Texas Lawmakers Learn About BrainHealth Initiative
Oct. 22, 2008
Eight members of the Texas State House of Representatives visited the UT Dallas Center for BrainHealth Oct. 9 to learn more about its Middle School Brain Years initiative.
UT Dallas President David Daniel, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Dean Bert Moore, VP of Public Affairs Amanda Rockow and chair of the center’s advisory board Debbie Francis joined the team of BrainHealth researchers to welcome the group. State Representatives Warren Chisum, Dan Branch, Jerry Madden, Jim Jackson, Will Hartnett, Carl Isett, Linda Harper-Brown and Brian McCall were in attendance.
Dr. Daniel explained how the newest research shows that the middle school years are a crucial window in the development of critical thinking and reasoning skills and that Texas has an opportunity to use these findings to intervene and improve education during this critical period brain development.
Dean Moore said that UT Dallas is uniquely positioned to lead this initiative because the University’s early commitment to invest in neurosciences has put it ahead of the curve. It was the first in the state to offer an undergraduate program in neuroscience and one of the first of four universities in the country to do so.
Francis echoed the dean’s remarks. “Brain science is a hot field right now,” she said. “We’re already a leader, but we want to become a world leader.”
During their tour, the group heard from Dr. Dan Krawczyk and Dr. John Hart. They discussed a few of the many approaches the team is using to better understand reasoning in the teenage brain.
The BrainHealth team’s approach is unique because researchers and clinicians work side by side to translate the newest findings into clinical programs and interventions; a process that typically takes years.
They have already made great strides through their Strategic Memory and Reasoning Training (SMART) program. Dr. Sandra Chapman, chief director of the center, Dr. Jacquelyn Gamino and BBS Distinguished Scholar Dr. Reid Lyon provided the legislators an overview of the SMART program, which has had great success in training the teenage brain to reason.
The UT Dallas team is ready to convert its one-of-a-kind program into Web-based training to teach strategic reasoning to Texas students. With the support of the Legislature, they believe it can become a model program across Texas middle schools.
All members of the Texas State Legislature will convene for the 81st Regular Session on Jan. 13, 2009.