Healthy Detroit and Wayne State University

For an inspiring start to the new year, check out the great work being done at Wayne State University, using research and scientific inquiry to yield positive results for the health of Detroit citizens.

One project-the Anthropology of the City initiative aims to investigate the role of food movement identities and their cultural meaning- contemplating just what it means to have access to “good” food.

Hard to believe that there was a time period in the early 2000’s when Detroit did not have a national grocery chain!

Additionally, check out masters in Urban Planning student Jared Talaga’s work on ensuring that everyone in Detroit should have access to healthy food. He was inspired to study and advocate to reduce food insecurity because he was so grateful for his easy access to healthy food and believes everyone should have the same access.

To read more about the Anthropology in the City initiative, Jared Talaga and other great work being done by Wayne State University, please read here. 


Social Justice Advocacy in Detroit

Advocating for Social Justice

Most of us are in a hurry to avoid the harsh winter wind and snow-Wayne State University Law School graduate Lisa Walinske embraces it.

At least she did for for 25 days in December of 2017 in an effort to raise money and awareness for her organization ReDetroit East NPO, Inc- which provides free and low cost legal services for the underprivileged.

She camped out in a small shelter of scrap plywood and plastic tarp on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit, braving the cold Michigan December, sleeping in her sleeping bag.

According to the article in Wayne State University News, Lisa Walinske states:

“On the streets in the shack, I was exposed to the elements and a steady stream of people of all kinds. Some people brought gifts, donations, snacks, supplies. Some people came with their pain and shared stories of deep wounds of injustice.”

Walinske has earned over $22,000 through a Go Fund Me campaign, which surpassed her goal of $18,500.

She is leading a purpose filled life, utilizing her education to level the playing field for those that might not have the knowledge, networks, or other resources to navigate the complex legal system which often neglects their needs.

Walinske states, “I believe in standing up for justice, which sometimes means upsetting the status quo. My goal in starting the center was never to take Legal Service Corp. funds (which come with restrictions), and to bring the law back to the people — all people.”

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why did Lisa Walinske sleep in a tent for 25 days in December?
  2. How is she using her education to serve the community?
  3. Why does she think it is necessary “…to bring the law back to the people-all people?”
  4. What other ways might someone advocate for social justice?
  5. How is “justice” defined?
  6. What questions would you ask Ms. Walinske about her experience?

For a link to the article from Wayne State University news, please click here. 


A Display Case at the Purdy-Kresge Museum at Wayne State University

I was walking up the stairs one Saturday morning looking for a book to browse at the Purdy Kresge Library at Wayne State University in Detroit and I noticed this in a display case.


beatles white album

And I couldn’t help but smile.

Not from any nostalgia or special fondness for the Beatles White Album, for which I have very little. All I remember from listening to the album in my youth in the late 70’s and early 80’s was a queasy feeling from the jarringly  disjointed batch of songs which seem to be an “album” only in the sense that they were all collected in one spot.  What happened to the poppy Beatles that I adored?

I appreciated the album more now and understand the sonic coherence that binds the album together.

But this display case struck me as the perfect appreciation for the album. A few books, a photo of the band members, each in their own little window on the page, barely a band anymore, yet still existing as something called “The Beatles” counterbalanced with a photo of the the four members still seemingly in their prime Beatlish glory.  The title cards, an assemblage of words word processed and presented not quite evenly in the window, likely hastily assembled, which mimic the impressions the songs might initially leave upon a listener (is this song finished yet?) yet which belie the true artistry the band and producers imbued in their craft even at this period in their history.

And then the CD jewel case. Small, unassuming, yet in the foreground of the display, a reminder that yes the band at its best really was about the music. But what is a CD jewel case-but itself an artifact from another time- a time of compressed sound, tiny words on a booklet that lacked any of the grandeur and heft of vinyl and its impressive graphics.  A time of repacking and re-marketing.

Yet, how fitting it all was, to be located in an upper floor of a graduate research library in Detroit, hidden behind glass, celebrating an anniversary of a band, long since broken up, whose cultural impact still continues, but maybe only for those of us old enough to choose to remember, and smile, how “the life goes on.”

Your Brain Never Rests-Wayne State University Research

Your Brain Never Rests (1)

Anyone interested in understanding more about that most fascinating topic-the human brain, should check out the new research by Detroit’s Wayne State University researcher Vaibhav Diwadkar, which suggests that the brain never really is at rest.

Using an fMRI, subjects were asked to perform a simple behavior-tapping their finger when they saw a visual cue. So, the researcher was able to distinguish brain activity while tapping, versus while the subject was not tapping.

The team then modeled the network signals between parts of the brain that execute motor functions and one that provided control.

In an interesting twist, when the subject’s brain was at rest- the network activity actually increased!

According to professor Diwadkar, this has long been suspected, that the brain is never truly at rest. Why? Because it always might have to be ready to act.

This is important because it highlights normal brain function, but also suggests how brain networks might function in individuals that experience severe episodes of brain activity such as those individuals suffering with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Schizophrenia.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is a an fMRI?
  2. How does it actually work?
  3. How did Dr. Diwadker conduct the study?
  4. How did Dr. Diwadker and his team create the models to understand brain behavior?
  5. Why do we sometimes perceive that our brain is “at rest” even when it might not be?
  6. How could Dr. Diwadker and the research team use this information to help individuals suffering from schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder?
  7. What limitations are there with this study?

For more information, please see the article by Julie O’Connor

And a link to the PLOSone primary source material.