The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Protecting and promoting brain health in aging

Wed, November 9 2022, 11am

Renowned researcher and educator Janet Dubinsky, PhD, led an interactive workshop on “Neuroplasticity in aging” that was well attended by UMRA members and guests on November 9, 2022. Dubinsky is a professor in the U of M Medical School Department of Neuroscience and founder and director of BrainU, a professional development program for secondary school science teachers. 

She began the workshop with a brief audience questionnaire to ask attendees about their current activities for protecting brain health. She then provided an animated video that reviewed the basics of neuroplasticity.  

Neuroplasticity has to do with the ability of neurons, the basic functional cell of the brain, to talk with each other, through electrical and chemical signals, via pathways that can grow with use—or become reduced with disuse. Synapses, the junctions between the neurons that allow these signals to pass from one neuron to another, are essential to learning and memory. Contrary to popular belief, losing neurons is not a major occurrence with aging. Loss of synapses, however, is associated with aging, but it can be reversed with brain “exercises” that promote synaptic growth. While the formation of new synapses slows with aging, it is still possible and does occur. Some examples include stroke recovery, improved balance, motility, and memory.

Dubinsky then went on to discuss activities that promote synaptic growth. Appropriate sleep is a cornerstone of brain health, allowing the brain to rid itself of waste, particularly during slow-wave sleep. Sleep is also permissive of memory development. 

One of the activities that activates multiple areas of the brain is having social interactions, particularly when accompanied with experiences like hiking, card playing, and traveling. Other activities like problem solving, putting puzzles together, reading, and exercising also are beneficial. 

When asked what type of exercise she would recommend, Dubinsky said, “More than whatever you are currently doing!”

Dubinsky then repeated her question to the audience “How do you plan to ‘take care’ of your brain moving forward?” and the results were impressive, perhaps because of the various activities that UMRA provides access to.

—Frank Cerra, UMRA past president

Event recording
Click on , then    to view recording in full screen.




Neuroplasticity in aging

Wed, November 9 2022, 11am
Janet M. Dubinsky, Ph.D.
Professor of neuroscience
U of M Department of Neuroscience

Event to be held via Zoom.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain, at any age, to rewire itself to function in new ways in situations of new learning, experience, or injury. This remarkable ability of the brain to be flexible, in both structure and function, to make new connections and adapt to the circumstances of life, will be the topic for discussion when Janet M. Dubinsky, Ph.D., joins us for UMRA’s Living Well Workshop at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, November 9, via Zoom.

Dubinsky is a well-known neuroscientist and community educator and a professor of neuroscience in the University of Minnesota Medical School Department of Neuroscience. 

And in the spirit of learning new things, she will use ChimeIn—a web-based tool for collecting comments during a webinar—to interact with us during the program. Instructions and the link for using ChimeIn (optional, not required) will be emailed in advance to everyone who registers for the webinar.

In addition to her position in the Medical School, Dubinsky is a leader in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience (GPN), teaches undergraduate and graduate neuroscience, and is the founder of the BrainU professional development program. She has led and is currently a member of the GPN Public Engagement Committee, which runs Brain Awareness Week and the high school neuroscience competition Minnesota Brain Bee.

Dubinsky is a major contributor to knowledge generation in the metabolism and physiology of the brain, with particular attention to metabolic abnormalities present in Huntington’s Disease. She is also internationally known for her research on the impact of neuroscience knowledge on teaching. At the U of M, her work and teaching have been recognized with the Outstanding Contributions to Postbaccalaureate, Graduate, and Professional Education Award in 2011, and the CBS Stanley Dagley-Samuel Kirkwood Undergraduate Education Award in 2020–21.

In her teaching, Dubinsky helps students at all levels achieve and understand neuroplasticity. This workshop will be a unique opportunity for us to benefit from her great knowledge and gifts as an educator.

Please register and join us on Wednesday, November 9, for what is certain to be a fascinating, enlightening, and engaging presentation.

—Frank Cerra, M.D., UMRA past president

Want to try ChimeIn before the webinar? Go to https://chimein2.cla.umn.edu/join/741704 and respond to the open question(s).

Upcoming Events

Event Date: April 15, 2024, at 9:30am

Join us for a 4 to 5 mile hike at one of the most popular parks in the West Metro, Richardson Nature Center in Bloomington.  It is located at the north end of Hyland Lake Park Reserve at 8737 East Bush Lake Road in Bloomington.  This trail is mostly dirt and grass with some paved areas.  Enjoy the park's wildlife and celebrate Tax Day with your UMRA hiking friends!

Event Date: April 15, 2024, at 10am

UMN Technology Commercialization facilitates the transfer of UMN innovation beyond the research lab by helping our diverse researchers in development of new products and services that benefit the public good, foster economic growth, and generate revenue to support the University's mission.

Event Date: April 16, 2024, at 11am

How did children’s mental health become a public health crisis? How can you tell the difference between developmentally appropriate misbehavior and behavior that needs professional intervention? For answers to these and other questions, we invited Sarah Jerstad, clinical director of psychological services at Children's Minnesota, to be our guest speaker for UMRA’s April 16 workshop. 

Event Date: April 19, 2024, at 2pm

Joni Mitchell will lead the discussion of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne when the UMRA book club meets via Zoom at 2 p.m. on Friday, April 19.

Event Date: April 23, 2024, at 11am

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) has attracted substantial debate recently because it can be used in many contexts, including educational settings to do things such as answer exam questions and write papers. But what is generative AI? And how can we know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing? Law School Professor Daniel Schwarcz will enlighten us during UMRA’s Luncheon Forum on April 23.

Event Date: April 24, 2024, at 10am

UMRA’s spring Armchair Traveler Program from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 24, will take us to South Korea with Marilyn DeLong and to Germany with Lynn C. Anderson. Please mark your calendars and save the date. 

Event Date: April 26, 2024, at 2pm

Silk Parachute, an anthology of essays and the 40th of 44 published books by author John McPhee, will be the topic of discussion when UMRA’s Fourth Friday Book Club meets via Zoom from 2 to 3:30 p.m. CDT on April 26.

Event Date: May 6, 2024, at 9:30am

We are so fortunate to have former Arboretum Director and UMRA member, Peter Moe lead this approx 3.7 mile hike at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum!  We will meet on the welcoming terrace and travel through the Arboretum's Display Gardens, Sensory Garden, Woodland Wildflower Garden,  Shade Tree Exhibit, Tall Grass Prairie, Rhododendron Garden, 1920 Red Barn and the Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center, Sphagnum Bog and Green Heron Pond, Display Gardens and many other gardens and plant collections. 

Event Date: May 6, 2024, at 12:45pm

This session will continue the discussion begun in the May 8, 2023 session.  See that article for details.

Event Date: June 14, 2024, at 7:10pm

UMRA will be celebrating U of M Days with the Alumni Association.  The Minnesota Twins will be playing the Oakland Athletics on Friday evening, June 14, 7:10 PM.  

Event Date: June 17, 2024, at 11am

Picnic under the covered, open-air Como pavilion, gaze at the water, spy some birds, catch up with friends and former colleagues, and meet new members. We’ll have lunch with plenty of time for visiting and then compete in teams as we are challenged by our Quiz master(s)!

Event Date: June 24, 2024, at 8am

Healthy aging, mindfulness, fighting ageism, and more will be the focus of the third annual Age-Friendly University Day to be held on the U of M Twin Cities campus.