SOCIETY OF NEUROSCIENTISTS OF AFRICA
NEWSLETTER
NEWSLETTER SPONSORED BY AVENUE HOSPITAL, NAIROBI, KENYA

Volume 1 Issue 1 January 1997

Inside This Issue

SONA at SFN

Who's Who

SONA Conference

What is neuroscience?
 
 

2ND SONA CONFERENCE
Prof. J. K. Kirnani, University of Nairobi, Kenya.


 


In spite of its diversity of natural and human resources, Africa the cradle of mankind has been left behind in neuroscience research. Yet comprehending the reality of the nervous system and the associated disorders is still on the frontier of knowledge and technological innovation. This is one of the reasons why the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) initiated neuroscience activities in Africa culminating in the formation of SONA with financial support from UNESCO.

There is no doubt that many excellent young neuroscientists from Africa have received doctoral and post-doctoral training in Europe and North America and possess eminent scientific qualifications. Unfortunately, on resuming work in their home institutions, they are frequently cut off from ready access to the international scientific community. At the same time, their opportunities to conduct state-of-the-art research becomes restricted due to lack of equipment, reliable services and supplies, financial backing, a comprehensive library or information system and the critical mass of talent necessary for pioneering research. Yet despite these shortcomings, the continent has a rich wealth of animals and health problems that could be readily utilized for neuroscientific research during this decade and beyond.

That Africa can offer such absorbing problems to study was illustrated in a series of symposia held during the First International Neuroscience Conference in Africa, March 8-12, 1993. These symposia covered topics ranging from neurodegenerative diseases with special emphasis on Parkinsonism and Alzheimerís disease (AD), Neurobiology of AIDS or more apropos the neuroscience of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, neurotrophic factors and their mechanisms of action and the effects on central nervous system of the hemoflagellate Trypanosoma brucei (Tbb), the agent responsible for causing African sleeping sickness.

There is no doubt that many excellent neuroscientistís from Africa have received doctoral and post doctoral training in Europe and North America and possess eminent scientific qualifications.

On Alzheimerís disease, it has been noted that the information available from Africa on the epidemiology and pathomechanism of this disease is relatively scarce. It has been reported, for example, that dementia of AD type is absent or has a very low incidence among indigenous African communities, a finding that warrants further investigation. In the case of Parkinsonism, it has also been observed that its incidence is relatively low. What is interesting, however, is the fact that some cases of Parkinson-like syndromes, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases in Africa, may result from ingestion of certain local plants such as cassava, cocoyam, cotton seed, soybean, bamboo, grass pea, and cow pea. These crops provide a cheap source of carbohydrates and proteins in human and livestock diets in many parts of the continent, but their use is only complicated by the presence of toxic substances, some of which are neurotoxic. However, the pathomechanism of these diseases and cassavism in particular, remain to be fully elucidated. The challenge to the African scientists is to take a leading role in elucidating further the pathomechanisms of these diseases. I believe that the best way to achieve this will be through collaborative research between scientists in Africa and their counterparts from abroad. It is hoped that such a venture will not only abet a recognition of neurological problems characteristic to Africa, but also throw some light on the etiology of neurodegenerative syndromes prevalent in Western cultures.

Regarding AIDS, recent estimates by WHO indicate that more than 80% of people infected with HIV live in the developing countries - Africa being at the top of the list. Studies conducted in Africa have revealed that HIV seropositive patients show a high incidence of neuropsychiatric disturbances with major depression as the predominant finding. That the unique wealth of animal resource in Africa can be utilized in studies on the neurobiology of AIDS has been demonstrated in studies conducted at the International Center for Primate Research in Kenya, and other laboratories on Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV). These studies have revealed neuronal loss in SIV-infected non-human primates which, in turn, may shed light on the profound loss of pyramidal cells in some cortical layers in frontal lobes of patients with AIDS dementia complex. It remains to be shown however whether the virus infects the neurons directly. There is evidence nonetheless that the neuronal loss evident in HIV infections of the CNS results from the production of endogenous excitotoxins, such as quinolinic acid, by glial cells. The use of SIV model would abet better understanding of HIV infections and their management and treatment.

