MU School of Health Professions kicks off health conversation series

Friday, May 18, 2012 | 6:30 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — How the brain reacts to extreme changes such as losing a limb was the focus of the first conversation in a new lunchtime series at the MU School of Health Professions.

Scott Frey, director of the MU Brain Imaging Center, discussed his research on how the brain adapts to a significant loss of muscle and nerve activity. Using people who have lost a right hand as a main example, he described how the brain reorganizes itself in reaction to that loss.

The discussion ended with a look at the clinical application of this research, including a successful hand transplant.

The Collaborative Scholarship & Discovery Conversation Series aims to promote interaction between researchers and members of the community.

"I think one of the biggest goals is to help members of the community better understand what is going on inside their university," said Megan Gill, strategic communications director for the School of Health Professions. "This is the peoples’ university."

Frey said he worked to present his research in a way that would appeal to a wide audience.

"We’ve got people who are scientists, and we’ve got people who are clinicians, but we also have some people who are from the community, which means the goal of this new series is being achieved," he said. "We’re being a diverse group."

The presentation included questions and discussion from the audience of about 40 people in Lewis Hall. 

Jeff Krug, a teaching assistant professor in the MU physical therapy program, said afterward that was he interested to hear research on topics he regularly discusses in his neurophysiology classes.

"It was helpful to me to reiterate some of what I knew, but also take it to a deeper level," Krug said.

Krug said he was excited that the research Frey presented can be applied to work being done in other departments and programs. This potential cross-pollination of ideas was what led health professions Dean Richard Oliver to approach Frey about the series, Frey said.

At one point during the Friday presentation, an audience member suggested a different way to gather related research. Frey said, in essence, 'good idea' and asked the woman email him.

The series has been several months in the making. It is loosely slated to take place on the third Friday of the month during the lunch hour, Gill said. Times and dates will change to accommodate speakers’ or community schedules.

Future speakers have not been set, although a Harvard professor is scheduled to speak in March, Gill said.

The discussion was recorded and will be posted as a video on the School of Health Professions website.

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