• Tue. May 30th, 2023

Neuroscience, Science Communication Graduate Student Demystifies the Brain in Ghana


May 26, 2023

Integrative neuroscience PhD candidate Brianna Gonzalez spent 3 weeks in Ghana demystifying the brain for college young children and members of the public, and bringing with each other scientists and conventional healers.

Gonzalez’s function is portion of a bigger project funded by a Dana Foundation Arranging Grant for a Dana Center for Neuroscience and Society for International Brain Well being and led by Turhan Canli, a professor of integrative neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences Division of Psychology and Gonzalez’s doctoral advisor. 

The funds gave Gonzalez the possibility to function with researchers at the University of Ghana in Accra, contribute to her field and see a distinct portion of the planet. It also became her capstone project for her sophisticated graduate certificate in science communication, a system readily available only to Stony Brook graduate students.

“Having the chance to combine my interests in neuroscience and science communication as nicely as pave the way for future students to have comparable experiences was so fascinating,” mentioned Gonzalez. “We’ve now established connections in Ghana exactly where Stony Brook students can hone their neuroscience-teaching and science communication abilities, and be a portion of a two-way culturally sensitive interaction among the common population and neuroscientists exactly where every single group can teach and inform the other.”

Brianna Gonzalez stands with a group of traditional healers in GhanaIn Ghana, neuroscience is taught as portion of other applications like pharmacy, biology and physiology. When locals seek therapy for neurological problems like epilepsy and schizophrenia, they usually turn to conventional healers who use herbs and plants as medicine. Their strategies usually function, although they haven’t undergone formal clinical trials and are not FDA authorized.

One particular of Gonzalez’s projects was to make on earlier function to bring with each other some of these conventional healers and academic researchers at the University of Ghana. The project’s aim is to boost trust and possibly expand collaborations among the two groups, whose exchanges have sometimes been fraught simply because of lack of mutual understanding. Gonzalez helped lead a conversation with the healers to realize the lack of trust on their side and what may well aid heal the relationships.

“My aim was to assess the level of trust among the healers and the scientists, and the communication among the two,” Gonzalez mentioned. “It was critical for me to attempt to figure out these stories behind what occurred in the previous to burn the bridges, but then also ask them what can be completed to aid mend this trust and strengthen it for the future. We hope to be in a position to assistance additional of these engagements among academic scientists and conventional healers.”

Beyond bringing with each other specialists, Gonzalez worked to share some of her understanding and, additional importantly, to get other people interested in the brain and neuroscience.

Brianna Gonzalez wears traditional Ghanian dress with her host family“I truly enjoyed placing my investigation and science communication education to the test — halfway across the planet,” she mentioned. “In addition to my function there, I had time to discover the nation, attempt the regional dishes and meet an amazing group of people today who created my expertise the very best it could have been.”

She led a couple of experiential games with schoolchildren throughout the Ghana Brain Bee — a competitors considerably like a spelling bee exactly where regional winners advance to additional rounds of competitors. Gonzalez led a “truth or myth” game about the brain and an experiment to aid students come across their blind spots. Each activities have been deliberately easy and immersive so the students could share their understanding, and the experiment, with other people.

She also was a guest on a 30-minute science show on a regional radio station, exactly where she answered queries reside and discussed the field of neuroscience in terms the radio’s common audience could realize and engage with.

“To me, science communication is bringing science to any and just about every audience, even though delivering the message in a way that is understandable, relatable and accessible to all,” Gonzalez mentioned. “As a scientist and lifelong learner, I have identified myself listening to hour-extended talks complete of jargon that I can not adhere to. I leave feeling discouraged and wishing additional academics have been educated in science communication. Science advantages everybody, and everybody should really have a ideal to the understanding scientists have constructed and continue to make upon.”