(Contd. in the next issue)
 
 

THIRD SONA INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE


 


The third International Conference of the Society of Neuroscientists of Africa (SONA) will take place in the most southern city of the continent of Africa - Cape Town, South Africa - between 21 and 25 April 1997. As with the 1st SONA International Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, and the 2nd in Marrakesh, Morocco, the proposed program of symposia and workshops will cover a wide selection of topics in neuroscience. There are currently planned 18 symposia, 3 workshops, and a satellite symposium. In total, the symposia will cover 23 topics.

Cape Town is located in the Western-Cape, one of the nine provinces of South Africa. It is the legislative capital of the Republic of South Africa. (Pretona, further north, in Gauteng, is the administrative capital.) Cape Town is a modern metropolis nestling at the foot of the fabled Table Mountain, and embodies a nice mixture of cultures. It provides an attractive venue, located at the waterís edge near the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet with a hinterland of vineyards, orchards, and mountains.

The climate is Mediterranean with hot dry summers and cool wet winters. Being in the Southern Hemisphere, it will be autumn time during the conference providing warm sunny days.

There is a wide selection of hotel accommodations, restaurants, and sights to be visited. For those interested, trips into the other parts of South Africa can be arranged.
 


AFRICAN JOURNAL OF NEUROSICENCES
The Official Journal of SONA
Editor
Prof. S. Daya
Rhodes University
Dept. Biochemistry and
Microbiology
Grahamstown 6 140
Rep. of South Africa.
Tel +27 461 318262
Fax: +27 461 25109
WHO'S WHO IN SONA
OFFICERS


 


CHAIRPERSON V. Russel

(South Africa)

PAST CHAIRPERSON W.Bengelloune

(Morocco)

SECRETARY-GENERAL J. K. Kimani

(Kenya)

ASST SECRETARY GENERAL E.P. Mtui

(Tanzania)

TREASURER P.K. Kioy

(Kenya)
 


DEPUTY SECRETARIES


 


North Africa K M. Choulli

West Africa I. O. Adeoshun

East & Central Africa A. M. Kaduri

South Africa V. Russell
 


LIAISON OFFICERS


 


USA R. Kalana

(CWRU, Cleveland)

Europe A. Adem

(Karolinska, Stockholm)
 


MEMBERS AT LARGE


 


N. Lakhdar-Ghazal (Morocco)

L. Houneou (USA)
 


SONA NEWSLETTER EDITOR


 


N. B. Patel (Kenya)
 
 


SONA PRESENTATIONS AT SOCIETY FOR
NEUROSCIENCE (USA) MEETING


 


At the 1996 SFN meeting in Washington, D.C., a number of abstracts were presented by members of SONA. Below is a list which does not include the many presentations by SONA Advisory Board including M. Zigmond and Butterworth.

Locus coeruleus activity and sympathetic nerve discharge during clonidine withdrawal. M. FISHER, R.I. STORNETTA, P.G. GUYENET. Univ. of Virginia.

Somatostatin activation of an aparnin-sensitive potassium conductance in parabrachial neurons in vitro. S.B. KOMBIAN, T.M. SALEH, J.A. ZIDICHOUSKI, Q.I. PITTIAN. Univ. of Calgary and Ciba-Geigy Canada Ltd, Calgary.

Peptidergic modulation of synaptic transmission in the parabrachial nucleus in vitro: importance of degenerative enzymes in regulating synaptic efficacy. T.M. SALEH, S.B. KOMBIAN, J.A. Zl:DICHOUSKI, Q.I. PITTMAN. Univ. of Calgary and Ciba-Geigy Canada Ltd, Calgary.

Cholecystoknin inhibits and neurotensin enhances excitatory synaptic transmission in the parabrachial nucleus in vitro. J.A. ZIDICHOUSKI, T.M. SALEH, S.B. KOMBIAN, Q.I. PITTMAN. Univ. of Calgary and Ciba-Geigy Canada LTD., Calgary.

Differential regulation of adenlyl cyclase activity in skin fibroblasts from sporadic and familial Alzheimer s disease cases with Presenilin-l and Swedish APP670/671 mutations. M. VESTLING, A. ADEM, M. RACCHI. S. GOVONI, L. LANNFELT, G. GIBSON, R.F. COWBURN. Karolinski Inst., Hudding, FBF Hosp., Brescia, Italy and Cornell Univ. Med. Col.

