International delegates exchanged knowledge at the Teaching Tools Workshop.
International delegates consisting of seasoned researchers and the African continent’s junior faculty members currently involved in teaching neuroscience, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and related disciplines united in Durban for the first time at the 5th annual Neuroscience Teaching Tools Workshop.
UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, sponsored by the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), held the workshop aimed at developing teaching modules on several specific topics, with the hope that the programme would continue forming the basis for future efforts on other subjects.
Targeting postgraduate students, the workshop covered themes including the basics of neurons and glial cells, receptors, the organization of sensory pathways and function, nerve conduction, action potentials, organization of higher centers mediating sensations, plus other related topics. Strategies for enhancing students’ comprehension and retention of these topics were included.
Dr Musa Mabandla, Academic Leader for Research in the School said South Africa’s lack of experts in the neurosciences is the main reason why the country’s neurological disorders often go undiagnosed.
Mabandla coined neuroscience as a study of the human nervous system, the brain, and the biological basis of consciousness, perception and memory. He reported Alzheimer's disease, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, alcoholism, dementia, Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia, among the most common neurological disorders in the country.
Mabandla said it was important to accept and understand these disorders, adding that society often fears they may be contagious. He said, however, that unless hereditary, neurological disorders may also be due to viral of parasitic infection.
Participants listened to a stimulating presentation by Dr Sharon Juliano, a Professor of Anatomy, Physiology, Genetics and Neuroscience at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) in the United States.
Juliano, founder of the international Teaching Tools Workshop, said neuroscience education was often seen as something challenging and complex to understand thus they had to introduce an appropriate set of neuroscience teaching tools to assist the generation attending the workshop.
‘The workshop has taught me new ways of teaching students to think critically and to think innovation,’ said Lihle Qulu, a Masters candidate at UKZN whose study focused on febrile seizures – convulsions triggered by a fever that occurs most often in otherwise healthy children between ages 9 months and 5 years.
Dr Ludo Badlangana, a young scientist from the University of Botswana’s School of Medicine, said the workshop was exactly what she needed to become better a teacher of neuroscience.
‘No other machine can mimic the brain and its efficiency. The workshop was a great platform for networking and forming collaborations. It’s inspiring to see what other colleagues are doing.’