A series of informational workshops hosted recently by Virginia Tech’s Adaptive Brain and Behavior (ABB) Destination Area brought together faculty and researchers from across the campus to learn more about the team’s work in brain plasticity as it pertains to decision-making, physical and psychological trauma, and development across the lifespan.

Over 100 members of the Virginia Tech community attended the workshops and heard from ABB experts, who presented on such topics as developing a multidisciplinary autism model, RNA impacts in Prader-Willi Syndrome, and vascular-related biomarkers in people with traumatic brain injuries. Curricular and student experiential learning discussions on the development of an ABB pathways minor and a living-learning community also helped to drive the workshop agendas.

“We wanted these workshops to be a resource for helping interested faculty, staff, and trainees learn more about the Adaptive Brain and Behavior Destination Area (DA) and to have an opportunity to network with other ABB affiliates in order to advance our goals around health and well-being,” said Denise Friedman, program manager for the ABB DA and an associate professor for basic science education in the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

Friedman said the ABB stakeholders designed the workshops to create a better understanding of their focus on advancing health and well-being by conducting research aimed at addressing major health crises, such as the opioid epidemic, Parkinson’s disease, and concussions. ABB DA faculty are also designing interdisciplinary curriculum that will allow students to apply ABB principles to a number of societal work and life impact issues, including health care, education, and social inequities.

“Participants were overwhelmingly positive about their experience at the workshop sessions,” Freidman said. “They liked getting an update on our collaborations, hearing about the diverse work being conducted in ABB, and they especially appreciated the opportunity to meet and network with others from across colleges and campuses who had similar research and teaching interests.”

Faculty are continuing to collaborate and capitalize on the rapid growth in brain-related research and educational programs taking place at Virginia Tech. ABB engagement activities, such as the workshops, serve as just one mechanism for bringing together Virginia Tech’s colleges and institutes to synthesize knowledge and expertise related to these rapidly expanding areas.

Moving forward, ABB stakeholders plan to continue to engage faculty and departments and strengthen relationships across the university to support brain-behavior initiatives. They also plan to work closely with student services such as Hokie Wellness and the Cook Counseling Center to provide support for innovative transdisciplinary research.

“Connecting academics and practitioners in our community to student groups and support units in order to involve students experientially is an important way we can continue to highlight the amazing work being done in the ABB arena,” explained Freidman. “We also hope to identify and utilize more effective ways to communicate with DA affiliates and to allow them to connect with one another.”

About Virginia Tech Destination Areas:

Destination Areas (DA) combine Virginia Tech’s existing strengths with novel transdisciplinary teams, tools and processes that empower students and faculty to tackle the world’s most pressing problems. Through these novel approaches to research and education, Virginia Tech will become an international destination for talent, partnerships, and transformative knowledge in pursuit of the university’s long-range vision for Beyond Boundaries.

Virginia Tech’s Destination Areas are Adaptive Brain and Behavior, Data and Decisions, Global Systems Science, Integrated Security, and Intelligent Infrastructure for Human-Centered Communities. Four additional Strategic Growth Areas (SGA) that have been identified as critical areas for future growth and development are Creativity and Innovation, Economic and Sustainable Materials, Equity and Social Disparity in the Human Condition, and Policy.


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