APOE polymorphism in elderly East Africans. J.G. SAYI, D.R.D. PREMKUMAR, N.B. PATEL, A.S. BHANDARI, S. GATERE, W.B. MATUJA, R.P. FRIEDLAND, E. KOSS, R.N. KALARIA. (SPON: Soc. of Neurosci. of Africa). Case Western Reserve Univ., Muhimbili Med. Ctr., Tanzaniz, Univ. of Nairobi and Avenue Nursing Home, Nairobi.

Ultrastructural analysis of the hippocampus of adult rat following long-term adrenalectomy. A. ISLAM, J. WEATMAN, N. BOGDANOVIC, B. WINBLAD, A ADEM. Karolinski Inst., Hudding Univ. Hosp. and Biomed. Ctr., Uppsala, Sweden.

Amyloid b-protein deposition in brains of non-demented East Africans. J.A. O GENGO, D.L. COHEN, J.G. SAYI, W.B. MATUJA, J.N. KITINYA, J.K. KIMANI, R.P. FRIEDLAND, R.N. KALARIA. ~SPON: Soc. of Neurosci. of Africa), Case Western Reserve Univ., Univ. of Nairobi and Muhimbili Med. Ctr., Tanzania.

Alterations in the blood levels of hemorphin-7 and b-endorphins in patients subjected to open-heart surgery. F. NYBERG, K. SANDERMAN, N. MAJI, P. ANDREN, A. ADEM, K. KARLSSON, E. SANDSTROM, L.O.D. KOSKINEN. (SPON: Soc. of Neurosci. of Africa), Uppsala Univ., Hudding Hosp. and NUS, Umed. Sweden.

Chronic intoxication of khat (miraa) in humans. N.B. PATEL, R.N. KALARIA, S. GATERE. ~SPON: Soc. of Neurosci. of Africa), Univ. of Nairobi, Avenue Nursing Home, Nairobi and Case Western Reserve Univ.

Impaired vesicular storage of dopamine in an animal model for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder--the spontaneously hypertensive rat. V.A. RUSSELL, A.S. DEVILLIERS, T. SAGVOLDEN, M.C.L. LAMM, J.J.F. TALJAARD. Univ. of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Correspondence Address: Editor, SONA Newsletter, Dept of Medical Physiology, University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 30197,

× Nairobi, Kenya.Fax: 254 2750154, E-mail: nbpatel@form-net.com
 


3RD INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE SOCIETY OF
NEUROSCIENTISTS OF AFRICA PROGRAM
21-25 APRIL 1997, CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA


 


Nearly 600 delegates are expected to attend the 3rd SONA conference. There will be more than 100 international speakers and over 300 abstracts besides the special sessions.
 
 

SYMPOSIA


 


Alcohol and brain disease

Calcium binding proteins in health and disease

Sensory neurobiology of African fauna

Sensory neurobiology of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The neuronal cytoskeleton, its function during development and disease

OH and NO in neurotoxicity and neuroprotection

Neuronal cell death during development and disease

Myelin and demyelinating diseases

Alzheimerís disease: Recent advances in basic and clinical research

Molecular determination of nervous system development

African neurological disorders: Mechanisms of metabolic encephalopathy

Melatonin: Neurohormone and neuroprotector

Neuropharmacology: Fundamental research and clinical applications

Parkinsonís disease: New insights into pathogenesis and treatment

Sensory systems: From behaviour to neural circuits

Psychostimulants

Computation by neurons and neuronal network

Central mechanism of anaesthesia

Psychological and neurobiological factors in Attention Deficit

Disorder
 


SPECIAL INTEREST SESSIONS


 


Retroviral infection of the central nervous system

Neurobiology of subterranean mammals

The dynamic cytoskeleton

Sleep disorders

Neural basis of behaviour

Learning and memory
 


WORKSHOPS


 


Communication skills: Writing research articles, designing graphics and visual aids, giving research presentations, and advancing your career.

Micheal Zigmond (USA), E. Fischer (USA)

Technical approaches in functional, chemical and molecular neuroanatomy

Marina Benivoglio (Italy)

Techniques in behavioral neuroscience

Terje Sagvolden (Norway)
 


SATELITE SYMPOSIUM


 


Reactive Gliosis in Normal and Pathological Conditions
 


PLENARY LECTURES


 


Neuroscience research in Africa

J. Kimani (Kenya)

Neuronal circuits involved in vestibular-autonomic control

E.P. Mtui (Tanzania)

Communication between neurons in the central nervous system: Beyond synaptic transmission

M. Zigmond (USA)

The use of antisense technology to study brain function: Focus on dopamine receptors

I. Creese (USA)

Central neurogenic neuroprotection

D. Reis (USA)

Sleep dysregulation and diencephalic involvement in sleeping sickness

M. Bentivoglio (Italy)

Molecular interactions between parasites and the brain

K Kristensson (Sweden)
 


SPECIAL LECTURES


 


Molecular events in glioma progression and the definition of primary and secondary glioblastoma.

