June 5, 2023 5:40 pm

Integrative neuroscience PhD candidate Brianna Gonzalez spent 3 weeks in Ghana demystifying the brain for college youngsters and members of the public, and bringing collectively scientists and classic healers.

Gonzalez’s function is element of a bigger project funded by a Dana Foundation Organizing 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 likelihood to function with researchers at the University of Ghana in Accra, contribute to her field and see a various element of the globe. It also became her capstone project for her sophisticated graduate certificate in science communication, a system offered only to Stony Brook graduate students.

“Having the chance to combine my interests in neuroscience and science communication as effectively as pave the way for future students to have equivalent experiences was so thrilling,” 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 element of a two-way culturally sensitive interaction in between 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 generally turn to classic healers who use herbs and plants as medicine. Their procedures generally function, even though they haven’t undergone formal clinical trials and are not FDA authorized.

One particular of Gonzalez’s projects was to make on prior function to bring collectively some of these classic healers and academic researchers at the University of Ghana. The project’s aim is to improve trust and maybe expand collaborations in between 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 have an understanding of the lack of trust on their side and what may possibly aid heal the relationships.

“My aim was to assess the level of trust in between the healers and the scientists, and the communication in between the two,” Gonzalez mentioned. “It was vital 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 accomplished to aid mend this trust and boost it for the future. We hope to be in a position to assistance far more of these engagements in between academic scientists and classic healers.”

Beyond bringing collectively specialists, Gonzalez worked to share some of her expertise and, far more importantly, to get other individuals interested in the brain and neuroscience.

Brianna Gonzalez wears traditional Ghanian dress with her host family“I truly enjoyed placing my analysis and science communication education to the test — halfway across the globe,” she mentioned. “In addition to my function there, I had time to discover the nation, attempt the nearby dishes and meet an outstanding group of individuals who produced my expertise the finest it could have been.”

She led a handful of experiential games with schoolchildren through the Ghana Brain Bee — a competitors a lot like a spelling bee exactly where nearby winners advance to additional rounds of competitors. Gonzalez led a “truth or myth” game about the brain and an experiment to aid students discover their blind spots. Each activities have been deliberately easy 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 nearby radio station, exactly where she answered concerns reside and discussed the field of neuroscience in terms the radio’s basic audience could have an understanding of and engage with.

“To me, science communication is bringing science to any and each audience, whilst 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-lengthy talks complete of jargon that I can not comply with. I leave feeling discouraged and wishing far more academics have been educated in science communication. Science positive aspects absolutely everyone, and absolutely everyone ought to have a suitable to the expertise scientists have constructed and continue to make upon.”

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