#Brain Awareness Week: The Role of Animals in Neuroscience

March 17, 2022

If you’re a regular reader of the Speaking of Research science blog you will know that we are very interested in neuroscience – in fact several of us are neuroscientists – so you won’t be surprised to learn that we have been following events of Brain Awareness Week

Brain Awareness Week is a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research that is organized every year by the Dana Foundation in partnership with over 8200 partners in 120 countries around the world. You can follow on social media @Brain_Facts_org and @dana_fdn on social media using hashtags #BrainWeek, #BrainAwarenessWeek, and #BAW2022.

We thought it was a good opportunity to see what new resources about animal research in neurosciences are available from key organizations involved in Brain Awareness Week. And, BrainFacts.org – a public information initiative whose launch we reported in 2012 – delivered the goods. Brainfacts.org has been busy over the past decade, and their pages on animal research in neuroscience have grown into an excellent resource that covers a wide variety of topics including how animal research is planned, undertaken and regulated, and case studies of animal research that have  made key contributions to advancing neuroscience.

The site provides an amazing array of educational resources and materials for outreach. Search and sort features allow for easy identification of grade level, core concepts, and topics. Among the resources are articles written by neuroscientists. For example: An article about studies in monkeys that show how the brain chemical dopamine plays a role in decision-making and predicting error. The research provides a foundation for better understanding diseases that range from Parkinson’s to depression and addictions. 

BrainFacts also posts excellent videos, including the “People’s Choice” of best videos for the year (2021, 2020, 2019). Among the site’s collection are videos that highlight the contributions of animal research to better understand brain function. 

The contribution of animal research to brain research has also been highlighted by several recent media reports of important advances in brain science. These have ranged from a study in mice that demonstrated that a drug candidate can reduce brain inflammation and protect against cognitive decline in a mouse model of  Alzheimer’s disease to using cellular rejuvenation to improve brain functioning and reduce signs of aging in old mice.

Advances such as these are built on decades of basic animal research. These advances impact on many areas of brain research, and have the potential to benefit those suffering from a wide variety of brain diseases and injuries and so it is fitting that in Brain Awareness week we salute the researchers whose ingenuity and hard work makes them possible.