Technology and tradition coexist in the rainforest

Another post from our guest blogger, Gerard Dunleavy….

DSC_8665The First Mile Project took its next steps towards developing a Rainforest Cybercafe this week. DSC_8912 colour enhancedFollowing on from the Computer Skills workshop in the indigenous village of RPS Air Banun with trainers from the Computer Unit of the School of Health Sciences, USM, two weeks ago. The trio of Nareeman Shah, Mohd Hariri and Haffiz Faezal returned to the rainforest to begin the next phase of the project.
Piece by piece, from the motherboard to the DSC_8669RAM, the computer team custom built 8 PC’s from individual pieces to form fully functioning PC’s. The PC’s are currently stationed inside Air Banun’s tadika, which BRAINetwork together with the Orang Asal established last January. The PC’s will remain here until an appropriate space for the PC’s is set up in the near future. The day after the PC’s were set up, we returned to Air Banun to find some eager members of tDSC_9035he Orang Asal community using their new computers.

A trip to the Belum Temenggor Forest Reserve is never complete without enjoying a few games with the Orang Asal children. We played a few different ball games until we were soaked to the skin after the evening downpour.

DSC_8743Elin, joined our latest visit to the Belum Temenggor Forest Reserve, participating in games with the children and even giving an impromptu yoga lesson to some young enthusiastic Orang Asal yogi.yoga2

On our recent visit to the rainforest, we also travelled by boat to the remote village of Chuweh, which is located along Lake Banding. We went to meet Womba, the head of the village of Chuweh, to discuss a proposed community garden that BRAINetwork will assist Chuweh in developing. Sadly Womba was visiting another village so we didn’t get to meet him on this occasion but we discussed the garden with other members of their community and wrote a letter for Womba informing him of our visit and future plans to return.

DSC_8958(1)The village currently grows ubi but struggles to grow any other crops. Unlike most villages, Chuweh doesn’t have an elelphant or wild boar problem but it does have difficulty growing due to interference from porcupines. We hope we can work with Chuweh on our next visit to develop an effective deterrent to assist the villagers in their attempts to grow vegetables for their community.

While we were in Chuweh we got to see the two beautiful examples of the indigenous craftsmanship. The first example was the picturesque traditional building that we’ll get to sleep in on our next visit to Chuweh on the 10th and11th of September.DSC_8960DSC_8946

The second example was the selection of small bags and purses that we found on sale in Chuweh. The decorative pieces are made from Mengkuang leaves and were handwoven by the elders of Chuweh. The Orang Asal told us that intricately designed pieces are crafted at nighttime as the daytime heat would make it impossible to craft such items.


BRAINetwork would like to thank Elin for volunteering her time in the rainforest. We would also like to thank the team from the Health Informatics Unit of the School of Health Sciences for their kind help and dedication to the project. Thank you very much En Nareeman Shah Che Muhamad, En Mohd Hariri Hashim and En Mohd Haffiz Faezal Ramli for sharing your time and effort with the Orang Asal.

BRAINetwork showcases our community research projects

Hi there again everyone. BRAIN@work has not been blogging for about a month now and it’s only because we have had so many things going on at one time, it was hard to find time to just sit down, sit back and focus on what has been happening in June. Today, on the last day of the month, we will try to make up for lost time.

Our interactive booth at the RU Carnival@USM

On 13th and 14th June, BRAIN@work participated in a Research University Carnival held at the USM Main Campus in Penang. We set up an interactive exhibition which showcased the contribution that BRAINetwork has made in community-based research.

The hardworking team who made a success of the BRAINetwork Exhibition booth. Thanks Guys !!

Currently, BRAINetwork has several participatory and inclusive programmes in schools, pre-schools, rural and urban communities and with the indigenous people of the Belum-Temengor Rainforest. The focus is in changing mindsets, empowerment and the creation of sustainable communities. In the process, BRAINetwork has developed several neurocognitive tools that are able to assess eight neurodevelopmental functions related to academic success, five pathways of neurocognitive wellness and four aspects of community wellness and sustainability. At the RU@USM carnival, we highlighted the various games/ tests that could be used to assess the eight neurodevelopmental functions related to academic success.

