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South African Brainhack


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The University of the Witwatersrand’s Neuroscience Research Laboratory (NeuRL) and Robotics, Autonomous Intelligence and Learning Lab (RAIL), in collaboration with Neuroscience Alliance (NEURAL, a chapter of OHBM), are running a residential Brainhack from the 22nd – 26th October 2024 at the Wits RuralFacilities outside the Kruger National Park. This South African Brainhack is generously funded by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), the International Brain Organisation (IBRO) and Wits School of Human and Community Development. Data hacking support will be given for MRI and DTI analyses, ERP-EEG, and fNRIS. A hyperscanning project will be running during the Brainhack. Limited spaces are available. Priority will be given to applicants from Africa.

Please submit an application using this form

Applications close 5th July 2024.


Contact information: and

The program for the Brainhack can be found here



June, 2021

A big congratulations to our very own Sahba for her exceptional achievement of being named a CIFAR (Canadian Institute for Advance Research) Azrieli Global Scholar, on the Brain Mind and Consciousness Program. Sahba is one of 19 scholars selected from 300 qualified global applicants for her excellence in research. By joining the selective and prestigious CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars program, Sahba will have the opportunity to be mentored by some of the world’s most repeatable scientists, as well as collaborate with a community of esteemed CIFAR fellows and offer new ideas and approaches to addressing some of the most important questions facing science and humanity.

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 Check out Wit's CURIOS.TY Magazine issue on MOOD

   Sept, 2020


Look out for the 10th issue of Wits University’s research magazine, Curios.ty, on the themed #Mood, which features of some NeuRL’s members and research.

By 2030, mental health will be the single largest global challenge we will face (World Health Organization). #Mood answers pertinent questions around mental health and wellbeing through expert analysis and commentary on mental illnesses and neurosciences broadly, as well as all the socio-economic, political, psychological, legal, ethical, cultural, technological and other interpretations thereof. Wits researchers shed light on ADHD, suicide, depression, grief, Alzheimer’s disease, euthanasia, and other mental health-related matters.

PLEASE SHARE! To have greater impact, we need your help to share the link with your networks, online and social media communities

Click below to access the full magazine!


  Aug, 2020

Special Collection Issue : Humanities Data in the time of COVID-19 

The Journal of Open Humanities Data is publishing a special collection on data-focussed papers exploring the widespread effects of COVID-19 through the lens of the Humanities. The collection is entitled "Humanities Data in the time of COVID-19" and is led by guest editors Sahba Besharati and Mandy Wigdorowitz. To find out more and see the call for papers please visit submission deadline is 30 September 2020. Help spread the word and pass along this exciting opportunity! 

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Community Engagement: Help Support the Green Bag Project 

   July, 2020

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Support this powerful community initiate who is working hard is to connect with the homeless community (and other vulnerable groups) to find out how to meet their basic needs. They do this by encouraging peers and those around us to take a green drawstring bags (which will be distributed), fill it with a month’s worth of toiletry supplies and gift it to a person in need, such as a member of the homeless community. This month they are aiming to raise 250 GREEN BAGS (including feminine hygiene products) to gift women experiencing homelessness.

Click below to find out more and get involved!

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  April, 2020

NeuRL Stays Active During COVID -19 Required Social Distancing             

NeuRL members- students and faculty alike- continue their research engagements in a virtual spaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Be on the look out for forthcoming papers and research opportunities. For now, take a look here ( at this exciting international research collaboration on attitudes and beliefs surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic with over 60 other countries around the world!

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Public Talk on the Developmental Origins of Suicide 

Mar, 2020

NeuRl had the privilege of hosting a public lecture on the Developmental Origins of Suicide Risk in the Lifespan in March this year. Dr Massimiliano Ori from the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University in Canada delivered an engaging presentation that tracked the developmental patterns of suicide over the life course. Dr Orri's cutting edge research that encompasses the fields of epidemiology and psychology captivated the audience's attention and resulted in a much needed discussion on the mental health among young South Africans. 

