Concussion and the Developing Brain Neuroscience Outreach

Worksite Location
Mainly Ithaca, with work in Watkins Glen (4-H Camp Hidden Valley), CCE Schuyler County and CCE Tompkins County
Project Dates
May 15 - August 16, 2018
Faculty Sponsor
Valerie reyna
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Jennifer Sweet, Melissa Schroeder
Stipend Amount
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

There is growing public awareness about the effects of concussions among professional athletes, but the risks are even greater for young people. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 71% of sports- and recreation-related Traumatic Brain Injuries that result in treatment in Emergency Departments, occur to people aged 10 to 19. We created workshops for middle and high school students at the Ithaca Youth Bureau this past summer about how concussion affects the brain ( The proposed summer internship will build upon these activities and incorporate Dr. Reyna’s research findings into age-appropriate educational materials and hands-on activities about the effect of concussions on the brain and how the Fuzzy Trace theory approach to decision making can improve understanding of concussion risks. The project addresses 4-H Positive Youth Development goals, including STEM opportunities, and 4-H Healthy Living: Injury Prevention program development, as well as the College of Human Ecology’s priority of integrating scientific research with community service.   In the 2014 report, Sports-Related Concussions in Youth: Improving the Science, Changing the Culture, by the National Academy of Sciences, it is noted that little research has evaluated the effects of concussion education on behavioral change in youth. They assert that “social, attitudinal, and emotional forces – influence whether and how individuals respond to information.” It is exactly these factors and the role of cognition that Fuzzy Trace Theory has studied in the development of interventions for behavioral change. The goal of the internship is to develop, with an appreciation of Fuzzy Trace principles, a new 4-H STEM module on how risky behaviors affect brain development. The module will incorporate hands-on activities and inquiry-based learning methods to engage students in learning about the brain, healthy decisions, and science. The project will utilize the national 4-H SET curriculum design system to make the module widely available. The module will be piloted in various youth development venues and activities, such as: 4-H clubs, classrooms and 4-H Career Explorations.  

Roles and Responsibilities

The intern will work closely with Dr. Reyna’s research team as well as with CCE partners. Responsibilities will include, but are not limited to: planning, research on curriculum, research on curriculum design and delivery methodology, and pilot teaching the curriculum. 

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

The preferred candidate will demonstrate a high level of enthusiasm for Dr. Reyna’s research in memory across the life span and adolescent risky decision making, as well as for applying this research in outreach and educational settings, including working with youth. The candidate will also have completed general coursework in at least one of the following: Human Development; Psychology; Human Biology, Health and Society; Neurobiology; or related fields.  The candidate should be in excellent academic standing.

Benefits and Skills

The intern will have the opportunity to gain skills in program development, translation and application of research to real-world problems, working with and through others, and translating research into outreach and educational materials, and youth development programming. They will also have the opportunity to gain knowledge of psychology and related behavioral sciences, public health and issues in education.