Brain Healthy Project Featured in UConn Today

“Brain Healthy” initiative aims to help high school students interpret data collected through wearable devices to help make healthy choices impacting mental health

What if high school students could harness the data they collect on their smart phones and watches to assess their physical and cognitive health and, while making those assessments, discover what it’s like to be a data scientist?

That’s the idea behind Brain Healthy, an initiative developed by a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and educators headed by Neag School of Education Assistant Professor Ido Davidesco with the support of a $1.3 million Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Brain Healthy was created in response to the dual challenges of preparing traditionally underrepresented students for data and health science careers and addressing the alarming increase in reported mental health issues among children, adolescents, and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program builds on BrainWaves, a prior NIH SEPA-funded program led by Davidesco successfully implemented in 25 New York City public schools.

Davidesco and fellow Brain Healthy researchers – Wendy Suzuki, professor of Neural Science at NYU, and UConn professors Sandra Chafouleas and Eric Loken – will partner with public school teachers in Connecticut and New York City to engage ninth and tenth grade students in a “citizen science” research project evaluating their brain health and wellness. Using data from surveys and wearable devices, students will be taught how to analyze research-generated data and apply it to draw conclusions about, for example, the connection between the amount of sleep they get and their ability to focus during the day.

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