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Brain Talk: A Lunchtime Series

March 16, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - March 17, 2021 @ 1:30 pm EDT


Join us March 15, 16 &17 for a lunchtime blend of science and storytelling with hosts Pablo Rodríguez, MD, and members of the Brain Week RI Executive Committee. Over three days, we will welcome various guest from across the state. The hosts will interview scientists and physicians, hear personal stories about the brain, and take questions from the audience. Topics range from health and wellness to interest topics like language and decision-making. Featuring speakers from the University of Rhode Island, Brown University, Butler Hospital, Bradley Hospital, and the Mindfulness Center. The event will take place on Zoom Webinars. To attend, please register by clicking below. Registration is required only once for all three days.

Brain Talk Hosts


Pablo Rodriguez, MD is Associate Professor Emeritus of OBGYN at Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University. He is the former Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of RI and is a former Chair of the Rhode Island Foundation, International Institute of RI and Rhode Island Project AIDS. He co-founded the RI Latino Political Action Committee and Latino Public Radio, where he hosted a daily radio show in Spanish, for which he was awarded the Metcalf Media Award. He currently hosts a webcast called Nuestra Salud, and a news analysis show, Cirugia Politica, both on RhodeInforma.com.

Host, Co-Chair of BWRI

Victoria Heimer-McGinn, PhD is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Roger Williams University. Dr. Heimer-McGinn teaches a variety of neuroscience courses at RWU and is passionate about spreading her love for the brain. She co-founded Brain Week RI in 2016 and received the Next Generation Award in 2019 from the Society of Neuroscience in recognition of her work in outreach and education. Dr. Heimer-McGinn is also a Fulbright Scholar, National Hispanic Scholar, and Associate of the Neuroscience Scholars Program. She earned a PhD in molecular neuroscience from University College Cork in Ireland and was a Postdoctoral Fellow (NRSA-F32) at Brown University and Providence College. Here, she trained in behavioral, cognitive, and systems neuroscience. In the past, she has researched spatial memory/context, attention, working memory, and transgenic technologies. Her current focus is on sex-specific cognitive deficits in a mouse model of bipolar disorder. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, she is dedicated to increasing female and minority representation in STEAM fields.

Host, Co-Chair of BWRI

Oluwarotimi (Timi) Folorunso, PhD is a post-doctoral research fellow in the Translational Psychiatry Laboratory, which is led by Darrick T. Balu, PhD. His research focuses on investigating the cellular and molecular mechanism that underlie cognitive deficits in psychiatric and neurological disorders such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

He is interested in understanding how intrinsic and extrinsic factors alter cortical development, ultimately leading to cognitive deficits in adolescence and adulthood. He is a recipient of the Jeane B. Kempner Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award.

Guest Speakers Monday 3/15: Sleep, Migraines, and Memory


Mary A. Carskadon, PhD is an authority on adolescent sleep and circadian rhythms. Dr. Carskadon serves as director of the Chronobiology and Sleep Research Laboratory at Bradley Hospital and is a Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior at the Alpert Medical School. Carskadon’s early research with her graduate mentor, William C. Dement, culminated in the development and application of a standardized measure for daytime sleep tendency, the multiple sleep latency test, a clinical test for narcolepsy. Dr. Carskadon is a distinguished alumna and honorary degree-holder of Gettysburg College and holds an earned doctorate in neuro- and bio-behavioral sciences from Stanford University, with a specialty in sleep research. Dr. Carskadon has received awards from several national organizations recognizing her scientific, educational, and public policy contributions. She is an elected Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Her talk will discuss sleep of children and teens in the context of her research that exams associations between brain systems that regulate sleep/wake behavior —the circadian timing system and the sleep homeostat. Her findings have raised public health issues regarding the consequences of insufficient sleep for adolescents as well as concerns about early starting times of schools. For example, adolescents’ circadian timing becomes later; their sleep “need” does not diminish; their sleep homeostatic system is modified in a way that alters sleep timing. Her work has affected education policy, prompting the AAP and others to promote later school timing for adolescents and many school districts to delay school start times.


Alexes Elizabeth is a human living with migraine disease, patient advocate, and comedian. After decades void of proper diagnosis, the goal is to assist the migraine community-at-large, the community of neurological disorders and invisible diseases alike by lending a voice to raise awareness. Alexes is one of our storytellers and will share her journey as a person living with migraines.


Athene Lee, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University Alpert Medical School. She is also a clinical neuropsychologist at the Butler Hospital Memory and Aging Program and the Director of the Butler Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry. Dr. Lee is a site principal investigator for the Trial-Ready Cohort for Preclinical/Prodromal AD (TRC-PAD), site neuropsychologist for the U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health Through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk (U.S. POINTER), and sub-investigator for a number of other Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials.

Dr. Lee received her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Suffolk University and completed her residency and fellowship in neuropsychology at Brown University Alpert Medical School. She is dedicated to promoting early identification and intervention for cognitive decline and to enhance diverse representation in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia research. Her research is focused on risk prediction algorithm for preclinical Alzheimer’s, disclosure of genetic and biomarker risk for Alzheimer’s, and cultural influence on subjective cognitive decline.