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NeuRL Celebrates Graduates                  

Dec, 2019

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NeuRL celebrated it's recent Doctorate and Master's graduates in December. Big congratulations to Dr Nicky Israel and Dr Aline Ferreira Correia, as well as our Masters graduates Candice Ramsammy and Sasha Jugdav.

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Building EEG Capasity 

Oct, 2019

Dr Charlotte Krahe, from the University of Liverpool recently visited Wits NeuRL to facilitate an electroencephalography (EEG) and evoked response potentials (ERPs) capacity building workshop. The two-day workshop was held at the Johannesburg Institute for Advance Study (JIAS) and attended by 20 carefully selected participants from across various disciplines, such as Psychology, Anatomy, Physiology and Epidemiology. A visiting scholar, Dr Iman Ghodrati Toostani, from the University of San Paulo also attended the workshop and delivered a talk on: Cognitive impartment detection and rehabilitation using non-invasive brain stimulation methods. Hosted in collaboration with the Wits Cortex Club and the Southern African Neuroscience Society (SANS), the workshop concluded with a public lecture delivered by Dr Krahe on the Social Modulation of Pain, held at the Adler Museum. 

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Biological Psychiatry Congress 

Sept, 2019

Dr Sahba Besharati attended the Biological Psychiatry Congress in Cape Town, which also fell part of the Southern African Neuroscience Society (SANS) annual symposium.  She presented her collaborative research with KatLab and NPSY.Vr on rehabilitation interventions for patients with disorders of the bodily self. Sahba was awarded the SANS best oral presentation prize and looks forward to the next SANS symposium to be held in Johannesburg in 2020.

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Southern African Neuroscience Society (SANS) Symposium


Wits 10th Cross Faculty Postgraduate Symposium

The postgraduate symposium provides Wits postgraduate students from the five University faculties an opportunity to showcase their research. Candice Ramsammy presented a poster on her Master’s research on the relationship between social-cognitive development and stimulation in the home environment in pre-school children.  Candice’s presentation was well received by both staff and students and was awarded 3rd price in the Humanities Poster category. PhD candidate, Michelle Lea, also presented her doctoral research at the postgraduate symposium using a video animation. The animation provides a creative summary of her research on Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD).


Sept, 2019

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Public Talk Resounding Success 

Aug, 2019

Professor Barbara Wilson, renowned expert on neuropsychological rehabilitation, from the Oliver Zangwell Centre in Cambridge UK, delivered an inspiring lecture on disorders of consciousness at Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. The talk was hosted by the Health Communications Research Unit (HCRU) and Wits NeuRL. It was attended by over 40 students, academics and clinicians from various disciplines. The talked ended with a lively discussion around the difficulties and creative approaches to assessment and rehabilitation of brain damaged patients.  


Prof Barbara Wilson at Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital


Research Internship at KatLab

May, 2019

Research Intern from Denison University (US), Gabriella Nutter, visited University College London's KatLab. Working closely with our collaborator, Gabriella participated as a research assistant for the lab. Her duties included confederate roles during studies, data entry and hands-on work with current research out of KatLab. This opportunity offered up an amazing experience for Gabriella, giving her direct experience in an experimental neuroscience lab. A huge thank you must be extended to the KatLab team for there hospitality and continued collaboration. We hope to continue to encourage opportunities like this. 


Lab Members visit Harvard

March, 2019

Kate and Aline attended an fMRI visiting fellowship at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Harvard University, Boston in March. The course was lead by Dr Robert Savoy of the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical. They learnt about experimental design of imaging studies using a range of different methodologies including resting state fMRI connectivity, advanced MRI, and DTI Tractography. The course covered issues when scanning children and adolescents, fMRI programming and the ethics of imaging studies. This knowledge is intended to be used for developing a fMRI-based study exploring the effectiveness of working memory training in HIV positive adolescents. 


