SIU-C Kicks Off Brain Awareness Month with Discussion by Two Alumni

Mar 8, 2019

A group of graduate students at SIU-Carbondale is hosting its second annual Brain Awareness Month.

It kicked off Friday with a guest lecture by two SIU alumni, who now work at West Virginia University.
Kris Martens and Cole Vonder Haar discussed their years-long research on rats exploring and treating psychiatric-like dysfunction after traumatic brain injury - or TBI.

Vonder Haar says this field of study is growing because the public is more aware of its impact.
"A lot of awareness, due credit to the NFL, a lot of awareness has been brought to it by them. Also as a consequence of sort of military actions, there's been an increase in TBI's as a result of that. It's really brought it to the forefront of the public consciousness and therefore it's attracted additional researchers into the area as well. Ten years ago, it was often referred to as the silent epidemic, because people had not heard of it."

Nearly three million people in the U.S. suffer traumatic brain injuries each year, with many more going unreported.

Martens says TBI shares some behavioral assessments with stroke victims, but they're focusing more on cognitive and learning assessments for TBI victims.
"Can we alter memory? If you have memory impairments. Can we alter learning? If it impairs your ability to learn contingencies or laws in your environment, and that causes you to behave in a way that isn't advantageous, can we rehab that?

Martens says now they're working on therapy options with the rats they use in research. She says others they collaborate with may someday use these findings to treat human patients.