Celebrating Brain Science with Brain Awareness Week

By: Karling Luciani, BSc, Masters student in Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body, and despite recent advances, there are still numerous unknowns and mysteries of the brain that researchers are trying to comprehend. For Brain Awareness Week – March 14th – 20th 2022, this blog will highlight the history, importance, and fascination of studying the brain.

What is Brain Awareness Week? Brain Awareness Week is a global campaign founded by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI) and the European Dana Alliance for the Brain (EDAB). The goal of this week is to encourage people all over the world to show enthusiasm and support for brain science. Since the start of this campaign in 1996, this initiative has brought together 5,600 partners in 120 countries with interests in academia, government, and professional and advocacy organizations.

Neuroscience Then & Now: Neuroscience (the study of the brain and nervous system) as a distinct discipline did not emerge until the late 1950s / early 1960s. Since then, the field has become a significant and rapidly growing field in science, with further specializations in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience, Systems Neuroscience, Translational and Clinical Neuroscience, and more. Researchers around the world have come up with new methods and mechanisms to open the possibilities of addressing fundamental questions about the brain and behaviour. They have mapped neural pathways and systems, identified and characterized neurotransmitters, as well as studied memory, movement, pain, and vision in many organisms. Striking progress in the field has helped determine the genetic basis of various neurological and psychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. It is predicted there will continue to be a substantial acceleration in our understanding of the nervous system, and the field of Neuroscience will not only show advances in medicine, but beyond, including in education, consumerism, and the justice system.

Brain Facts

Whether you have no background in brain science or are currently studying the brain, here are some interesting facts I’ve learned over the years as we celebrate Brain Awareness Week:

  1. There are 86 billion neurons in the brain that communicate with one another to transmit information through the brain and the rest of the nervous system.
  2. A human brain weighs about 3 pounds and is 73% water.
  3. Information from your right visual field goes to the left hemisphere of the brain, and information from your left visual field goes to the right hemisphere of the brain.
  4. In short-term memory processing, most humans can remember 7 +/- 2 items. For example, a phone number is 7 numbers not including the area code, which can help be remembered through a process called chunking.
  5. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that can be inhibitory or excitatory, to facilitate movement. Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease show a loss in dopamine neurons.
  6. Vivid dreams occur in the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep – when your brain activity levels increase to similar levels to when you’re awake.
  7. We can measure and determine which areas of the brain are active during different functions by detecting changes in blood flow using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging).

Thoughts from a Neuroscience Graduate Student: As I reflect on the past 5 years of studying Neuroscience, I look back in awe of the complexity of the field and the new techniques and strategies continuing to be discovered. I have been fortunate to have been taught the fundamentals of Neuroscience by faculty who are experts in their area of Neuroscience at both the University of British Columbia and the University of Guelph. From these men and women, I have realized that no matter how much I learn, I will only ever know a fraction of what there is to know in Neuroscience, and that is the beauty of studying the brain. As I discover my passion for studying mental health and addictions research, I am appreciative of the neuroscientists who have come before me and have created what the Neuroscience field looks like today. For 2022 Brain Awareness Week, I’m hopeful this week will inspire a new generation of students to study the field of Neuroscience to create discoveries and breakthroughs in brain science.



To learn more about Brain Awareness Week and how you can take part in the initiatives, please go to the following websites:




Altimus, C. M., Marlin, B. J., Charalambakis, N. E., Colón-Rodríguez, A., Glover, E. J., Izbicki, P., … Wells, M. F. (2020). The next 50 years of Neuroscience. The Journal of Neuroscience, 40(1), 101–106. https://doi.org/10.1523/jneurosci.0744-19.2019

Cowan, W. M., Harter, D. H., & Kandel, E. R. (2000). The emergence of modern neuroscience: Some implications for neurology and psychiatry. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 23(1), 343–391. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.neuro.23.1.343

Society for Neuroscience. (2022). Brain awareness campaign. SfN.org. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.sfn.org/outreach/brain-awareness-campaign

Society for Neuroscience. (2022). Brain facts. BrainFacts.org. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.brainfacts.org/

The Dana Foundation. (2022, January 18). About brain awareness week. Brain Awareness Week. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://brainawareness.org/