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History and Diversity in Neuroscience

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

Article By Sarah Affonso

Did you know there are approximately 100 million neurons in your brain and over 1,000 neurological disorders? It is amazing how much the human brain can do and how more discoveries we reach can further improve our understanding of neuroscience. But how did neuroscience come to be? It dates way back to the Egyptians and the ancient Greeks! They started out with investigating seizures and other neurological disorders as well as piecing together the brain; how it works, what it controls and different theories on its psychological roles. In the 1800s-1900s a few popular names made several contributions. Just to name a few: Pierre Paul Broca worked with patients that had brain damage and concluded that the Broca’s area in the brain is responsible for speech and Camillo Golgi discovered the structure and appearance of the neuron.

Thanks to expanding technology over the years there have been important advancements in neuroscience today and there will be more if scientists young to old, any race and gender continue to step into the field. However, as of now the field of neuroscience is not diverse or inclusive for underrepresented groups, which consist primarily of women and racial minorities. Research also shows that LGBTQ+ professionals in STEM on average receive significantly fewer career opportunities and resources and experience greater professional devaluation, social exclusion, and harassment from their colleagues. It is so important that there is proper representation in science fields free of bias. Diversity improves science; different people have different mental representations of problems and methods for finding solutions to those problems. Not only can diversity in neuroscience build upon steps to improving neurological disorders and discoveries, the need to improve diversity and fairness in science is the most ethical way of conducting science.

The field of neuroscience has a history of racism and exclusion including harmful ideologies and motivations made by many of the famous scientists who first pioneered the field and are often ignored today. One example is German Philosopher Immanuel Kant who developed theories on how humans process art. However, he claimed that Black people had no praiseworthy qualities in art or science. Scottish philosopher David Hume who contributed to an early Discourse on Brain and Consciousness also claimed that there never was a civilized person who was not white.

Such statements can be intervening to visible minorities’ progress in attaining equality and in neuroscience. Racism and discrimination, whether conscious or unconscious, can contribute to mental health challenges and create barriers to treatment and support. Yet, many minority neuroscientists have made many contributions to the field. A few individuals include: Lataisia Jones, Francis Cecil Sumner, Yang Dan, Agustin Ibanez. For future efforts to benefit the world of neuroscience, many institutions and organisations like the Neuroscience Foundation strive to create a more inclusive community. Through education and awareness we can achieve social equality in science. In this month of Black History let's acknowledge and appreciate the work of many visible minority psychologists and neuroscientists. Thank you for reading and take care of yourselves and one another.

For more information visit these following sites:

Neuroscience Foundation ( )

5 Milestones in the History of Neuroscience ( )

Black in Neuro ( )

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