Food for Thought Aplenty During UM Brain Awareness Month

Neuroscience research poster showcase, keynote address and Science Cafe among scheduled events

Staci Bilbo, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and associate professor of pediatrics and program in neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, will deliver the keynote address for Brain Awareness Month at the University of Mississippi at 4 p.m. March 24 in Bryant Hall, Room 111. Submitted photo

Editor’s note: In response to the rapidly evolving situation with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), all university-sponsored events have been canceled or postponed until further notice. Please visit for continued updates from the university.

OXFORD, Miss. – Connections between the human brain and the immune system is the theme for upcoming Brain Awareness Month observances, set for March 24, at the University of Mississippi.

Following talks on morality and empathy earlier this month, the daylong series of events begins with a research showcase. Posters made by Ole Miss students detailing their research in neuroscience and related fields will be on display from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Bryant Hall gallery. Applications to present research are available at through March 18.

Following the showcase, Staci D. Bilbo, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and associate professor of pediatrics and program in neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, will deliver the keynote address at 4 p.m. in Bryant Hall, Room 111.

“Dr. Bilbo was on the forefront of a movement that demonstrates that the glial (‘glue’) cells of the brain are as important as the neurons in the brain,” said Lainy Day, director of the neuroscience minor program in the UM Department of Biology and coordinator of the day’s activities. “Her research has altered our understanding of how early life interactions between the immune, endocrine and nervous systems influence cognition, emotion and addictive behaviors.”

Bilbo’s topic is “Brain-immune Crosstalk during Critical Development Transitions: Implications for Health Throughout the Lifespan.” Audience members will get free brain-shaped erasers and brochures.

That evening, Bilbo will present the monthly Oxford Science Cafe at the Uptown Coffee, 265 North Lamar Blvd. The program, examining “The Mind-Body Connection and the Secret Life of your Immune System,” begins at 6 p.m. Science Cafe sponsors are the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Women in Physics and Office of the Provost.

All events are free and open to the public.

Each of Bilbo’s presentations focuses on the important role of the immune system during brain development, which can affect later-life outcomes of neural function, immune function, mood and cognition. She also will discuss how social and environmental issues, such as poverty, pollution and addiction, affect the developing brain and how these factors may eventually be mitigated via scholarship, education and engagement with trainees, collaborators and members of society.

Recently, Bibo has been applying her basic research in rodents to humans and has expanded her work into understanding gut-brain interactions. Her most-recent grants have explored interactions among opioid abuse, gut microbiomes, glia cells and obesity.

Bilbo has published more than 89 peer-reviewed articles in journals such as Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and technical journals related to neuroscience, immunology, development and more. Her work has been continuously funded by the National Science Foundation since 2005, and she has been invited to speak at more than 130 events.

The Neuroscience Research Showcase is sponsored by the UM neuroscience minor program. The annual Brain Awareness Month events program is also sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, School of Applied Sciences and the Graduate School.

Brain Awareness MOnth is a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. For more information, go to and

For more about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to