Brain’s Lifelong Changes to be Described by UT Professor

KNOXVILLE –- Creating relationships and mastering new skills may feel like second nature to many human beings, but it’s actually more complex than we think.

University of Tennessee professor Sandra Twardosz will shed light on the brain’s capability to be changed by experience during her presentation, “Lifelong Learning and Lasting Love: What Can Neuroscience Teach Us?” at the UT Science Forum at noon Friday, Nov. 3, in Dining Room A of the Thompson-Boling Arena.

Twardosz, a professor of child and family studies whose background is in psychology, believes that neuroscience provides a fascinating and valuable perspective on human development and behavior. “We now can have a deeper understanding of the way in which experiences of neglect, abuse and lack of appropriate stimulation can have an impact on children’s learning,” Twardosz said.

The importance of the environment for brain development throughout life has been known for some time from research on animals, but the more recent availability of imaging technologies has provided additional information about humans.

“Although experiences during early childhood are extremely important, we learn throughout our lives and that learning results in physical changes in the brain,” Twardosz said. “This brain plasticity remains even into old age and supports new learning.”

So does that mean that there’s a science to everything, including love?

“Our capacity to form lasting relationships seems to be connected with the presence of neuropeptides that allow us to associate pleasure with specific human beings,” said Twardosz, whose research also includes some aspects of family literacy.

Attendees at the forum will hear an in-depth explanation of these topics and are encouraged to ask questions once the 40-minute presentation ends.

The UT Science Forum is held every Friday, from 12 to 1 p.m., in the Arena.

Upcoming Science Forum topics include the following:

• “Combining Form and Function in the PET/CT Scanner: Against the Odds,” Friday, Nov. 10, by David Townsend, Graduate School of Medicine.

• “Computational Ecology: Environmental Problem Solving for the 21st Century,” Friday, Nov. 17, by Louis Gross, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.

• “Defeating Terrorism with Technology,” Friday, Dec. 1, by Mike Kuliasha, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
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Contacts:

Jay Mayfield, media relations, (865-974-9409, jay.mayfield@tennessee.edu)

Sandra Twardosz, Professor of Child and Family Studies, (865-974-6274, stwardos@utk.edu)

Mark Littmann, forum organizer, (865-974-8156,
littmann@utk.edu)