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Frontiers of BrainHealth

Where are the frontiers of brain science? Take a deep dive with leading experts.

The fall 2022 season will be in person at Center for BrainHealth (lunch provided), and livestreamed. Register free of charge for the season and join us for as many talks as you are able.

Enjoy past Frontiers talks on YouTube

For more information, contact brainhealthevents@utdallas.edu or visit our events FAQs.

Fall 2022 Speaker Lineup

Frontiers speaker

Timing Matters: Circadian Alignment of Caloric Restriction Promotes Longevity

Carla Green, PhD - Distinguished Scholar in Neuroscience and Director of the Green Lab, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center 

Caloric restriction (CR) has been shown to prolong lifespan by mechanisms that remain unclear. In research with mice, Dr. Carla Green has seen 30% CR extend the lifespan by 10% – but her observations suggest combining daily fasting with circadian alignment of caloric intake may create the biggest impact, potentially extending lifespan by 35%. CR in mice prompts them to self-impose chronic cycles of feeding and fasting, behaviors that lead to questions about the impact of calories, fasting and time of day. While aging correlates with widespread changes, imposing CR at night has improved aging-related changes and shown the potential of circadian interventions to promote longevity.

Songyao Ren headshot

Emotion, Culture and Well-Being

Songyao Ren, PhD - Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas, The University of Texas at Dallas

Many common measures of well-being, such as those included in The World Happiness Report, rely on measurements of the frequency of positive emotions compared to negative emotions. Dr. Songyao Ren, whose research interests include Chinese philosophy, ethics and moral psychology, will present some significant questions about these types of metrics, contending that they overlook other important dimensions of emotions, such as intensity (strong/weak), quality (high/low), and content (what an individual is happy, angry or sad about) and do not adequately consider how culture mediates the ways in which various dimensions of emotions relate to one other and work together to determine well-being.

A headshot of Elkhonon Goldberg, PhD.

Long Neuro-Covid: Challenges Ahead

Elkhonon Goldberg, PhD - Clinical Professor, Department of Neurology, Grossman School of Medicine at New York University, and Member of the American Board of Professional Psychology in Clinical Neuropsychology

COVID-19 may result in a wide range of neurological complications, including ischemic stroke in young people, disseminated micro hemorrhagic lesions, brain inflammation, hypoxia, various non-specific encephalopathies, focal lesions (likely to impact frontal and mesiotemporal regions) and Guillain-Barre syndrome. These are often associated with significant and lasting cognitive impairment and psychiatric symptoms. Concern has been expressed that neuro-COVID may put patients at increased risk for developing various neurodegenerative disorders later in life. It is important to recognize that these issues are real, may last for months and even years, and that they are in the patients’ brains and not just “in their heads.” Programs must be developed for long-term follow-up of these patients, with cognitive rehabilitation, psychotherapy and counseling.

A headshot of Sven Vanneste, PhD.

Advances in Non-Invasive Treatments for Age-Related Cognitive Decline

Sven Vanneste, PhD - BrainHealth Project Collaborator, and Neuroscientist and Professor of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin

The pharmaceutical industry has been largely unsuccessful at impacting either dementia or age-related cognitive decline, despite having invested billions of dollars. Various cognitive and lifestyle interventions (prescription of physical or cognitive exercises, dietary modifications, etc.) have had only limited success in counteracting age-related functional decline. Such protocols typically require long-term commitment by participants, limiting their feasibility. Recently, the pharma industry has begun to recognize the merits of medical devices and has turned its attention to device-based treatments. In this talk, Dr. Sven Vanneste focuses on non-invasive electrical stimulation as a potential tool to stimulate the release of the brain’s “natural drugs” in ways that avoid the complications of trying to artificially (i.e. pharmacologically) upregulate these neurotransmitters and its potential for brain health.

Headshot of Elena Katok, PhD.

Failures in the Communication of Risk: Decisions and Numeracy

Elena Katok, PhD - Ashok and Monica Mago Professor and Co-Director for the Center and Laboratory for Behavioral Operations and Economics (LBOE), Jindal School of Management at The University of Texas at Dallas

Typically measured quantitatively, forecast uncertainty raises concerns about how to communicate forecasts to a public with diverse mathematical abilities. A pioneer in the growing field of behavioral operations management, Dr. Elena Katok reports on research exploring alternative forecast mechanisms: an uncertainty mechanism (stating probability) and a recommendation mechanism (advising which decision to take). Findings suggest probabilities can generally induce preventative action at a higher rate than recommendations. Those with stronger numeracy scores may apply probabilities more effectively, but recommendation mechanisms result in greater trust problems, most pronounced among those with lower numeracy scores.

A headshot of William Dauer, MD.

From Molecule to Movement: The O’Donnell Brain Institute and Translational Brain Science

William Dauer, MD - Lois C.A. and Darwin E. Smith Distinguished Chair in Neurological Mobility Research, and Inaugural Director of the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

A neurologist and professor acclaimed for his research into Parkinson’s disease, Dr. William Dauer has spent nearly two decades working on groundbreaking studies into the mechanisms of neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease and the molecular basis of dystonia, a movement disorder marked by disabling, involuntary movements. His findings have elucidated the critical role of the torsinA protein in the progression of dystonia. Studies taking place under Dr. Dauer's direction also focus on the neurobiologic basis of falls in Parkinson’s disease and help to pioneer novel therapeutic approaches for currently untreatable symptoms.

Frontiers of BrainHealth

Modern Non-Combustible Commercial Nicotine Products: Implications for Public Health

Adam Leventhal, PhD - Professor of Population and Public Health Sciences and Director of the Institute for Addiction Science, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine

In recent years, new non-combustible products have emerged which have complex implications for public health. Scientists and health professionals struggle with balancing the possible harms of nicotine use for youth alongside the potential that adults who smoke cigarettes might reduce harm by switching to non-combustible forms of nicotine. This talk reviews evidence on the products, use prevalence, health effects, and populations impacted by non-combustible commercial nicotine products in the U.S. Electronic cigarettes will be the primary focus. Other emerging products will also be addressed, including novel flavored commercial nicotine gums, gummies, and pouches. The talk will conclude with a discussion of science-informed policies for regulating non-combustible commercial nicotine products to optimize population health.

Frontiers speaker

Research-Informed Recommendations for Thriving in Remote and Hybrid Work

Sara Perry, PhD - Associate Professor of Management at Baylor University

The world of work has changed drastically in the past three years, especially in terms of work arrangements. Dr. Sara Perry will share recent research on remote and hybrid work, including ways both leaders and employees can find optimal well-being even in the midst of changing and stressful conditions. Her specialties include organizational behavior, negotiation, human resource management and industrial/organizational psychology. She also has consulting experience in public safety organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Dr. Perry speaks to various groups, offers workshops on stress management, negotiation and conflict resolution, and researches a wide range of management-related topics, including innovation and leadership.