Functional MRI Visiting Fellowship

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8 Listed in 200 Young South Africans

July, 2018

Every year the Mail & Guardian profiles interesting young people who have stood out from the pack and who show us what to look forward to in the country’s future. These under-35s are talented and have shown themselves to be leaders. They are the ones to watch. This flagship is not just about what the Mail & Guardian thinks, but is about who the public views as the best and brightest young people. At the beginning of the year, nominations are open to the public. Choosing the finalists is a rigorous process, and each of the people on the list is an exceptionally strong representative of their fields of interest or expertise. Selection also draws on the knowledge of experts, from within the Mail & Guardian and without, to help find those that truly stand out in their field.Eight postgraduate students, researchers and staff of the CoE-HUMAN were listed among the 200 Young South Africans 2018. Dr Sahba Besharati was among the eight, mentioned in the Science & Technology category. 

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Wits Centenary Event

July, 2022

An Interactive Experience of Brain and Behaviour 

Wits is celebrating 100 years of excellence! To mark this momentous anniversary, Wits NeuRL and collaborators hosted by the school of Human and Community Development are proud to present an interactive experience of the brain and behaviour. Join us on Thursday, 28 July 2022 in Room U218 of the Department of Psychology, with your friends and family where you can participate in an experiment, play with 3D printed brains, experience virtual reality, discover brain imaging and so much more! To register for this fun interactive experience, click the link below. 

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Wits NeuRl Women's Month Webinar Series

August, 2021

Inspiring South African Women of Neuroscience

In celebration of Women's Month, Wits NeuRL is proud to be hosting the webinar series, 'Inspiring South African Women of Neuroscience'. In this webinar series, a selection of South African women neuroscientists will share their academic journey, research, and careers, followed by a Q&A session. The aim of this webinar series is to inspire young female high school and university students to pursue careers in the neurosciences, but anyone interested is welcome to register for this two-part webinar series! To register, please click below 

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Wits Cortex Club, SANS & NeuRL Lecture

October, 2019

The Social Modulation of Pain

Pain, especially chronic pain, is a major public health problem. Developing effective, low cost approaches to pain management is thus a critical task for researchers. A promising approach is the provision of social support. Social connections are critical for our well-being, and biopsychosocial models of pain highlight the importance of a supportive social context. Yet, research in Psychology and Neuroscience has traditionally focused on understanding the role of cognitive and emotional factors rather than the influence of social factors on the experience of pain. Thus, the pain-modulatory role of social support remains incompletely understood. This talk will present experimental neuroscientific research on how social support affects the experience of pain and the way the brain processes pain.


Delivered by Dr Charlotte Krahé,

University of Liverpool

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HCRU & Wits NeuRL Lecture

August, 2019

This presentation describes a number of studies looking at the assessment and treatment of people with Disorders of Consciousness (DOC). A new version of a measure to assess patients with DOC is describes. The effects of posture on awareness is then considered. The third study looks at the effect of modafinil, an agent that maintains wakefulness and promotes attention and concentration, on levels of consciousness. The fourth study compares the delayed recovery of two groups of patients, those with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and those with hypoxic brain damage. Not surprisingly, those who showed delayed recovery of consciousness were far more likely to have sustained a TBI that hypoxic brain damage. The paper concludes with a case study of a man who had DOC for 19 months, before regaining consciousness and proceeding to regain skills so that he is now leading a reasonably normal life.

Assessment and Management of People with a Disorcer of Consciousness

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Delivered by Professor Barbara A. Wilson

September, 2018

"Rethinking" The Brain and its Evolutions

The talk took place in the Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand. In this talk, Kate gave an introduction to the concept of working memory and traced its developmental trajectory across the lifespan highlighting its developmental across the school years into adulthood. Interesting features of human working memory were discussed such as, the bilingual advantage, its relationship to cognitive reserve and whether working memory can be trained. Also discussed was the influence of technology on working memory. The talk concluded with Kate's current research investigating the rehabilitation of working memory in children and adolescents with HIV. 


Human Working Memory Across The Lifespan

Dr. Sahba Besharati presents in Verona

September, 2018

The Social Brain Through The Life Course

Sahba visited the beautiful Verona to meet with long-time collaborator, Prof. Valentina Moro. Valentina is an expert in neuropsychological rehabilitation and experimental neuroscience. Together they explored potential collaborative opportunites between Italy and South Africa. Sahba delivered a public lecture on a series of studies investigating social emotional processes in disorders of self-consciousness and new emerging research on self-awareess in childhood and infancy. 

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