Guest Speakers Tuesday 3/16: Mindfulness, Exercise, Brain Tumors, and Language


Jud Brewer, MD, PhD is the Director of Research and Innovation at the Mindfulness Center and associate professor in Behavioral and Social Sciences at the School of Public Health and Psychiatry at the Medical School at Brown University. He also is a research affiliate at MIT. A psychiatrist and internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addictions, Brewer has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for behavior change, including both in-person and app-based treatments for smoking, emotional eating, and anxiety. He has also studied the underlying neural mechanisms of mindfulness using standard and real-time fMRI, and source-estimated EEG, and is currently translating these findings into clinical use (see www.drjud.com for more information). He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, presented to the US President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, foreign Parliaments, trained US Olympic athletes and coaches, and foreign government ministers and has been featured on 60 minutes, at TED (4th most viewed talk of 2016 with over 16 Million views), in the New York Times, Time magazine (top 100 new health discoveries of 2013), Forbes, Businessweek, NPR, National Geographic, and the BBC among others. He is the author of The Craving Mind: from cigarettes to smartphones to love, why we get hooked and how we can break bad habits (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017) and Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind (Avery/Penguin Random House, 2021). Follow him on twitter @judbrewer. 


John Robinson, PhD is the Co-Director of the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rhode Island and Professor of Psychology. Dr. Robinson is a behavioral neuroscientist who works to understand human central nervous system function and dysfunction. His lab applies behavioral, biochemical, pharmacological, and neuroanatomical techniques in several lines of research that include collaborations with laboratories at the University of Rhode Island and other institutions. For Brain Talk, Dr. Robinson will be discussing the physiological benefits of exercise to the brain. 


Amanda Marie Duffy, PhD is a post-doctoral researcher in Dr. Leigh Hochberg’s laboratory in the Neurology Department at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). She received her Sc.B. and Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Brown University. Her Ph.D. dissertation involved identifying early behavioral phenotypes in mouse models for ALS and frontotemporal dementia using a novel automated behavioral monitoring technology. At MGH, Amanda is a member of the BrainGate team (braingate.org), where she is working on an epidemiology project with the goal of quantifying the number of people who would benefit from an intracortical brain-computer interface (iBCI). Her project specifically targets the population of people who have lost communication and upper extremity function from disease or injury. Amanda has a passion for neurorehabilitation in developing strategies and tools, including iBCIs, to restore function. 


Roman Feiman, PhD received his doctorate in Psychology from Harvard University in 2015. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard for a year, and at UC San Diego for another two. His work draws on a variety of approaches and methods from cognitive developmental psychology, language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and formal semantics. He directs the Brown Language and Thought lab. 

Guest Speakers Wednesday 3/17: Neuroeconomics, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Racism & COVID


Oriel FeldmanHall, PhD is the Alfred Manning Assistant Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences at Brown University. She received the Benefactor Scholarship for her Doctorate at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, and her Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University. Dr. FeldmanHall won the Association for Psychological Science Rising Star Award, in recognition of innovative work that has already advanced the field. She also received the prestigious NARSAD Young Investigator Award from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the Henry Merritt Wriston Award for excellence in teaching and scholarship, the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society's Innovation Award, and the Society for Neuroeconomics Early Career Award. She is an editor at multiple journals, including the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General and the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. She teaches Social Psych (CLPS 700) and the Moral Brain (CLPS 1760).

On Brain Talk, Dr. FeldmanHall will explore how humans make choices when there are competing pressures of fairness, harm, self-interest, and concern for others? Combining behavioral and neuroscientific methods, we explore the social, emotional and cognitive factors that shape and ultimately guide these complex moral choices and how we learn to make such decisions. Our work demonstrates that while moral behavior is flexibly deployed, there are key factors that can systematically bias social choices.


Kyri Allison is a former clinical mental health worker who uses her skills to help people live their best lives. During her time working kids with OCD and other anxiety disorders, she developed a skillset for working with people to uncover the roots of their fears and a passion for helping them to overcome them with the principles of DBT and Exposure Therapy. Blending her clinical background with an interest in working independently with families, Kyri now runs The Millennial Nanny where she works as a parent coach helping caregivers raise happy, healthy, thoughtful children.


Kali Cyrus, MD is a psychiatrist who currently sees patients in Washington D.C.. Through her company, Dynamics of Difference, she also offers consultation on managing conflicts stemming from identity differences. She is also a respected leader in highlighting the ways in which discrimination impacts health through her political work with the Committee to Protect Medicare, advocacy as a founding member of TimesUp Healthcare, academically as an Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine, and in the mainstream media using videos, opeds, and speaking engagements. Read more about her at www.kalidcmd.com.

On Brain Talks, Dr. Cyrus will be discussing how racism influences diagnosis of covid-19, access to treatment, quality of treatment, and outcomes for people. While the statistics of floating around show how people of color are overrepresented in negative health and social consequences of COVID-19, Dr. Cyrus hopes to paint a picture beyond the numbers, and help show what this looks like in the day to day life of those most severely impacted.


March 16, 2021 @ 12:00 pm EDT
March 17, 2021 @ 1:30 pm EDT
Event Category:


Sydney Frank Hall
185 Meeting Street
Providence, RI 02906 United States


Brain Club at Roger Williams University
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