Dato Seri Idris Jusoh signs the BRAINetwork poster at our booth

The RU carnival @USM was graced by the presence of the Minister of Education II, Dato Seri Idrs Jusoh and also Prof Asma Ismail, the new Director General of Education. Our relationship with Dato Seri Idris Jusoh goes back a long way when he gave us the funds to set up a Mind Centre in Besut, Terengganu. It was nice to meet up with Dato Seri and to highlight the progress we have made since then in terms of community-based research.

The six areas of BRAINetwork Community research are as follows:

BRAINetwork carries out sustainable community-based research projects through the BRAINetwork Mind Centres. There are mind centres in Terengganu [ MINDCeT ], Kelantan [Pusat Minda Mesra], Belum-Temengor Rainforest Complex and the Gaza Strip, Palestine. These centres are also supported by several organisations such as the Mattel Children’s Foundation, Pulau Banding Foundation and the Terengganu State Government.

BRAINetwork collaborates with both national and international partners. National collaborations include the Ministry of Education, National Sports Council, Malaysian Technology Development Corporation and Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli. International collaborations include FAIMER in the United States and Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan.

BRAINetwork research has been directly translated into innovative teaching-learning programmes at the School of Health Sciences, USM.
Undergraduate courses offered by BRAINetwork are:
1. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory [GEG217/2]
2. Fundamentals of Neurocognitive Science [ GEG316/2]
3. Project IMPACT [ implemented for GTU101 and GTU104 ]

The First Mile Project empowers Orang Asal children by providing the necessary knowledge, skills and attitude that enables them to maximise the potential of their own mind. The First Mile Project is highly participatory and to ensure sustainability, the decision making process is shared with the children themselves. All activities occur within a framework of self-directed self-learning processes.

Since 2011, the Mobile Brain Unit was able to reach out to various communities from across the country, from schools to Universities and communities within the Belum Temengor rainforest. Through the Mobile Brain Unit, BRAINetwork has managed to extend its outreach programme to involve more than 30 000 children. In all cases, the concept is to eventually set up self-sustaining mind centres that are run by the communities.

Since 2011, BRAINetwork has either translated and validated or evaluated several research tools for use within the community. These tools enable a comparative study between different groups as they are culture-free, language-independent and can be carried out by non-clinicians including members of the BRAINetwork research communities.

Send us an email if you would like to volunteer or be a co-researcher in any of these BRAINetwork community-based projects.

Our Neurosteroids Workshop

Discussions between BRAINetwork and UiTMEarth-Day-2014BRAINetwork has a collaborative research project with the Neuroscience research group of the Medical Faculty of UiTM headed by Dr Rosfaiizah Siran. Click HERE to see the research activities of this very active group at UiTM. Recently, a collaborative research workshop was held on 20th April to review the current research, consolidate the various research activities and to plan the next steps. The Neurosteroids Research Workshop was also attended by the graduate students who gave presentations of their research projects. Dr Wan Raihana attended the workshop not only as a researcher but also as an Assistant Vice President to the CEO of MTDC. She gave a short overview on how to commercialise our research products.

There are THREE grants supporting these research projects:

  1. The neuroprotective effects of neurosteroids and hypothermia in cultured neuronal cells following oxygen and glucose deprivation injury. Chief Investigator: Dr Rosfaiizah Siran, UiTM. This grant is is awarded under the Research Acculturation Collaborative Effort (RACE) Grant Scheme Of The Ministry Of Education. RM 50 000
  2. Modulation of neurosteroidogenesis as a response to activation of neurocognitive pathways in the rat. Chief Investigator: Prof Dr Zalina Ismail. This grant is awarded under the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme of the Ministry of Education. RM 148 000
  3. Neurocognitive Science: Understanding The role of the brain-mind interface in relation to memory and learning. Chief Investigtor: Prof Dr Zalina Ismail. Thisgrant is awarded under the p3NEURO project of the Ministry of Education. RM 700 000

