—– Frequently Asked Questions —–
Violence: understand it to end it
- What do you mean by “You can imagine…”?
People often say to Jennifer and Jeremy that they “can’t imagine” what they are going through. Yet, the fact is, everyone can imagine being in their shoes, as hard and as horrifying as that may be. Imagining is a form of empathy, connecting us to each other. Jeremy and Jennifer want you to imagine what they are going through so that you will be inspired to take action to prevent it from happening to you or those you love. They also ask that you imagine a world where the brain can be explored as easily as a heart or a kidney or any other organ. And to imagine that brain maladies will no longer be diagnosed based on symptoms as they are today, but instead based on actual physical pathologies. Finally, they ask people to imagine communities where every member belongs and is a valuable contributor. In such communities, individuals will not feel ostracized, stigmatized, bullied, or alienated, and the propensity to act in a desperate, destructive, or violent way will be diminished. Change starts with imagination.
- What is the significance of the firefly?
Avielle loved all things that glowed, particularly fireflies. She believed their flashing illumination was magic. When we explained to her the chemiluminescent process of the protein luciferase cleaving luciferin to create the firefly glow, Avie responded “Yeah, that’s what I said, it’s magic!” The firefly is a luminary in the dark and we like to think it represents innocence and wonder – the magic in our world. We imagine the research we will foster as pointing a light into the darkest regions of the brain, guiding us toward effective therapies and cures for those afflicted with brain illness.
- What is the connection between research & community?
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” We think this particularly applies to scientific research. Any biochemical or pathological pieces of the puzzle that help explain compassionate or violent behaviors are meaningless unless communities are engaged and educated in clear ways, so that the findings can be transformed into action. We not only want to understand violence, we want to prevent it.
- What is the difference between “brain health” and “mental health?”
We want to change the language from all things “mental” to those of “the brain.” Mental things are invisible and intangible. As a result, they cause a lot of fear and trepidation because they are unknown. We know there are real, physical manifestations within the brain that can be measured, imaged, quantified, and understood—that make the invisible…visible. The brain is amazing. But we must remember it is also just an organ and, as such, it is not always healthy. The Avielle Foundation is championing efforts to understand what happens in an unhealthy brain that leads to violent behaviors. When we understand something, we are not afraid of it. Using the term brain health demystifies the invisible and steers us away from labels, fear, and trepidation and toward hope and potential cures. Try it yourself. Talk in terms of brain health instead of mental health in your normal conversations. You may soon find it easy to talk about the health of the brain when it is recognized as simply an organ, much like the heart or kidney.
- How do you do brain health research?
When you imagine people doing scientific research, you likely envision bubbling beakers and white lab coats. And you are right! Our research goal is to search in those bubbling beakers for the biochemical and structural basis for violent behaviors. In the same way that high cholesterol correlates with heart disease, or low serotonin activity ties in with depression, we want to identify the biomarkers that correspond with violent and impulsive behaviors.
You may be surprised to know that the Avielle Foundation does not have its own laboratory facilities. What we have is better: We have an elite science advisory board comprised of the world’s thought leaders in the fields of compassion, psychiatry, neurology, neuroscience, education, ethics, and philosophy. Our Science Advisory Board helps us to identify luminary researchers from around the world who can build bridges between the biochemical, genetic, and environmental causes of brain illnesses that lead to violent or malevolent behaviors. The research we are proposing will be performed in many laboratories around the world, which will raise the chance of our success and decrease the amount of time it would otherwise take one laboratory working alone to find the answers. The answers will become the platform on which early diagnostics and effective therapies can be developed for those suffering from brain illnesses. This research is an enormous unmet need. Your donations are directly funding these efforts.