Ohgaki (France)

Rewiring cortex: Visual activity and cortical development

S. Sur (USA)

Neurobiological basis of language development and disorders

P. Tallal (USA)

For more information on the conference and to confirm your participation, please contact:

SONA 97 Congress Conveyor

Dr. Vivienne Russell

P.O. Box 19113

Tygerberg 7505

South Africa

Tel: +21 93~4254/9384107

Fax +21 9317~10

e-mail: var@maties.sun.ac.za

For Hotel Accommodations and Travel Arrangements, please contact:

Jeni Lubbe

Wide Horizons Travel Agency

Tel: +21 6863700

Fax: +21 699249

Please refer to SONA 97 in your communication.

South African Airways (SAA) are offering special rates for conference participants.
 


INTERNATIONAL NEUROSICENCE LECTURE COURSE


 


Dr. Vivienne Russell,

Chairperson, SONA

Society of Neuroscientists of Africa (SONA) is a Federation of African Societies of Neuroscience which enjoys the support of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) and UNESCO who together have funded several workshops and International Conferences in Africa. The most recent of these was an International Neuroscience Lecture Course which was organized by Dr. Ermino Costa, Chairman of the United States National Committee for IBRO (USNC/IBRO) and Dr. Robin Schoen, Secretary of USNC/IBRO. The course was also sponsored by the US National Science Foundation, the Southern African Neuroscience Society ~SANS), Bristol-Myers, Squibb, Akromed, Separaion Scientific, and the SA Foundation for Research and Development.

This is the first time that a course of this nature was held in South Africa. A total of 52 participants attended the course which consisted of talks and tutorials given by Dr. Paul Bolam of the UK, Prof: Ermino Costa, Dr. Vittorio Gallo, Prof Peter MacLeish, Prof. Joe Moersbaecher, Prof John Nicoll, Prof. Jean Shih, and Prof Junis Weeks of the USA, and three South Africans, Prof. Ben Potgieter, Prof. Santy Daya, and Dr. Vivienne Russell. The overseas lecturers were outstanding in the way they conducted the course. SONA and SANS are very grateful to them for their contribution to neuroscience training in Africa.

Students came from South Africa, Lesotho, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, Ethiopia7 and Zimbabwe. They were enthusiastic. They learned a great deal and made good friendships which will hopefully lead to future collaborative research
 


AFRICAN JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE SERVICE


 


Sometime back, SONA started the task of establishing a society journal - African Journal of Neuroscience. Prof. S . Daya of South Africa became the editor and along with an advisory board undertook the difficult task of establishing a journal. As most of us know scientific journals come and go in quick order in Africa. There are many problems to surmount such as finances, efficient distribution network, enough subscriptions and regular flow of articles.

While sorting out these issues has and will take time, the journal office has come up with a unique service to promote the publication of scientific articles from African scientists. Essentially if you have done some scientific work which you want published submit the article to the editor who will in time send it to M. Zigmond and Beth Fischer of the Survival Skill' in Science fame. They will go through the article, make recommendations where necessary for its improvement, and advise on a journal for submission.

This novel service will go a long way in overcoming some of the problems faced by many African scientists such as not having the opportunity to know the range of journals available and finding peers to review the paper before sending it out for publication.
 
