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BRANES: Increasing brain awareness from Bournemouth to Kenya

08 June 2018

The production of artwork by care home residents, workshops for adults, teenagers and schoolchildren, and a memory café for people with dementia and their carers have all been supported by a single public engagement grant from the British Psychological Society.

BRANES (Building Awareness and Resilience through Neuropsychological Education in the Society) is a project led by Dr Shanti Shanker and Dr Ben Hicks from Bournemouth University.

Its disparate activities are drawn together by the project’s primary ambition to increase public awareness of the neuropsychology of such conditions as stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain injury and dementia. With the objective that knowledge will help build resilience.

Shanti Shaker explains:

“We had two target groups. One was adults with and without neurological disorders or neurodegenerative diseases. The other was local schoolchildren and young adults.”

Workshops were run under the BRANES banner at the 2017 Festival of Learning in London, at Café Scientific, and Memory Café’ in Bournemouth, and at two Bournemouth primary schools.

An interactive public awareness drive was also held on Bournemouth Promenade during Brain Awareness Week in 2017. Children and adults were fascinated to be able to see and hold the model brain and browse through various educational materials in the stand.

Art was at the centre of two further BRANES workshops under the title “Tag your identity”. Artwork was produced with the residents of a care home for people with dementia to help challenge public perceptions of their identity. It is now on display in the communal lounge.

An interactive graffiti workshop with School students is planned for some time in summer 2019.As a pilot project BRANES was introduced for year 3 to year 6 and was well received by two Bournemouth schools. The organisers hope to extend them to other schools in Bournemouth and possibly in London too.

BRANES also reached Kenya and India. Shanti Shaker says:

“We had not planned to take the project outside the UK, but were given the opportunity to work with senior Kenyan prison officers (through the African Prison Project). Over five hours we discussed the concepts behind BRANES and discussed how it could be adapted to increase resilience in inmates. We hope to adapt the BRANSES and continue to work with the officers to extend aspects of BRANES to this community.

“Shanker Venkatasubramanian, who has been a BRANES failitator and helped integrate concepts of mindfulness into our workshops, has visited Kenya for a month and disseminated aspects of our schools programme to children from the community there.”

Shanti Shankar herself visited Delhi with Terri Cole and ran a workshop, in both English and Hindi, in a school there.

She adds:

“A short film on brain awareness based on our work is currently being produced and we aim to take it to national and international film festivals. We are hoping to apply for further grants so we can extend the work piloted with the help of the BPS grant.”

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