neurosurgeons, neurologists, neuroscientists and other health professionals.

Brainworks' keynote speaker, Dean Sherzai, MD, director of the medical center's Alzheimer's Disease Prevention Program, will explain the role of lifestyle choices in protecting the brain. He also will describe current and future research to understand, treat and someday cure Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders.

"We are moving closer to understanding the role of exercise in potentially changing the course of Alzheimer's," Sherzai said. "This is important because once Alzheimer's is established in the brain, no existing drugs can slow it down."

In another presentation, Kurtis Birch, MD, a neurosurgical resident who conducts research on neurons in the brain, will describe how experiments in laboratories lead to clinical trials in patients, eventually resulting in approved treatments.

Aimee Davis, an occupational therapist, will demonstrate how rehabilitation therapies help patients who have brain injuries or diseases. Davis is therapy supervisor for inpatient rehabilitation.

Ahmed Ibrahim, PhD, will talk about career options and opportunities. As a high school student, Ibrahim participated in a summer research project at Cedars-Sinai. Ibrahim, who also has a master's degree in public health, now is a research scientist at Capricor, a biotech company at Cedars Sinai.

This year's interactive stations include:

  • Virtual Surgery Station: 3-D imaging and microscope with phantom skull for interactive virtual surgery.
  • Surgical Instrumentation Station: Actual instruments from the operating room.
  • Neuropathology Station: Students can hold and examine real sheep brains and view microscope slides of various tumor types.
  • Rehabilitation and Healing Station: Therapy applications.
  • Suture Station: How to close wounds.
  • Advances in Research Station: DNA, tumor and laser experiments.
  • Brain and Spine Instrumentation Station: Instruments used in these complex operations.
  • Cedars-Sinai Wellness Program Station: Exercise programs for kids.
  • Biomedical Sciences Station: Protein and drug molecule interaction and model building, with research scientist Ravinder Abrol, PhD.

The students also will compete in teams in a science game based on the television show "Family Feud."

Students from diverse backgrounds and schools attend Brainworks each year. This year's participants will come from Paul Revere Charter Middle School and Magnet Center, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, Our Lady of Grace School, St. Francis of Assisi School, the Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academy and Animo Westside Charter Middle School.

Keith Black, MD, chair and professor of the Department of Neurosurgery, will welcome the students. He started Brainworks in 1998 to help inspire the next generation of scientists, doctors and healthcare professionals. Black is director of the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute, director of the Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Brain Tumor Center and the Ruth and Lawrence Harvey Chair in Neuroscience.

Brainworks will be in the Harvey Morse Auditorium at Cedars-Sinai from 10 a.m. to 1:10 p.m. Monday, March 23.