Brain Awareness Day looks at environmental toxins

BOWLING GREEN, O.—“Environmental Toxins and the Brain” is the theme of Bowling Green State University’s Brain Awareness Day on March 24. Part of the international weeklong celebration of brain research, the evening will feature three experts with different perspectives on, and interests in, the topic.

Presented by BGSU’s J.P. Scott Center for Neuroscience, Mind and Behavior and Graduate Students for the Interdisciplinary Study of Neural and Cognitive Sciences, all events are free and open to the public and will be held in 101A Olscamp Hall.

The evening will start with a 5:30 p.m. reception, followed by the lectures beginning at 6 p.m.

  • Toxicologist Diane McClure of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Division of Air Pollution Control will discuss “Air Toxic Risk—Reducing Your Exposure to Toxic Air Pollutants.”

    Air pollutants are a major public health concern because of the potential for harmful effects on human health and the environment. There are many ways that people can be exposed to toxic air pollutants. McClure will focus on how toxins get into the environment and the impact of these chemicals on human health. She will talk about Ohio EPA’s progress in reducing toxic air emissions and present results from several case studies conducted in northwest Ohio.

  • Dr. Ted Schettler, science director of Science and Environmental Health Network, will present “An Ecological View of the Impacts of Environmental Toxins on Brain Development and Aging.”

    Environmental contaminants, nutrition and socioeconomic factors interact to impact brain development and aging. Schettler will give examples of each of these and their interactions and describe how they collectively influence the patterns of neurological disease, disability or other conditions prevalent in our communities today. Individual and policy-related responses to these observations can be cross-cutting and address other urgent public and environmental concerns as well.

  • R. Thomas Zoeller, a professor in the biology department of the Morrill Science Center at the University of Massachusetts, will offer “Tales of Hormones and Brain Development: What We Know about Thyroid Hormone and the Ways Chemicals Can Interfere with It.”

    Every baby born in this country is evaluated for his or her thyroid hormone. Despite the recognition that thyroid hormone is essential for normal brain development, a great deal is still unknown. For example, to what extent must thyroid hormone levels be diminished—by disease or chemical exposures—before brain damage ensues? There is a major belief among clinicians that the developing brain has potent mechanisms to compensate for low thyroid hormone. What is the evidence for this? And given the nature of thyroid hormone actions in the brain, how can the EPA screen for chemicals that interfere with thyroid hormone action? The answers to these questions are not simple and require that the EPA focus on "good science.”

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Editor’s Note: For more information, call Dr. Howard Cromwell, event organizer, at 419-372-9408 or Bonnie Blankinship, Marketing and Communications, at 419-372-2618.

(Posted March 16, 2009 )