Our Story

Since 2016, Brain Week Rhode Island has had one goal, to share the expansive knowledge of the brain and neuroscience research happening in the Ocean State with the community. We’re bringing together experts in many fields to make brain science and brain health accessible for everyone. There is a wealth of neuroscience in Rhode Island. This includes everything from basic research, to understanding how genes and circuits operate in the brain, to cutting edge clinical work restoring lost function to people with neuromuscular disorders. By combining this science with our vast creative capital, Brain Week RI showcases the work happening here, and promotes a growing biomedical economic sector that holds great promise for Rhode Island’s future. Created by Cure Alliance for Mental Illness, a national advocacy organization promoting increased research on mental illnesses, Brain Week RI celebrates international Brain Awareness Week, a campaign to increase awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. The core of the celebration takes place in a single week, but we’ve expanded this awareness week to include a wide array of school visits, brain fairs, panels and other events throughout the month of March. We are grateful to all the people who are helping make Brain Week RI possible, especially all those who are organizing Brain Week events, as well as our lead sponsors, the Brown Institute for Brain Science and the George & Anne Ryan Neuroscience Institute at the University of Rhode Island. If you are interested in organizing a Brain Week event, please contact us.


Committee Members


Victoria Heimer-McGinn (Chair)

Dr. Heimer-McGinn is an Assistant Professor in the Roger Williams University Psychology Department with a focus on learning / memory and neuropsychiatric disease. Victoria earned a PhD in molecular neuroscience from University College Cork in Ireland and completed her postdoctoral training in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience from Brown University and Providence College, respectively. She has worked on projects related to spatial memory, spatial context, attention, aging, working memory, and transgenic technologies. Victoria is passionate about making neuroscience accessible to the general public, and co-founded Brain Week RI in 2015.


Hakon Heimer

is co-founder and CEO of Cure Alliance for Mental Illness, the creator of Brain Week RI. In addition, he is founding editor of Schizophrenia Research Forum, in honor of his brother, and a program advisor for cognitive disorders at the Banbury Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.Previously, he served on the Council of Councils of the National Institutes of Health and the Council for the National Institute of Mental Health from.Hakon currently serves as a Senior Research Consultant to Københavns Universitet (the University of Copenhagen), advising on projects related to precision medicine and neuroscience projects.


Arielle Nitenson

is a Health Program Evaluator at the State of Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH). Previously serving as an Assistant Professor of Physiological Psychology at Rhode Island College, Arielle earned a Master of Arts in Teaching (Biology Secondary Education) and a PhD in Neuroscience from Brown University. As an advocate for improving the quality of science education, Arielle strives to make science accessible to the general public.


Lauren Palmaccio, LMHC

is an experienced licensed psychotherapist in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and recipient of National Honors in Psychology. She has spent the last decade in the specialty of children / adolescent counseling as well as couples / marriage counseling with strengths in treating and understanding anxiety, depression, and trauma, or PTSD. Further she is a member of the American Mental Health Counselors Association and the International Association of Trauma Professionals and holds particular interest in the bio-psychosocial corollaries of behavior and childhood brain development.



Claire Kokoska

is an Associate for a renewable energy consultancy and also serves as a digital marketing consultant. Earning her undergraduate degree from Union College, Claire focused her thesis on the psychology of childhood development, carrying that interest with her in organizing this year’s BRAINY Visits with the team at the Robert J. & Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science at Brown University.



Amy Gabarra

is the premier political fundraising consultant for the top state government officials, including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline. She has been crucial in the organizing of this year’s Brain Week RI and is driven to bring knowledge of mental health and neuroscience to Rhode Island.



Alastair Tulloch

is a doctoral candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at Brown University. His research focus is on the embryonic signaling mechanisms that lead to nervous system wiring during human development. As a former educator in high school science classrooms, he has a strong desire to connect science from the bench to the greater community.

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