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Adejoke Memudu, Ph.D., is a neuroscientist and educator based in Edo State, Nigeria. As head of Edo State University Uzairue’s anatomy department, Memudu helps lead the university’s Neuroscience Research Group to create awareness around brain science and opportunities for students to further explore science as a career pathway. In 2022, Memudu’s institution was the recipient of an IBRO/Dana Brain Awareness Week grant in recognition of their outreach efforts and commitment to sharing brain science with their communities.
Q: You’ve organized public lectures, radio talk shows, and online events for Brain Awareness Week. Is there a form of outreach that resonates most with your audience?
Memudu: The public program, “What is Brain Awareness Week: Importance for Edo State University Community,” resonated the most. It used statistics, graphs, videos, and pictures to engage participants while talking about the organization of the brain, neurological disorders, mental health, animal models of neurological disorders, and neuroscience careers. The social media campaign, which shared short videos, pictures, and graphics, enabled participants to be aware of the content that would be delivered each day.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the program?
Talks on neurological disorders and mental health were given on separate days. On the day we planned our talk on neurological disorders, we started the discussion on the radio in the morning, and later that day, we held an in-person public lecture which involved more visual learning. Participants were able to ask questions after, such as how to identify neurological disorders, how to create awareness about neurological disorders, and lifestyle choices that may predispose one to a neurological disorder. The talk on mental health involved a NeuroRadio talk show and a virtual lecture open to the public.
We also scheduled a “Neurolab Tour” toward the end of Brain Awareness Week. This involved a visit to the anatomy department’s NeuroLab, where participants could look at samples of a real, intact brain, as well as specimens of different sections of the brain. This gave undergraduate students the opportunity to take what they learned during the public talks and bring it into the lab setting. They were able to identify different parts of the brain and relate certain functions to the neurological disorders that can occur when there is a disruption of activity in the area identified.
You hold a Careers in Neuroscience event for students as part of your Brain Awareness Week program. What types of students do you attract, and what types of careers do you explore with them?
The neuroscience careers event targets mostly undergraduate medical students and others from social sciences, law, and mass communication. Attendees learn about career paths to becoming a neuroanatomist, neurobiologist, neurological surgeon, neurologist, neuroradiologist, neurophysiologist, psychiatrist, among others. Through these professions, they can discover new information about the brain, such as identifying and managing neurological disorders or brain injury, evaluating background and symptoms of mental health and influence on human behavior, conducting and interpreting scientific research related to the brain and brain health, and communicating scientific research findings in journals and at conferences. Some of the students took a particular interest in the careers of neurologist, neurobiologist, neuroanatomist, and neuroradiologist.
How do you advise students to continue exploring professional opportunities after a career event like this one?
Attendees were all encouraged to join a neuroscience society, and to go to conferences to meet other neuroscientists and to present their research. Doing so not only enables them to become affiliated with a community of neuroscientists, but it also provides an opportunity for mentorship. Students can learn more about brain science research and the networks that sponsor the advancement of brain science globally. I find that this encourages them to work on themselves and to believe that they have something to offer—there is a support system for their career interests. Also, attending neuroscience meetings both at home and abroad will enable them to showcase their neuroscience research and get known, which creates opportunity for research collaboration, international mentorship, and lab visits that can lead to funding.
The theme for your 2022 Brain Awareness Week events was “Mental Health and Neurological Disorders.” Can you tell us why you chose this theme, and how you’ve seen your work impact your community?
The theme was selected to support global advocacy and awareness for mental health and neurological disorders, coupled with the toll of the pandemic, which challenged people’s mental health, and the increasing rate of reported cause of death associated with depression.
In 2020, a report entitled “WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme Intervention Guide (mhGAP-IG): the first pre-service training study” mentioned that mental, neurological, and substance use (MNS) disorders are highly prevalent globally and affect people across various age groups. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that one in four people globally will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder at some point during their lives. Mental health and neurological disorders have a substantial impact on global health and sustainable development goals. Hence there is a need to address people’s attitudes about mental health by creating awareness via neuroscience advocacy and education programs in public educational institutions. It is paramount to educate people, especially students, about how to care for and improve their mental health during their academic pursuits, while also teaching them about the various types of neurological disorders. There is a knowledge gap to fill as a result of the low number of trained mental health professionals in sub-Saharan Africa (e.g., Nigeria). The neuroscience advocacy and engagement sponsored by the Dana Foundation and IBRO provides an opportunity to create this awareness.
What inspired you to pursue a career focused on the brain, and do you have any advice for younger generations looking to do the same?
My undergraduate neuroanatomy lecturer sparked my interest and passion to better understand the brain. Also, having a mentor (Prof. Amadi O. Ihunwo) helped guide my career path and engender my decision to pick a career focused on brain-related research and advocacy. My work aims to understand how the anatomical and functional organization of the brain develop, and how alterations during development can lead to neurological disorders and behavioral changes.
My advice to the younger generation looking into a neuroscience career is 1) they need to be interested in neuroscience, and 2) they need to be self-motivated and goal-directed to make their impact in the field of neuroscience. This will allow them to embrace their enthusiasm without external pressure from others.
Check out our Brain Awareness Week website and make plans for your own events next year!