BRAIN MATTERS SEMINARS
The past, present and future of
Neuroscience in southern Africa
Professor Russell obtained her PhD at the University of Stellenbosch, where she headed the Biochemistry Division in the Department of Chemical Pathology. Thereafter, she joined the Department of Biochemistry and subsequently the Department of Physiology at the University of Cape Town where she continued her research on animal models of brain disorders, specializing in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s disease and the effects of stress and exercise on the brain. She is a founding member of the Southern African Neuroscience Society and the Society of Neuroscientists of Africa (SONA), having served on numerous committees.
Dr Vivienne Russell
University of Cape Town, University of KwaZulu-natal
The History of Neuroscience in southern Africa
Prof. Daniels' research interests are mainly in behavioural neuroscience where he uses animal models to study the pathophysiology of psychiatric and neurological diseases eg. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Addiction, HIV-dementia and Epilepsy. Prof. Daniels uses a variety of behavioural techniques to assess the behaviour of the animals.
Scientists in several African countries have applied the principles of scientific enquiry to the practice of African traditional and herbal medicine with the aim of investigating their potential benefit in the treatment of brain disorders. African researchers are in a unique position of having access to ecosystems of high biodiversity in combination with knowledge of traditional medicine, the scientific testing of which promises to lead to the discovery of new bioactive compounds. In this regard, invertebrate model organisms such as Drosophila melanogaster have been introduced to African neuroscientists as powerful-yet-low-cost alternatives to mammalian models for testing natural products.
In 1991, IBRO undertook the formidable task of assisting economically impoverished countries to pursue research in basic and clinical neuroscience in Africa. IBRO sponsored several neuroscience schools and training workshops in Africa which has contributed to improved knowledge and understanding of brain function as well as fostering collaborations across the world. Several countries offer funding opportunities specially geared to promote collaboration with African neuroscientists. The Fogarty International Centre at NIH has supported brain research in developing countries for the past 10 years which lead to development of research capacity and infrastructure in several countries in Africa.
Russel's review is of necessity very brief and barely touches on important highlights from the author’s perspective and does not pretend to provide a comprehensive overview, merely a summary of information gained from colleagues in Africa and a literature search.