 

GOT ANY JOKES OR AMUSING INCIDENTS IN NEUROSCIENCE
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF
NEUROSCIENCE IN AFRICA? IF
YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION
ON THIS SEND IT IN.
ARTICLES ON TEACHING
NEUROSCIENCE IN THE
AFRICAN SETTING ARE ALSO
WELCOME
SONA ADRESSES


 


Chairperson

SONA 97 Congress Convenor

Dr. Vivienne Russell

Department of Chemical Pathology University of Stellenbosch

P.O.Box 19113

Tygerberg 2505

South Africa

Tel: +27 219384107

Fax: +27 219317810 e

e-mail: var@maties.sun.ac.za

SONA Secretariat

Secretary-General

Prof. J. K. Kimani

Department of Human Anatomy

University of Nairobi

P.O. Box30197

Nairobi, Kenya

Tel: 254-2-7281 16/726837

Fax- 254-2-717665

For membership inquires you contact either the SONA Secretariat or

Dr. Lucien J. Houenou

Department Neurobiology and Anatomy

Bowman Gray School of Medicine

Wake Forest University

Medical Center Blvd

Winston Salem, NC 27157-1083

USA

Tel: (919) 748~430

Fax: (919) 748-4204
 
 

THIRD SONA CONFERENCE
21-25 APRIL 1997
CAPE TOWN
SOUTH AFRICA

NEUROSICENCE RESEARCH COORDINATION


 


One of the objectives of SONA is to foster neuroscience research in Africa. Unfortunately there is very little information on the type of research being conducted on this continent. So I would like to request you to sent send the title and abstract of papers that you have published and your particular area of interest in neuroscience. The titles will be reproduced in this newsletter to let SONA members know the work you are doing while the abstracts will be collected to have a record or database of the work being done. I would also like to encourage you to write an article on your research for publication in this newsletter. These articles will serve as short reviews of research topics and possibly lead to transcontinental collaboration.
 
 

WHAT IS NEUROSCIENCE?


 


What is the mind? Why do people feel emotions? What are the underlying causes of neurological and psychiatric disorders? These are among the many mysteries being unraveled by neuroscientists.

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system - including the brain, the spinal cord, and networks of sensory nerve cells, or neurons, throughout the body. Humans contain roughly 100 billion neurons, the functional units of the nervous system. Neurons communicate with each other by sending electrical signals long distances and then releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters which cross the synapse - small gaps between neurons.

The nervous system consists of two main parts. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system includes the nerves that serve the neck and arms, trunk, legs, skeletal muscles, and internal organs.

Critical components of the nervous system are molecules, neurons, and the processes within and between cells. These are organized into large neural networks and systems controlling functions such as vision, hearing, learning, breathing and, ultimately, all of human behavior. Much of what is known about the mechanisms underlying these functions was first discovered through animal studies and then confirmed in humans.

Through their research, neuroscientists work to:

Only in recent decades has neuroscience become a recognized discipline. It is now a unified field that integrates biology, chemistry, and physics with studies of structure, physiology, and behavior, including human emotional and cognitive functions.

Neuroscience research includes genes and other molecules that are the basis for the nervous system, including neurons, and ensembles of neurons that make up systems and behavior.

At the molecular level, neuroscientists use tools such as antibodies and gene probes to isolate and identify proteins and other molecules responsible for brain function. Molecular biologists isolate and describe the genes that produce the proteins important to neuron function.

Neuroscience research is pushing the envelope on one of scienceís last and most daunting frontiers - the brain

Neuroanatomists study the structure and organization of the nervous system. With special dyes, they detect specific neurotransmitters, and mark neurons and synapses with specific characteristics and function.

Developmental neuroscientists study how the brain grows and changes. They define chemicals and processes neurons use to seek out and connect with other neurons and maintain connections.

Cognitive neuroscientists study functions such as perception and memory in animals by using behavioral methods and other neuroscience techniques. In humans, they use non-invasive brain scans - such as positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging - to uncover routes of neural processing that occur during languages, problem solving, and other tasks.

Behavioral neuroscientists study processes underlying behavior in humans and in animals. Their tools include microelectrodes, which measure electrical activity of neurons, and brain scans. which show parts of the brain that are active during activities such as seeing. speaking or remembering.

Advanced computer systems are enabling neuroscientists to devise models of neurons and their connections in the brain - how humans perform complex tasks. This work may lead to computer programs that understand speech and respond to spoken questions.

Clinical neuroscientists - psychiatrists, neurologists and other medical specialists - use basic research findings to develop diagnostic methods and ways to prevent and treat neurological disorders that affect millions of people.

Neuroscience research is pushing the envelope on one of science s last and most daunting frontiers - the brain. This work holds great promise for understanding and treating stroke, schizophrenia, Alzheimer s disease and other illnesses.

[Brain Briefings. Society For Neuroscience (USA). August 1994]
 


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