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Students complete first Cultural Neuroscience Institute

Dr. Gary Bennett, professor of psychology, global health and medicine at the Duke University Global Health Institute, meets with students after his lecture.

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) psychology students spent two weeks immersed in faculty-mentored research as part of a new summer institute.

The first Cultural Neuroscience Institute, through presenters, group presentations, discussions and readings, examined the emerging field of cultural neuroscience. 

“Cultural neuroscience (CN) combines the interdisciplinary study of psychology, culture, biology and neuroscience," Dr. Michele K. Lewis, associate professor and chair of WSSU's Psychological Sciences Department. "Exposing undergraduates to CN is a great way to excite them to learn about the brain and its functions, which are influenced by our social and cultural world. CN has tremendous potential to help us understand vexing social issues, with many opportunities for students to pursue innovative career paths in the field."

Topics explored included:

  • The cultural significance of nonviolent drug-related incarcerations.
  • The biosocial nature of the brain as related to implicit perceptions and fear-based reactions to unarmed Black men, resulting in their murder.
  • Drug abuse prevention using positive psychology as it relates to social support and beneficial hormone release.

The institute, through WSSU’s Department of Psychological Sciences, was led by WSSU faculty Dr. Lewis; Dr. Timothy Moore,  professor and chair of the Psychology Department at Clark Atlanta University; Dr. Jill Keith, WSSU professor in the Department of Biological Sciences; and Dr. Nelson Adams, WSSU professor of Psychological Sciences. Nine WSSU psychology students completed the institute.

The institute, June 5-16, is only the first initiative funded through a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The three-year grant aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduate programs and professional fields.

Dr. Naomi M. Hall-Byers, associate professor of Psychological Sciences is the Principal Investigator and Dr. S. Maxwell Hines, professor of Education is the evaluator.

In January, the department will launch an honors curriculum in psychology, only the second program of its kind at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).

The session closed with a reception and lecture from Dr. Gary Bennett, professor of psychology, global health and medicine at the Duke University Global Health Institute.

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