Lecture Series Is Brain Food

The Friday Lecture Series this summer will provide "healthy" food for thought.


By Mary Beth Erskine

USF.edu News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (June 4, 2010)With only the most caring of intentions and in the most loving of ways, Joseph McAuliffe vigorously reminds the senior adults who are members of USF’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) that they need to “use it or lose it.”


Their brains, that is.


And he has done his homework on neuroplasticity and synaptic reformation to prove his point.


The ongoing formation of new synapses, or connections, in the brain gives it plasticity – the ability to learn, remember and adapt, he said. It’s a process of reformation and rejuvenation that continues throughout life including into one’s “golden years.”


The clincher, however, is that the brain needs to be fed with new knowledge and fresh experiences in order to retain its amazing capacity and efficiency.


"If you want a healthy aging mind, you need to keep learning new things. And not just new things in areas you are already comfortable with, but totally new information in a wide variety of unfamiliar fields," said McAuliffe. "The enemy of age is routines and ruts."


And that’s why McAuliffe, who is the coordinator of programming for OLLI-USF, has developed a rich and diverse summer Friday Lecture Series. He has enlisted Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, as well as experts on music, architecture, medicine and law to help introduce interesting, new information and ideas.

The lectures are open to the more than 1,200 OLLI-USF members, as well as the general public. The lectures are free, but a $3 parking fee and advance registration are required.


While senior-targeted programs at USF date back to 1993, OLLI-USF was established in 2005 following a gift from the Bernard Osher Foundation. The diversity of offerings currently includes: the Friday Lecture Series; classes in the arts, science and humanities; technology education courses; a computer users' support group; and various day trips, special events, and socials. 


“As part of our commitment to lifelong learning, we bring in a broad array of knowledgeable experts on a wide variety of topics,” said McAuliffe.


The key benefit of the lecture series, according to McAuliffe, is that it enables participants to learn about subjects to which they might not have had any previous exposure, thereby contributing to healthy brain function. Topics will range from the music of Louis Armstrong, the origins of gothic cathedrals and the contributions of African-Americans to Tampa’s development, to Medicaid and plastic surgery.


In addition, Mayor Iorio will be the featured speaker for a special presentation on mass transit issues facing Tampa and Hillsborough County, including the latest developments and proposals regarding light rail, bus transportation and other local transit-oriented issues. Iorio’s presentation is the only one that will take place in the middle of the week on Wednesday, June 16.


“Our members have a tremendous appetite for learning and the Friday Lecture Series feeds that appetite,” McAuliffe said.


As I’m always telling them, you’re never too old to learn something new.”


For registration information and more details about any of the upcoming lectures or to register online, click here or call 813-974-2403, option 1, Mon.-Fri., 8:30 am – 4 pm.


2010 OLLI-USF Summer Lecture Series


"Remembering Louis Armstrong"

July 9

Terry Teachout's new biography of Louis Armstrong is loaded with new insights and anecdotes. Larry Martin, who hosted “Jazz Legacy” for WUSF-FM for 15 years, will present an overview of the biography, accompanied by many of the Armstrong recordings mentioned in the book.


"Ten Black Leaders from Tampa's Past"

July 16

A handful of African-Americans and Afro-Cubans played a major role in the development of Tampa from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s. Fred Hearns, a USF graduate who worked for 32 years with the City of Tampa’s Department of Community Affairs, will share his passion for local black history.


"The 'Joyride from Hell' Court-Martial"

July 23

Two pilots secreted their wives on board a military Black Hawk that crashed, killing the two wives but none of the crew. When the government prosecuted the soldiers for the deaths, the court-martial was big news. Lawyers involved in the case, Patrick J. Poff and Dennis B. Keene, discuss the compelling details.


"Secrets to Looking as Young as You Feel"

July 30

Plastic surgery has evolved significantly over the last 25 years with surgical, as well as nonsurgical, techniques now available to help ameliorate the signs of aging. Presenter Joshua Halpern, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon who has pioneered endoscopic (mini-invasive) surgery.


"Wolves to Dogs: Darwinian Evolution or Domestication?"

August 6

Recent findings tracing the origin of the domestic dog have shed new light on this subject. Presenter Gertrude W. Hinsch, PhD, USF professor emeritus, concentrates on embryology and reproductive biology and has raised the ancient breed of Saluki dogs for more than 40 years.


"Origins of Gothic Cathedrals: Their Function and Purpose" 

August 13

Focusing on the birth of the Gothic cathedral, this lecture will address the varying styles associated with different countries. Presenter Jeanna Whiting, an educator whose specialties are 19th century French and Russian literature and art, will discuss how the aesthetic design of cathedrals inspired worshippers.


"Civil Aviation Today"

August 20

Retired USAF colonel Stan Maratos will discuss the history of today’s civil airline system including airport development, air traffic control, airport security, current trends in the industry, as well as answer the question, "What does your airline ticket really cost?"


"Medicaid Asset Protection Strategies"

August 27

Both the legal and financial sides of Medicaid asset protection will be the topic of a joint presentation by Timothy Craig, who has worked in the financial services industry for over 13 years and is a chartered trust and estate planner, and Emma Hemness, a board-certified elder law attorney.


Mary Beth Erskine can be reached at 813-974-6993.