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BLUFFTON ALUMNA KEEPS BRAIN IN MIND

Weaverdyck keeps brain in mind

Dr. Shelly Weaverdyck is a believer in her work as a teacher, researcher and consultant.

"The brain is where it’s at," she said Feb. 7 at Bluffton University, her alma mater. "It’s the frontier."

Now the director of the Alzheimer’s Education and Research Program at Eastern Michigan University, Weaverdyck addressed "When the Brain Goes Awry: Effects of Brain Quirks and Disorders on Thinking and Doing" in her Bluffton Forum talk.

Intrigued about how the brain works, she said she is constantly asking herself why people think and do the things they do. "None of us is born with a perfect brain. We are born with messed up brains," she said, explaining how we all spend our lives "compensating for what others think is normal."

Weaverdyck, also a Bluffton native, delved into quirks—which encompass severe painful disorders or little moments when the mind drifts—and discussed the two hemispheres of the brain. Each hemisphere has its own "flavor and style" of functioning, she said, breaking down the hemispheres into the frontal lobe and the left and right parietal lobes, with each part having its own specialized functions that "drive to become increasingly efficient."

Brain quirks affect one’s ability to think; they determine who we are and how we think and act, said Weaverdyck, who researches dementia, the aging brain, changes of the brain and its influences on human behavior. Pointing out that "the brain is changing all the time, from birth to death," she noted that the younger the brain, the easier it can repair damage to itself. The repair effort becomes more challenging as the brain ages, but regardless of age, damage done has some influence on one’s thinking and doing, she said.

"We have an enormous power over what our brain does" with rehabilitation, retraining and repetition, she added. "Experience changes the brain, and the brain changes experiences."

Weaverdyck earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bluffton in 1977. Until recently, she was also a dementia specialist at the Turner Geriatric Clinic at the University of Michigan, where she has taught and been a researcher and consultant as well.

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Alexandria Ferland, Bluffton public relations, 2/10/12