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Second Brain Matters Seminar

THE second in the Brain Matters Seminar series will be held at Wits University on Thursday 25 May 2017. Paul Manger, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of the Witwatersrand, will talk on ‘The Five Evolutions of Large Brains in Mammals: Humans, Elephants, Cetaceans, Seals and Camels’.

Seminar Summary

Humans have large brains, and so do whales, dolphins and elephants. But when do we consider a brain to be ‘large’, and does increased brain size evolve for the same purpose in each of these species? This lecture will explore the definition of large brain size and the multiple independent evolutions of large brains across mammals.

DATE AND TIME: Thursday 25 May 2017 at 5 pm.

VENUE: The Resource Centre, Wits School of Public Health, 7 York Road, Parktown.

ENTRANCES: York Road and the east side of the Wits Education Campus. Parking on the Wits Education Campus and at the Wits Medical School.


INVITATION: For a downloadable invitation, click here.

Third seminar

The next seminar in the series will be on Friday 18th August 2017. The presenter will be Professor Mark Solms, Director of Neuropsychology at the University of Cape Town, who will talk on: ‘The neural mechanisms of dreaming’.

About the Bran Matters seminar series

The Brain Matters Seminars are a joint initiative of the University of the Witwatersrand, the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS), the Southern African Neuroscience Society (SANS) and the Wits Cortex Club.

It is an interdisciplinary seminar series that explores the past, present and future of neuroscience in southern Africa, with the aim of building a network of researchers that are dedicated to advancing the field in this region.

The series will consist of five seminars, to be held in April, May, August, October and December 2017. They will have a multidisciplinary neuroscience focus, and will cover topics that are both locally relevant and internationally significant.

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Colloquium report released

A comprehensive report on the Colloquium entitled ‘Why The Brain Matters’ hosted by JIAS in the latter half of 2016 has been completed and is available to the public.

The report was released at the launch of the Brain Matters Seminar Series emanating from the Colloquium at the School of Public Health of the University of the Witwatersrand on 23 March 2017.

Prof Willem Hendrik Gispen of Utrecht University, the Colloquium convener, presented copies of the report to Dr Tanya Calvey of the Wits School of Anatomical Sciences and Dr Sahba Besharati of the CoE in Human Development, organisers of the seminar series, and participants in the Colloquium.

Copies of the report were also presented to Prof Ihron Rensburg, UJ Vice-Chancellor and Principal, and Prof Bertil Andersson, President of Nanyang Technological University, at a ceremony on 20 March 2017 where they signed an agreement to extend their collaboration on the JIAS initiative for another five years.

To download a printable version of the report, click here.

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Seminar series

Participants in the Colloquium on the ‘Why The Brain Matters’ have launched a follow-up in the form of an interdisciplinary seminar series entitled ‘Brain Matters 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 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 was launched at Wits University on Thursday 23 March 2017. Among others, the launch was addressed by Prof Willem Hendrik Gispen of Utrecht Unversity, 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.’

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Evening talk on the brain

ON Wednesday 5 October 2016, Prof Frans Verstraten, a participant in the three-month JIAS colloquium entitled ‘Why The Brain Matters’, delivered an evening talk at St John’s College in Houghton, Johannesburg.

Provocatively entitled ‘Pushing the brain in action: psychology is so much more than a client on a leather sofa …’, the talk was aimed at introducing members of the public to aspects of cognitive neuroscience.

Prof Verstraten is a professor of psychology at the University of Sydney in Australia and Utrecht University in The Netherlands, and one of numerous eminent scholars attending the colloquium.

The talk was attended by about 400 people from 18 schools. For the invitation, click here.

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(c) Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study

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