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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 collectively scientists and conventional healers.

Gonzalez’s perform is component of a bigger project funded by a Dana Foundation Organizing Grant for a Dana Center for Neuroscience and Society for International 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 opportunity to perform with researchers at the University of Ghana in Accra, contribute to her field and see a diverse component of the globe. It also became her capstone project for her sophisticated graduate certificate in science communication, a plan offered 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 thrilling,” stated Gonzalez. “We’ve now established connections in Ghana exactly where Stony Brook students can hone their neuroscience-teaching and science communication capabilities, and be a component of a two-way culturally sensitive interaction amongst 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 component of other applications like pharmacy, biology and physiology. When locals seek remedy for neurological problems like epilepsy and schizophrenia, they frequently turn to conventional healers who use herbs and plants as medicine. Their approaches frequently perform, although they haven’t undergone formal clinical trials and are not FDA authorized.

1 of Gonzalez’s projects was to make on prior perform to bring collectively some of these conventional healers and academic researchers at the University of Ghana. The project’s objective is to boost trust and probably 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 recognize the lack of trust on their side and what could assist 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 essential 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 carried out to assist mend this trust and increase it for the future. We hope to be capable to assistance additional of these engagements amongst academic scientists and conventional healers.”

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

Brianna Gonzalez wears traditional Ghanian dress with her host family“I genuinely enjoyed placing my investigation and science communication instruction to the test — halfway across the globe,” she stated. “In addition to my perform there, I had time to discover the nation, attempt the nearby dishes and meet an outstanding group of men and women who created my encounter the finest it could have been.”

She led a handful of experiential games with schoolchildren in the course of 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 assist students come across their blind spots. Each activities had 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 inquiries reside and discussed the field of neuroscience in terms the radio’s common audience could recognize 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 stated. “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 had been educated in science communication. Science rewards everybody, and everybody should really have a appropriate to the expertise scientists have constructed and continue to make upon.”

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