Brazilian neuroscientist makes plea for government support

. Jun 05, 2019
neuroscientist brazil

Brazilian neuroscientist Stevens Rehen is aware of his privileged situation. He is the head of research at the D’Or Institute for Research and Education, a private and nonprofit organization founded in 2010 to promote scientific research and technological progress in healthcare and education. Mr. Rehen is also a professor at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), one of the largest and most traditional schools in Brazil. As a member of two prominent institutions—and mindful of the negative perspectives for his field in Brazil—Mr. Rehen strongly advocates for a balance between public and private funding as the ideal combination to help science flourish, as shown in other countries.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“In the U.S. there is also an anti-intellectual movement like there is here, but Congress always releases the necessary funds for research and development. The German government also recently announced </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">EUR 160 billion</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for universities between 2021 and 2030. Science in Brazil is under threat. And we won’t save it based on a utopic belief of a fully private solution. Science can’t survive without the support of the government,” states Mr. Rehen. &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Although political, this will be the background of Mr. Rehen’s cutting edge scientific speech this week at the digital conference </span><b>.Futuro</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">, in Rio de Janeiro. He will talk about the possibilities that research brings for human development and how technology can speed it up. As an expert in culturing human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), neurospheres, and brain organoids, in 2016, Mr. Rehen published a distinguished scientific paper about the <a href="">zika virus</a>, demonstrating the association between the infection and microcephaly. As the event’s media partner, </span><b>The Brazilian Report</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> has handpicked some of the headline speakers ahead of the event and will unveil some of the content they will present at </span><b>.Futuro</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <h2>Science changing lives</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Some technologies are changing human beings, our longevity, and the evolution process, and they also affect our daily lives. I’ll discuss scientific experiences already underway, such as so-called &#8220;neuro-doping,&#8221; a group of emerging techniques for the modulation of the brain activity which use electric or magnetic fields. It has already been used to treat patients diagnosed with depression, but may be also applied to enhance physical and mental performance, such as in classes. I’ll talk about simple subjects too, such as the importance of sleep for learning and how introducing it in schools can enhance the students’ capabilities,” Mr. Rehen explains. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Through the lens of the Brazilian neuroscientist, the application of science in daily life also tears down ancient stereotypes, such as females&#8217; “inherent” capacity and talent to take care of children at home: “If the man is the ‘first educator,’ the one who stays the most and from the beginning with his kids, his brain will go through the same changes as the women’s, who are usually given this role.” For Mr. Rehen, such discussions show how science can help us to think about the future.</span></p> <h2>Brain organoids to prevent animal tests</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Working at the D’Or Institute since 2014, Mr. Rehen mentions some results of the successful partnership between both institutions he belongs to: “With the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, we have published 150 scientific papers over the past five years. We also have covenants with another two public universities in Rio. This mutual support is crucial,” he states, circling back to the subject which seems to concern him the most at the moment. Mr. Rehen’s research team at the D’Or Institute has also partnered with other private institutions, such as French cosmetics giant L’Oreal, to provide brain organoids to Episkin, a subsidiary of the group dedicated to the development of reconstructed skin, to curb the use of animal tests in laboratories.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“In a moment when science is being challenged with unscientific data, we must pay attention to the progress in this field and to the good examples in other parts of the world, instead of wasting time. If we don’t focus on what really matters, Brazil will be left even further behind the countries which set the excellence benchmark in science worldwide,” he concludes.

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Maria Martha Bruno

Maria Martha is a journalist with 14 years of experience in politics, arts, and breaking news. She has already collaborated with Al Jazeera, NBC, and CNN, among others. She has also worked as an international correspondent in Buenos Aires.

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