Ghana Neuroscience Symposium 2016

The maiden edition of the Ghana Neuroscience Symposium was held on 5th May, 2016 at the Conference Room, Daniel Adzei Bekoe Building, CBAS, Legon. It pulled participants from all others parts of the globe including Kuwait and Nigeria. The welcome address was delivered by the Acting Dean, Dr. Isaac J. Asiedu-Gyekye on behalf of the Dean, Prof. Alexander K. Nyarko. He said the burden of neurological disorders keeps increasing globally and that no country, including Ghana, is spared the wrath of neurological disorders and that the current spate of neurological disease burden requires more from stakeholders.  In order to tackle this dilemma, it would be important to have a concerted effort that will ensue translation of what is done in the laboratories to what is done at the bedside. This he believes would ensure not just an understanding of the problem but find drugs for their effective cure or management.

Professor Eric Woode was the keynote speaker for day 1. Professor Woode is a Professor in the department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Pharmacy, at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Though his initial training focused on investigating the regulation of adrenoceptors in rat hepatocytes, he quickly switched to neuropharmacology.  His address focused on the historical, current and future basic neuroscience research in Ghana. He provided examples from his own research and experience as a neuroscientist as well some of the challenges he encountered. In his speech he stressed the fact that there was nothing new under the sun and that every discipline can contribute to Neuroscience. Neuroscience he said, dates as far back as 1971 at KNUST where they were working on human volunteers and monkeys at the Faculty of Science. Subsequently others such as Professors Gyang, Ansa-Asamoa and Noamesi joined their team. This he called the renaissance period. In 2005 and beyond then came the introduction of antioxidants and cognitive enhancers and research into epilepsy and convulsion. He mentioned the pioneering students in this field.  He then expounded on the benefits of using the Zebra fish in many researches and emphasized the point that the zebra fish can be used for anything and a need for an aquarium to be built to breed these fishes. An area that has been left undone, he said, is stroke. Most patients end up taking herbal medicines for this. The question however is where is the funding going to come from but encouraged researchers present to have talks with the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research on the way forward on this and encouraged multi-disciplinary research. He said neuroscience researchers should also think about clinically oriented research although it has its own problems because data collection is challenging. Basic research is however not enough and hence a need to delve deeper. However basic research should not be abandoned but rather capacity should be built. He also advocated for the formation of strong ethic committees and discouraged the use of departmental ethic committees.
The second session started with the 1st set of Oral presentations.


Professor Samuel Kombian was the second main speaker for Day 1. He is a Professor in the department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Faculty of Pharmacy, Kuwait University. He trained as a neuropharmacologist and electrophysiologist and his research is in the areas of cellular and synaptic physiology of the central nervous system and preclinical drug testing of noel neuroactive compounds using in vitro and in vivo models of disease e.g epilepsy and dementia.
He gave a global perspective on neuroscience and the indication of its diversity, interdependence and inter relationships. He asked the question of how spread is neuroscience geographically.
He emphasized that to be a successful neuroscientist, you must search, observe and read wide. As a good researcher he encouraged that researchers keep their eyes open for things you don’t expect and the importance not to add to the statistics but to add to knowledge. Sometimes we should use whatever is available for you to do your research. You have to be novel and need collaboration as well. It is important to survive. As a young researcher it is important to retain your identity in any collaborative environment. Do not allow a big name to swallow you up. He also talked about the importance of publications and how not to drop your publication in any journal. Your publications need to be cited by others and the need to make sure your publications have value. He expatiated about his research interests and activities he had done over the years. He gave a background on how he became a neuroscientist and he how he built his own laboratory in Kuwait. At a point he realized he needed to be an independent researcher and decided to identify a niche – the role of neuropeptide in addiction and behavior. He showed participants the research work he had done and ended by saying “always look for an opportunity to diversify”.

Dr. Sammy Ohene was the keynote speaker for day 2 and his delivery was on clinical neuroscience. Dr, Ohene is a fellow of both the West African College of Physicians and Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is currently the head of Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine and Dentistry in the College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana. His presentation covered an overview of the range of issues covered in the area of neuroscience research and their relationship to various clinical issues. He started by giving an idea of the size of the problem and on neurotransmitters. There are 100’s of other substances he said that play the role of neurotransmitters. He stressed on the fact that how a child thinks matters and that anything that affects a person’s appearance affects the brain.  He could not help but stress the importance of this conference. “Our ability to execute all depends on the brain”. He talked about the various types of investigative tools that have been used over the years and their evolution. This he divided into 3 phases.
What are the state of affairs relating to Neuroscience in Ghana?
Stigma is very high. There is hardly any study on neurological disorders in Ghana or on a representative sample size. In the western world this information is available at the click of a button. For instance, the occurrence of epilepsy is seen much more in certain places in Ghana than others yet the cause of this is not known and needs to be investigated. In short, research in Neuroscience in Ghana is limited. “You cannot find a single study on Alzeimers in Ghana”.
Children have deficit disorder but these are not recognized and we do not know the incidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But these are treatable and can help the children perform better. Funding for research is almost non-existent and equipment for quality neuroscience research is expensive. He said. If however we have the right attitude we can attract them to do collaborative research with them. We will benefit from collaboration from other countries like our neighbors Togo. We will get equipment, evidence based delivery of services, improved education. Huge monies, he indicated, are available for brain research. There is an urgency to improve research in neuroscience. 12 MRI machines are available in Accra alone but they are expensive. Finally the presentation took a brief look into the future of neuroscience and the efforts to unravel the secrets of the brain as the most elaborate and yet least understood of the bodyorgans