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The Ageing Brain Summer School 2016 Broadened its Horizons

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26 July 2016

​​​​For over ten years, the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) has organized an international summer school focusing on the neurophysiology and pathophysiology of ‘The Ageing Brain’. Each school attracted an international group of students to Groningen for two consecutive weeks over the summer, coming from a wide variety of scientific and clinical backgrounds. This year was no exception: 30 students enrolled from Europe, Asia and Latin America, with levels varying from bachelor, master to PhD level, with backgrounds in medicine, biomedical technology, psychology and biomedical sciences. As usual, the local organizing committee comprised an 8 person strong team of students collaborating with two UMCG neuroscientists (Prof. Natasha Maurits and Prof. Jon Laman).

What made this edition of the summer school different is that it was part of the EIT Health Campus program, a large knowledge and innovation community (KIC) focusing on healthy living and active ageing. The UMCG has been a partner in EIT Health since 2014.

Being part of the EIT Health Campus program enabled this year’s event to be expanded in both breadth and depth of coverage, and to attract a great number of international speakers from Lisbon, Newcastle, Uppsala, Freiburg, Eindhoven and Ghent. Additional speakers were entrepreneurs, as well as representatives from patient and non-governmental organizations. The organizing committee also introduced novel elements to the program aimed at promoting an innovative and entrepreneurial mind-set and approach among participants.

In addition, students were asked to address a particular challenge in relation to the ageing brain. Theoretical sessions, explaining the concept of design thinking and the use of the business canvas model, were followed by work in small groups focusing each on a different challenge, supported by experienced business and scientific coaches. On the final day, students presented their innovative solutions to a panel of experts, including business experts and a patient representative. The best business idea was received with such great enthusiasm, particularly by the patient representative, that it is highly likely that it will be further developed, for example within IPIM, the Industry Perspectives on Innovative Medicine Summer School, an EIT Health Starter lab activity, to be held in Groningen this summer.

This year’s Ageing Brain Summer School was a dynamic, interactive, inspiring and highly rewarding fortnight, both academically and socially, for all involved, facilitating participating students to become part of a growing network of international alumni.

​EIT Health Ageing Brain Summer School testimonial – Rosa Appelo
During my study, my focus lies primarily on neuropsychology. For this reason I got really enthusiastic when seeing the brochure of the EIT Health Ageing Brain Summer School. I really want to get as much information as I can concerning neuropsychology so this Summer School really seemed amazing. Well, I got to tell you; it surely exceeded my expectations of an amazing Summer School!

There were two weeks of really intensive and extensive learning with 29 other international students. Our group was really diverse; people came all over the world from 15 different countries just to join the EIT Health Ageing Brain Summer School. We got to know so much more about the ageing brain. The workshops went from cutting into real brain tissue, so we could see all the intriguing brain structures in real life, to coming up with a business plan to help patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment. The lectures were quite diverse as well; we saw some cutting edge technology concerning health-related issues, there were two patients with Parkinson’s disease who told us all about their personal experiences with this disease and a neurosurgeon showed a video of an awake craniotomy.  The fieldtrip to the Technical University of Twente was interesting, they showed us an exoskeleton that can be used in rehabilitation of stroke patients and we got to see many other new health-related technologies.

This Summer School has taught me a lot, I could go on and on about it. Let me just end with recommending the EIT Health Ageing Brain Summer School to all who are eager to learn more about all aspects of the ageing brain and those who like to meet many new friends.