Newswise — It is the consistency of room-temperature butter, fits easily into two outstretched hands and contains a galaxy's worth of neurons. It is the human brain and the focus of a DVD -- "Changing Brains: Effects of Experience on Human Development" -- produced at the University of Oregon.

Did you ever wonder how everything we know, feel, and think is wired in this delicate organ? Did you ever wonder how children’s experiences shape their brain? Answers to these questions and more can be found the 75-minute program created for parents, teachers, caregivers, policymakers and anyone else interested in the mysteries of the brain. Students, faculty and staff in the UO's Brain Development Lab produced the content for DVD, which is geared for non-scientists. There are 12 segments, including nine specific topics, all presented in mostly everyday language. It’s available for free online or for purchase at Proceeds from sales will be used for distribution to low-income families and to translate the DVD into other languages. "The central theme of our production is that virtually every aspect of the development of the human brain and the sensory, cognitive, social and emotional skills that it supports is dependent on and shaped by experience -- input from our environment," said Helen Neville, a professor of psychology and neuroscience and holder of the Robert and Beverly Lewis Endowed Chair at the UO. "Every statement that is made in this DVD is supported by evidence from scientific studies." The program begins with an introduction that describes the human brain, the central role it plays in human functioning, its fragility and the methods used to study its structure and function. Also detailed are mechanisms that allow experience to shape the brain's development. Its architecture is likened to a house: structurally sound if built appropriately or weak and subject to collapse if not. Nine specialty topics cover attention, emotions and learning, hearing, language, math, movement, music, reading and vision. The material presented in the nine topical segments is backed by 126 cited scientific references, which refer to studies involving both humans and animals.

The DVD project, born during a seminar for graduate students in spring 2004, is described on the Web at, where the DVD may be viewed in segments for free. DVD copies also can be ordered there for $9.95.

Customers wishing to buy in bulk for groups or institutions or those who have financial constraints are asked to use the "Contact Us" link to inquire about purchasing alternatives. Changing Brains also will be distributed through teaching organizations, special brain-awareness events, specialized child-care programs and hospitals and physicians.

The UO's College of Education's Center on Teaching and Learning and the Office of the Vice President for Research funded the production. It was recorded and edited under the direction of Alex Marquez in association with Cascade Production Rentals of Eugene. Neville, fellow scientists and students in the Brain Development Lab -- a team of 13 members -- researched the literature on brain development and wrote the scripts.

About the University of OregonThe University of Oregon is a world-class teaching and research institution and Oregon's flagship public university. The UO is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization made up of the 62 leading public and private research institutions in the United States and Canada. The UO is one of only two AAU members in the Pacific Northwest.

Links: Changing Brains Website: UO Brain Development Lab: faculty page:'s introduction segment:


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