LAUNCH REPORT Brain Matters Seminar Series and the Wits Cortex Club

The Brain Matters Seminar Series is a joint initiative between the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Studies (JIAS), the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development (CoE) at the University of the Witwatersrand, the Southern African Neuroscience Society and the Wits Cortex Club. This joint initiative is a multidisciplinary seminar series that explores the past, present and future of neuroscience in southern Africa.


The launch of the Brain Matters Series took place at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Public Health on Thursday 23 March. It was well attended by neuropsychologists, neuroscientists, psychiatrists, philosophers, radiologists, biomedical engineers, epidemiologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists as well as faculty and students from The University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Johannesburg and the University of Pretoria. Prof Linda Richter (Director CoE Human Development) chaired the event, with Prof Peter Vale (Director JIAS) providing the report on the JIAS Why the Brain Matters Colloquium. Prof Willem Hendrik Gispen (Utrecht University; Director of Why the Brain Matters Colloquium) delivered the keynote address, putting neuroscience research into historical and contemporary context. The event concluded with a final presentation by Dr Tanya Calvey (Wits School of Anatomical Sciences) and Dr Sahba Besharati (Wits CoE Human Development and Psychology) explaining the purpose and nature of the Brain Matters Seminar Series. The first two seminars were announced: Prof Vivienne Russell from the University of Cape Town will speak on the History of Neuroscience in Africa on the 20 April 2017 and Prof Paul Manger from the University of the Witwatersrand will speak on the Five Evolutions of Large Brains in Mammals – humans, elephants, cetaceans, seals and camels on 25 May 2017. The launch came to a close with an exciting announcement by Prof Linda Richter of a three-year PhD studentship as an outcome of the Brain Matters Series.


The event also marked the launch of the Wits Cortex Club founded by Dr Tanya Calvey and Ms Danika McElhenny (a Wits medical student). The Wits Cortex Club is a joint initiative with Oxford University and the University of Cape Town and has been registered with the Wits Medical Students’ Council in order to expose medical and health science students to local and international neuroscience research.