From AI to Z

From AI to Z

Victoria Heimer-McGinn is the chairwoman of Brain Week and assistant professor of neuroscience at Roger Williams University.
5th annual Brain Week explores robots, range of other topics

PROVIDENCE – For the first time since its inception, Brain Week Rhode Island will revolve around a theme as scientists, panelists, and community members explore the ethics, benefits and repercussions of artificial intelligence and its similarities to the human brain.

The 5th annual Brain Week runs from Saturday, March 14 through Sunday, March 22, with events across the state. Many of the week’s events, including an opening lecture on Saturday, March 14, tie into the theme, “What Makes Us Human: The Mind, the Brain, and Artificial Intelligence.”

“Brain Week has grown so much in the last couple of years it’s hard to put it in a box,” Victoria Heimer-McGinn, chairwoman of Brain Week and assistant professor of neuroscience at Roger Williams University, told The Valley Breeze. “The demographic of people who come to events can be completely different from one event to another.”

Brain Week’s goal is to make brain research accessible to Rhode Islanders by offering a diverse range of events for people of all ages and backgrounds to learn from and enjoy, as well as increase awareness of brain health and science.

Some people attend for the nerdy science while others are more interested in a particular topic or disease, such as Alzheimer’s or mindfulness, said Heimer-McGinn, a resident of Pawtucket.
“There is so much exciting and cutting-edge brain science taking place right in our state and a growing public interest in the most remarkable computing device known to date: the human brain,” she said. “People want to know just how everything we do, feel, and perceive … reside(s) in the brain.”

Since 2016, thousands of parents, children, educators and medical professionals have attended Brain Week and its interactive brain-themed events, states a press release.

New this year, a series of three events will revolve around brain science’s connection to violence including a lecture called The Psychology of Evil on Monday, March 16, at 3:30 p.m. at Providence College, 1 Cunningham Square, Ruane 105, Providence; Trauma and the Brain, hosted by Sojourner House, on Wednesday, March 18, at 5:30 p.m., at Pearl Street Lofts, 304 Pearl St., Suite 100, Providence; and Overcoming Fear and Trauma: A Community Conversation on Thursday, March 19, at 6 p.m. at the Nonviolence Institute, 265 Oxford St., Providence.

In addition to Brain Fairs at Brown University and the University of Rhode Island, which took place in past years, Heimer-McGinn said there will be a new Brain Fest on Friday, March 20, at 3 p.m. at the Smith Hill Library, 31 Candace St. in Providence, in an effort to make the science more accessible by bringing one of the fairs into the community. There will be activities for both children and adults.

Also taking place throughout the week will be a screening of the film “Ex Machina” with a panel called “Can Robots Fall in Love?” as well as a storytelling event, classroom visits at area middle and high schools, workshops, expert panels, creative learning opportunities, an art show, and more.

Most events are free. Advance reservations are recommended when available.

Brain Week is organized and spearheaded by Cure Alliance for Mental Illness with sponsors/partners including Brown University’s Carney Institute for Brain Science; the Ryan Institute at University of Rhode Island; the Association of Migraine Disorders; the Providence Veterans Administration Medical Center; the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute; and Neurology and the Memory and Aging Program, Butler Hospital.

As Brain Week grows, organizers say they’re seeking corporate investors to help sustain and expand programming going forward.

For more information and a full schedule, visit www.brainweekri.org .