FUTA HOSTS FIRST SCHOOL OF NEUROSCIENCES
The Federal University of Technology Akure FUTA has hosted researchers from several countries in Africa and the United States of America USA under the auspices of the International Society of Neurochemistry (ISN) for a week long training in Neuroscience. The first school of neurosciences to be held in the institution. The school is tagged ISN School of Basic Neurosciences, FUTA with the theme: Functional foods/Nutraceuticals: Molecular impact in the management/prevention of neurodegenerative diseases. ISN is an international organization committed to improving skills and techniques in brain researches, through sponsorships of small grants, trainings and workshops more commonly referred to as neuroscience schools, particularly in developing countries.
In his remarks at the occasion , the Vice Chancellor, Professor Joseph Fuwape said neurodegenerative diseases in Africa have received little or no attention while the sufferers are often left to their own fate. He said aging and dementia were long seen as part of African culture, while neurological disorders such as epilepsy, Down syndrome and schizophrenia are often believed to be of extraterrestrial origin.
He decried the fact that mental stress and depression are growing rapidly in the society due to a number of reasons including socio economic challenges but expressed optimism that increase in neuroscience education in recent times will go a long way in reorienting people on their mental health and giving better quality of life to the affected. Fuwape noted that there has been a great increase in neuroscience advocacy which aims at drawing the attention of governments, policy makers and the society at large to show more interest in advancing the fields.
The Vice Chancellor said the most interesting part of the theme is the concept of functional foods for managing neurodegenerative diseases” he said Africa is blessed with foods in their numerous varieties, many of which have been reported to offer health promoting benefits.” He commended ISN for its continuous interest in neuroscience in Africa and for generously conveying bright minds from all over Africa to the school and expressed optimism that dialogue will be open on promoting health through functional foods and a healthy diet.
Delivering the keynote lecture, professor James Olopade of the Neuroscience unit, University of Ibadan, speaking on the topic: “the burden of neurological and neurodegenerative diseases in Africa” said one of the major focuses of neuro science research has been the investigation of plant extracts and identifying novel therapies. To this end he called for training of a new generation of neuroscientists, research to Phyto medicals/nutraceuticals, drug development, population based genetic studies and international collaborations. He said that the continent is burdened with prevalent cases of neurological disorders such as strokes, epilepsy and degenerative diseases and most of these cases are not reported and documented. He said this increased burden is due to factors such as malnutrition, malaria, HIV AIDS, environmental pollution and regional conflicts.
The don disclosed that neurological disorders make up at least 25% of the global burden of disease stating that WHO reports that 12 out of 100 deaths globally is a result of neurological disorders. He said in Sub-Saharan Africa this is likely more because of issues such as stigma, poor health ethics, and lack of data thus increasing the burden of infections, movement disorders and dementia.
Olopade lamented that the emerging trends of air pollution, illegal mining and proliferation of motorcycle transportation in some African countries have led to accidents involving head injuries and this has added to the neurological burden. The lecturer proposed solution pathways to include prevention involving immunization, diet/supplements, exercise, medical checkup and community education; and treatment involving drug availability, provision of health infrastructures, trained manpower, rehabilitation and community training.
On his part the director, Centre for Research and Development, CERAD, Professor Ganiyu Oboh said degenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson syndrome are on the increase and that is why the area of neuroscience is a very important field of research. He said that there is insufficient data because many of such disease are managed at home away from health facilities. He said people with these diseases are not responding to most of the drugs used to manage these diseases hence the need to promote the use of functional foods and nutraceuticals and that neuroscientists must lead the drive to formulate new drugs that will enhance the mental health of the populace.
Professor Michael Aschner, Professor Monica Bastus, Dr Akinyemi Ayodele from Albert Einstein College of Medicine,New York , United States of America were among Resource persons for the school while participants came from several countries in Africa