The SEVEN co-researchers involved in this project are

Dr Andrean and Dr Rosfaiizah
Dr Andrean and Dr Rosfaiizah from UiTM
  1. Prof Dr Tan Soo Choon
  2. Dr Andrean Husin
  3. Dr Hasmah Abdullah
  4. Dr Idris Long
  5. Dr Wan Raihana Wan Asim
  6. Dr Yvonee Tee Get Bee
  7. Dr Hermizi Hapidin

There are SIX research projects under the Neurosteroid Research Programme with SIX graduate students

  1. Modulation of Amyglada Glutamatergic Neurotransmission by mGluR5-PKC Epsilon during Alcohol Withdrawal-Induced Anxiety. Graduate Student:Jayakumar Murthy
  2. Effects of sodium arsenite in the modulation of testosterone synthesis by the hypothalmo-pituitary testicular axis and its effects on memory and learning in the rat. Graduate Student:Saima Ashraf
  3. Modulation of neurosteroidogenesis as a response to activation of learning and memory in the hippocampus rat brain. Graduate Student: Asma Ulhusna Shaimi
  4. The molecular mechanisms of tau hyperphosphorylation and DREAM/calsenilin in circadian regulation of hippocampus-dependent memory of REM-sleep deprived rats. Graduate Student: Nurhida Ramli
  5. Dose dependent preconditioning effects of (S)-3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine preconditioning in acute ischemic stroke rats. Graduate Student: Nik Nasihah
  6. Therapeutic hypothermia for brain injuries. Graduate Student: Nursyazwani


Fakhru’s PhD Proposal

Ahmad Fakhrurrazi Bin Yahaya ( Fakhru) joined BRAINetwork in September 2013. He has a Bachelors degree in Biotechnology from International Islamic University Malaysia. In February 2013, Fakhru obtained his Masters Degree in Biotechnology from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM). Fakhru is currently a research assistant in BRAINetwork and intends to pursue his PhD in a transdisciplinary research project that utilises his background in biotechnology to explore neuroethical issues surrounding various aspects of neuroscience. In particular, Fakhru will be focusing on the Islamic perspective of neuroethics, something that is relatively novel and definitely of major interest to BRAINetwork. Fakhru is ideally placed to pursue this research as he has a background in biotechnology and a firm grounding in the Islamic perspective as a result of his studies at the International Islamic University.

Fakhru presented his PhD research proposal on the 8th of April in our meeting room. His proposed study is related to Neuroethics: An Islamic Perspective and A Framework Design. Fakhru’s PhD research will be funded by an existing RUC grant where his main supervisor is Prof Dr Zalina Ismail and his co supervisor is Dr Mujahid Bakar from the School of Health Sciences, USM.

Listening to Fakhru's proposal
The BRAINetork Team contributes comments and suggestions to inprove Fakhru’s PhD Proposal
 What is Fakhru’s project about?

Following the presentation of his research proposal, there was a discussion which further refined the research proposal. The research objectives have been further refined and narrowed down during the discussion. However, the original objectives remain relevant and are presented here for those who want to know what Fakhru intends to explore in his research project.

In general, Fakhru will explore the ethics of neuroscience in order to develop an Islamic ethical framework for regulating neuroscientific inquiry and the application of neuroscientific knowledge to human beings. He will explore the neuroscience of Islamic ethics in order to understand the impact of neuroscience on our understanding of Islamic ethical conduct.

Specifically, this research project will aim to achieve the following:
  1. To get a wider and deeper understanding about ethical issues in neuroscience, in term of philosophical, scientific & Islamic perspectives.

    Fakhru and his PhD Proposal
    Fakhru Presents his PhD Proposal
  2. To obtain professional views & consults from experts of related fields regarding the issues & recommendations in handling them.
  3. To develop a framework/ guideline for ethics of neuroscience based on Islamic principles.
  4. To develop a broader and deeper understanding about neuroscience of ethics and its relationship to Islam
  5. To acquire professional views & consults from experts of related fields regarding the issues & recommendations in handling neuroethical issues.
  6. To construct an online database for Islamic Neuroethics.
Good Luck Fakhru. The entire BRAINetwork team is 100% supportive of you.