Straight to business (with added FroYo) – by Andy Crawford

After the 11 hour flight to Cape Town I headed to the Green Elephant hostel which was to be my home for the next month or so. The next morning I was straight into business meeting up with the head of psychiatry, Dan Stein, and head of genetics, Raj Ramesar. Despite it being less than 10 minute walk to Dan’s office I still arrived dripping with sweat and was very grateful to be sat directly under the air conditioning unit!

Unlike previous EUSARNADians (not sure if this will catch on!) my interest is in psychiatric genetics. I am working with Shareefa on a cohort of individuals with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) with measures of anxiety symptoms. It’s exciting stuff as investigating unique genetic profiles in the South African population has the potential to discover valuable insight into the genetics of psychiatric disorders.

Everyone in the Human Genetics department was incredibly friendly and when I found out that “cake” was an official bullet point on their induction checklist, I knew I would enjoy working here.

Towards the end of my first full week in Cape Town the other Hum Gen students organised a hike up Lion’s Head followed by some Fro-Yo. We successfully climbed the “chains” to the summit and were awarded with spectacular views of Cape Town, Table Mountain and the surrounding area as the African Sun set on the horizon. However, our journey to the summit took longer than expected and so I’m yet to enjoy the taste sensation of Fro-Yo!

I would say the end of my first full week has been a success!

– Andy (Uni. Bristol)

And now for something different… by Nienke Pannekoek

By Nienke Pannekoek (Leiden University)

Having studied the brain for several years using MRI and by pictures in study books, getting the opportunity to take part in a brain dissection was something I had been hoping to experience for a long time.

Coenie Hattingh, my friend and neuroanatomist, was kind enough to lead the dissection. My colleague Steven van der Werff and I had his full attention and we were able to ask questions throughout. To see a real brain was so exciting!

Coenie explained everything he did in detail. Step by step we dissected the cortex, subcortical structures and the cerebellum. Tracts between various regions were exposed, functions explained, and connections indicated. We even got to do some dissecting ourselves, which is something I had never thought I would do.

As a neuroscientist I have a real passion for the brain. This experience was definitely a highlight of my EUSARNAD exchange and I am grateful that Coenie has shared his extensive knowledge with me. I would recommend this to anyone!