The state of brain research in Mongolia has struggled with an entrenched academic infrastructure, limited funding for science, corruption and brain drain. These factors have posed significant challenges in terms of convincing scientists to remain or return to the country as well as attracting government support to develop the field of neuroscience on a national basis. Many young researchers that graduate at institutes outside of Mongolia have had almost no chance to continue their careers at home due to limited numbers of laboratories, colleagues and support. Consequently, the general level of awareness and interest that the Mongolian public might have regarding neuroscience, modern psychology, advanced technologies in brain sciences or molecular biology has been severely restricted. Fortunately, however, the situation has been improving in large part as a result of efforts made by the Mongolian Neuroscience Society (MNS), one of our first Global Advocacy Initiative seed grant awardees in 2016.
To promote the development of brain science in Mongolia and address local challenges, MNS ran the first ever public event on neuroscience in the country. It was free, open to the public and held at the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences (MNUMS) in Ulaanbaatar during the Second Annual MNS Meeting, “Multidisciplinary Brain Science,” from 13-14 April 2016. Plenary lectures were given by Professor Tsagaankhuu Guntev – The People’s Lecturer of Mongolia, State-Honored Physician, Academician, Doctor of Science, and Medical Doctor; Mr. Gurbazar Shagdarsuren – a State-Honoured Artist and poet; and Mr. Ganbaatar Sainkhuu – a Member of the Mongolian Parliament. A variety of other activities were also offered including: Interactive sessions on the structure and functions of Broadmann areas, stress response mechanisms and the interaction between mind and metabolism; on-site consultations on sleep disorders, obesity and personality disorders; fun games on memory competition and hidden-camera moments; and a national press conference.
This special event greatly contributed to the development of brain science in Mongolia by giving an opportunity for more than 300 members of the public to attend lectures about neuroscience in the local language, to see how brains process information and react to different stimuli in educational contexts and to talk with specialists about their concerns. The Mongolian Society of Psychiatry and Mongolian Society for Epilepsy participated as co-organizers with MNUMS and the MNUMS Neuroscience Club, established by a group of medical students, contributed much appreciated assistance in the organization of the event.
In addition to the seed grant event, the Second Annual MNS Meeting overall brought together more than a hundred Mongolian brain-related scientists and was carried out in cooperation with the Mongolian Society of Psychiatry, the Mongolian Neurosurgery Society, the Mongolian Society for Epilepsy and the Mongolian National Center for Psychology. It consisted of symposia, lectures and poster presentations on a wide variety of neuroscience subjects as well as a “Brain awareness event for high school students.” One of the main guests of the meeting, Professor Keiji Tanaka, IBRO Secretary General and Professor at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, went on a popular tv-show Jargal DeFacto to talk about neuroscience (see link at the end). The Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences was the main partner and sponsor of the meeting and the Minister of Education, Culture, and Science, and the Department Head of the Ministry of Health and Sports were also present.
As a result of the meeting and its seed grant event, several landmark results were achieved. Government agencies confirmed their support for political or international collaborations and media and press companies recognized MNS as a professional society. Some journalists and writers even joined the society. MNS also began discussing the creation of a separate section for brain science in Cosmopolitan Mongolia, a popular magazine, which would disseminate brain science news to a wider audience. Furthermore and for the first time, it was decided that neuroscience would be included as an elective subject to the official curriculum at the School of Biomedicine of the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences. Activities also stimulated interest from national companies, including Nrantuul Group LLC, one of the top 20 companies in Mongolia, who agreed to sponsor the Third Annual MNS Meeting in 2017. Finally, academic exchange projects with regional organizations such as Korean Brain Research Institute and the Neuroscience Program at Academia Sinica of Taiwan were also discussed.
With such an impressive beginning, a solid foundation has clearly been established to support the successful advancement of Mongolian neuroscience in the future.
Links (In English)
• Conference and public event webpages
• Interview with Keiji Tanaka on DeFacto Show
About the Global Advocacy Initiative: The Global Advocacy Initiative was established in 2013 by IBRO and founding partners Society for Neuroscience (SfN), The Dana Foundation, Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), International Society for Neurochemistry (ISN), Japan Neuroscience Society (JNS) and the Australasian Neuroscience Society (ANS). Its objective is to facilitate the development of culturally relevant educational and motivational activities that increase awareness and support for brain research around the world.
About the Brain Awareness Week (BAW): To learn more about BAW and find an event near you, please visit the Dana Foundation website.