Applied Neuroscience and UN Development Goals

by Isabel Pastor

Together with its partner organization the Korean Institute of Brain Science (KIBS), the International Brain Education Association (IBREA) organizes a conference at the United Nations every year and submits a subsequent statement to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The yearly conference is placed in the context of that year’s ECOSOC agenda. IBREA presents Brain Education as a holistic educational method that can serve as a tool to contribute to the UN goals in general and in particular to the ECOSOC’s agenda for that year.
ECOSOC’s 2013 theme is Science, Technology, Innovation, and the Potential of Culture for Promoting Sustainable Development and Achieving the Millennium Development Goals. How can Brain Education contribute to such goals? By applying neuroscience in the educational systems of the developing world as a way to contribute to solving societal problems.

The underlying belief of this approach is that the root of our global problems lies in the human brain, and in the brain lie the answers. In large and small ways, our brains are impacted by life events and by our environment, affecting in turn what we do and how our bodies work. The same applies the other way around: The brain and its neural processes have an impact on our environment.

Research has demonstrated that major, potentially traumatic stressors such as violent attacks or abuse may have long-term effects on brain structure, brain and body function, and behavior—even after just one event. Other work has demonstrated that more subtle, pervasive, and/or chronic stressors such as poverty or growing up in a chaotic household or community can impact our brain and body—including decreasing our immune response. Both stressors can suppress electrical activity in the brain and reduce new cell growth. In fact, chronic stress actually shrinks the hippocampus, impairing abilities such as learning, memory and social-emotional management. Over time, the deterioration shapes our brain, and, in doing so, it is shaping our body’s response to the next stressor. Day after day, year after year, that’s the process by which we create our habits; or, in other words, the way we feel, think and act in our lives.


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