Participants in the JIAS Colloquium on ‘Why The Brain Matters’ have launched a follow-up in the form of an interdisciplinary seminar series entitled ‘Brain Matter Seminars: the past, present and future of neuroscience in Southern Africa’.

The seminars are a joint initiative between JIAS and the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Human Development at the University of the Witwatersrand, with additional support from the Southern African Neuroscience Society and the Wits Cortex Club. Five bimonthly seminars will be held, from April to December 2017.

The seminar series were launched at Wits University on Thursday 23 March 2017. Among others, the launch was addressed by Prof Willem Hendrik Gispen of Utrecht University, the Colloquium convenor.

One of the organisers of the seminar series, Sahba Besharati of Wits University, has commented as follows on the motivation for this initiative:

‘In the past century, neuroscience has made significant progress in studying the brain, generating wide research on the genetic, biological and neural basis of mental functioning. However, it has been argued that advances specific to Southern Africa have been limited by a lack of access to innovative neuroimaging techniques, a shortage of skill development, and stunted research innovation.

‘The colloquium on ‘Why The Brain Matters’ opened a unique space for discussions among local and international brain-science experts on historic, current and future research in the neurosciences. In doing so, it helped establish a precedent for the importance of advances of both clinical and more laboratory-based neuroscience research in Southern Africa.

‘The purpose of the colloquium was to initiate academic thought around topics pertinent to the scientific study of the brain. The next step in trying to expand the scope and practice of neuroscience in the region is to gather experts from various disciplines to learn, discuss and critically evaluate how to advance the field. To this end, the seminar series will explore the past, present and future of neuroscience in Southern Africa. It will cover topics that are locally relevant and internationally significant.

‘A primary focus of the series will be to stimulate interest and build capacity in neuroscience research among both young and established scientists. It will therefore attract enthusiastic students who are interested in pursuing postgraduate studies in the neurosciences. This will offer an excellent platform for students to explore research interests, meet potential supervisors and be encouraged to apply for post-graduate bursaries. These seminars will ultimately start the process of grooming young researchers in neuroimaging technologies, experimental design, and clinical neuroscience practice.’