The first of a series of prestigious International Summer Schools was held in the School of Psychology at Bangor University from 6-10th September attracting 40 students from 13 countries as far a field as Argentina, Australia, Canada, Cuba, Israel and India. The Visceral Mind course was made possible by a donation in excess of £100K from the James S McDonnell Foundation. The one-week course in functional gross neuroanatomy was based almost entirely on hands-on practica: case conferences, brain dissection, scan reviews and image analysis labs. The course was designed to provide an opportunity for young, bight cognitive neuroscientists from across the world to come to Bangor to increase their knowledge of neuroanatomy under a collection of world-renowned academics from Bangor and beyond.
The programme was built around case conferences in which patients with neurological signs of lesion to a brain system or pathway were interviewed and examined, and in which the techniques of neurological examination and principles of localization were highlighted. The patient’s scans were reviewed for clinico-anatomical correlation relating signs and symptoms to radiological anatomy. This approach really brought neuroanatomy ‘to life’ and made it relevant to the students of cognitive neuroscience. “This key element of the programme would not have been possible without the help of NHS patients who regularly participate in our teaching and research programmes, and we are very grateful to all those who took part” commented the course director Prof. Bob Rafal.
Noting that “there is no substitute for the life-changing experience of dissecting the human brain, and no better way to learn, by both sight and touch, the three-dimensional organ of mind”, Prof Rafal, was joined by Dr C. Harker Rhodes, Co-director of the course and neuropathologist from Dartmouth Medical School in the US, and by other Bangor neuroscientists and anatomists in providing supervised practica in the anatomy laboratory.
The students who attended the Summer School felt that they had an immensely educational and enjoyable experience that will stand them in good stead as they embark on their careers in a wide range of cognitive neuroscience. In the words of Victoria Knowland of the University of London “A foundation in neuroanatomy is both a fascinating and necessary skill base for individuals from every branch of cognitive science. I’ve made valuable connections and, I hope, life long friends and feel immensely privileged to have been a part of this first Visceral Mind boot camp.”
Dr Susan Fitzpatrick, the Vice President of the James S. McDonnell Foundation, whose support made the event possible, was moved to say “It was just so encouraging to see so many bright young minds being turned on to cognitively-informed/functional approaches to brain injury.”