The Brain, The Mind & How We Learn Conference - Postponed

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This event has been postponed to Spring 2019.

Spring 2019 DATE TBA
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Designed for educators at all levels as well as health professionals and the general public, this day of interactive workshops, panel discussions and lectures will give participants a greater understanding of how brain biology affects behavior, personality, and learning.

This event is sponsored by Wagner College offices of the president and the provost.

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  • Tentative Conference Schedule 
  • Panelists 
  • Workshop Committee Members 
8:30 – 9:00 a.m. Welcome
9:00 – 10:30 a.m. Plenary
10:30 – 10:45 a.m. Questions and Answers
10:45 – 11:00 a.m. Coffee Break
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Workshops
12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Lunch, Poster Presentations, Round Table Talks
1:15 – 2:45 p.m. Plenary
3:00 – 3:30 p.m. Dr. Don Stern’s Presentation on “Learning and What We Can Do to Improve It”
3:30 – 3:45 p.m. Wrap Up
4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Cocktail Reception
Clancy Blair, PhD is a Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University. He is a developmental psychologist who studies self-regulation in young children. His research focuses primarily on the development of cognitive abilities referred to as executive functions important for school readiness and early school achievement and the effects of early life stress on executive function development. 
Michael P. Milham MD, PhD is an internationally recognized neuroscience researcher, the Vice President of Research and the founding director of the Center for the Developing Brain at the Child Mind Institute. He is also a practicing child and adolescent psychiatrist. 
Amy Margolis, PhD is Assistant Professor of Medical Psychology with an appointment in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and an affiliation with the Cognitive Development and Neuroimaging Laboratory. The scientific question she seeks to answer concerns how learning problems are related to underlying deficiencies in the structure and function of neural systems that support learning processes. 
Dr. Souhel Najjar, MD is a neurology specialist in Staten Island, NY and has been practicing for 35 years. He graduated from University Of Damascus in 1983 and specializes in neurology. 
David Pagliaccio, PhD received a PhD in neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis. During his postdoctoral fellowship with Drs. Daniel Pine and Ellen Leibenluft, Dr. Pagliaccio continued fMRI research to examine the neural underpinnings of pediatric anxiety and irritability. As a project manager with the Marsh Lab, he is using neuroimaging to explore alterations in brain circuitry and functioning relating to impulsive-compulsive behaviors, learning disorders, and other pediatric pathologies. 
Donald Stearns, PhD is Director of the Wagner College Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research and a Professor in the Biological Sciences Department focusing on zoology and ecology. His research interests include animal behavior, photophysiology and photobehavior of aquatic organisms and rhythmic behaviors of aquatic organisms.


Sarah Donovan, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy and Interim Dean, Integrated Learning 

Jason Fitzgerald, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education    

Carin Guarasci, Ed.D., Conference Coordinator, Director of New Educators at Wagner 
Nora Lowy, PhD, Director, Physician Assistant Program 

Laurence Nolan, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology       


Ruta Shah-Gordon, Ph.D., Vice President for Internationalization, Intercultural Affairs, and Campus Life 

Donald Stearns, Ph.D., Professor of Biology and Director, Wagner College Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research 

Patricia Tooker, D.P.N, Dean, Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing 


The Brain, the Mind and How We Learn Lectures

Dr. Michael Milham will discuss the importance of “wiring” or connectivity in the developing brain. In particular, he will emphasize the importance of achieving an efficient brain architecture over the course of development, and its relevance to cognition and learning, as well as the various factors that can impact brain development, both positively and negatively.

Dr. Amy Margolis will present findings from studies of the neurobiology of reading and math in typical and atypical development. The presentation will highlight how these skills develop over time and the neural circuitry that supports such skill acquisition. In addition she will discuss how anxiety interacts with these skills, the brain basis for such overlap among disorders, and how intervention can lead to changes in brain and behavior.

This presentation by Dr. Donald Stearns provides a general scientific overview of how the human brain learns by connecting associated neural networks that are triggered together or fired together by co occurring sensory experiences and elicited memories of experiences. Within this context, the concepts of neuroplasticity, remembering, forgetting, and the role of emotions will be discussed. Some emphasis will be given to the real challenge of deep learning: how to change one’s mental constructs to more accurately perceive the real world.

This talk with Dr. Clancy Blair will describe recent advances in the scientific study of self-regulation in early childhood, focusing on the development of executive functions, the complex thinking skills that are important for learning in school and for controlling behavior and emotions. Research in neuroscience indicates that stress and adversity early in life negatively impact executive functions and self-regulation in young children. A growing body of research in early intervention and early childhood education, however, indicates that self-regulation and executive functions can be fostered through supports for families and through innovative programs that enhance the quality of parental care in the infant and toddler period and the quality of children’s early educational experiences.

Dr. David Pagliaccio will present a primer on the brain and common neuroscience methods for assessing brain structure and function, including MRI and EEG. Dr. Pagliaccio will orient the audience to brain anatomy and common brain structures of interest. He will discuss ways to interpret and things to look out for when reading neuroscience research. This is aimed at laying a foundation for understanding the following presentations and studies in the field.

Dr. Souhel Najjar will present the growing human and experimental data suggesting that neuro inflammation and autoimmunity, together with blood-brain barrier breakdown, can contribute to the to the neurobiology of psychiatric and behavioral disturbances, as well as cognitive deficits. Dr. Najjar will highlight the current challenges inherent to the diagnosis and management of immune-mediated brain disorders presenting with dominant psychiatric features mimicking primary psychiatric illnesses such as first-episode psychosis, schizophrenia and mood disorders.

Get involved! The Brain, The Mind & How We Learn Conference will be looking for attendees to share research and best practices during a one-hour poster session to help create more healthy, well-informed, vibrant communities. Submissions should include: the title of the poster, name and contact information for the corresponding author, a 200-300 word abstract describing what the poster will present and an indication of which conference topic(s) you plan to cover. Poster Presentation submission will open Spring 2019