• Fri. Jun 2nd, 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 kids and members of the public, and bringing with each other scientists and conventional healers.

Gonzalez’s operate is element of a bigger project funded by a Dana Foundation Preparing Grant for a Dana Center for Neuroscience and Society for Worldwide Brain Wellness 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 operate with researchers at the University of Ghana in Accra, contribute to her field and see a diverse element 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 properly as pave the way for future students to have comparable experiences was so fascinating,” stated Gonzalez. “We’ve now established connections in Ghana exactly where Stony Brook students can hone their neuroscience-teaching and science communication expertise, and be a element of a two-way culturally sensitive interaction amongst the basic population and neuroscientists exactly where each and every group can teach and inform the other.”

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

1 of Gonzalez’s projects was to develop on preceding operate to bring with each other some of these conventional healers and academic researchers at the University of Ghana. The project’s objective is to boost trust and possibly expand collaborations amongst the two groups, whose exchanges have sometimes been fraught mainly 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 could possibly assistance heal the relationships.

“My objective was to assess the level of trust amongst the healers and the scientists, and the communication amongst the two,” Gonzalez stated. “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 performed to assistance mend this trust and increase it for the future. We hope to be capable to help extra of these engagements amongst academic scientists and conventional healers.”

Beyond bringing with each other specialists, Gonzalez worked to share some of her expertise and, extra importantly, to get other individuals interested in the brain and neuroscience.

Brianna Gonzalez wears traditional Ghanian dress with her host family“I actually enjoyed placing my study and science communication coaching to the test — halfway across the planet,” she stated. “In addition to my operate there, I had time to discover the nation, attempt the regional dishes and meet an unbelievable group of men and women who produced my expertise the ideal it could have been.”

She led a couple of experiential games with schoolchildren through 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 assistance students obtain their blind spots. Each activities have been deliberately very simple and immersive so the students could share their expertise, and the experiment, with other individuals.

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

“To me, science communication is bringing science to any and each audience, although delivering the message in a way that is understandable, relatable and accessible to all,” Gonzalez stated. “As a scientist and lifelong learner, I have discovered myself listening to hour-lengthy talks complete of jargon that I can not adhere to. I leave feeling discouraged and wishing extra academics have been educated in science communication. Science positive aspects everybody, and everybody must have a proper to the expertise scientists have constructed and continue to develop upon.”