Successful KRP Meeting in Konstanz (Germany) July 19-20, 2010
The KRP team in Europe met July 19-20, 2010 at the University of Konstanz. The meeting included multiple presentations and extensive discussions on the ongoing activities and future directions.
KRP Director, Professor Mustafa al’Absi, presented a progress report outlining KRP achievements to date in multiple countries, including the initial capacity building effort in Yemen and new research linkages with colleague in Kenya. Dr. al’Absi briefed the audience on the importance of developing an animal model for khat use and the new collaboration with colleagues at the University of Nairobi to establish a primate model for khat effects.
Dr. Michael Odenwald from the University of Konstanz provided a brief review of previous results on khat to help guide current research. He presented information on launching a new KRP-sponsored experiment focusing on startle reflex and cognitive functions among Somali khat users in Kenya.
Professor Thomas Elbert from the University of Konstanz presented on the effects of psychostimulants, including khat, and discussed aggression as a possible effect. He also presented information on the role of common brain pathways mediating aggressive behaviors and drug use.
Professor Stephan Bongard and Benjamin Piek of the University of Frankfurt discussed feasibility and challenges in conducting khat research in Europe and presented a plan to investigate prevalence and correlates of khat use in German.
Mr. Bastian Zwissler presented preliminary results related to memory functions among people with PTSD and substance abuse in Uganda.
Dr. Astrid Steffen also presented results related to tasks that have been used to assess decision making and delay of gratification. These tasks may be used to evaluate behavioral effects and decision making processes among khat users.
The meeting was concluded with a discussion of planned publications, conference activities, data analyses, funding applications, and future collaborations among team members and with other colleagues in Africa, Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
Workshop on Ethics in Academic and Research Settings.
Taiz 27 – 29 March 2010
A workshop focusing on professional and academic
ethics and code of conduct was held at Taiz University, Yemen on March 27th to 29th. Selected faculty members, researchers, and students attended the workshop, which was sponsored by the KRP.
The opening ceremony was attended by Taiz University President, Prof. Mohammed Abdullah Al-Soofi, and the University Vice-president for Students affairs, Prof. Mahyoub Al-Buhairi, and Dr. Anisa Dawkam, director of the Psychological Centre.
The goals for the workshop were to raise awareness among the university faculty members and students of the code of conduct in various situations and settings throughout the university. The organizers of the workshop also sought to develop a document, by the students themselves, of the “students’ code of conduct” which could be incorporated into the university’s disciplinary code. Presentations and exercises were conducted throughout the workshop focusing on issues specific to research ethics and the conduct of research with students.
Workshop on Medical and Psychological Research of Chronic Khat Use.
Sana’a 24 – 25 February 2010
The Khat Research Program (KRP) conducted a workshop focusing on professional and academic staff at multiple universities in Yemen. The workshop took place on the 24th and 25th of February. Selected faculty members, researchers, graduate students, and research staff were invited from eight Yemeni universities to take part in the workshop.
The workshop was held at Sana’a University. Approximately 30 participants attended. In addition to the Vice Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the workshop was attended by the Rector of Sana'a University and the Rector of Taiz University. Presentations emphasized multidisciplinary approaches to research, focusing on social, physiological, behavioral, epidemiological, and community-based research. The presentations also included the following topics:
1) Overview of the neurobiology of addiction and effects on brain functions
2) Reviews of the available literature related to the pharmacology of khat, ongoing and prior studies of the effects of khat, and ongoing and prior human studies of khat use
3) Information about research design and methods for data collection in the field of addiction
4) An introduction to statistical methods (descriptive and inferential statistics, correlation, regression analysis)
6) Specific exercises related to conceptualizing research ideas, preparing a literature review, and writing a proposal
7) In addition, small group discussions were conducted throughout the the two-day workshop.
The first day – Wednesday 24 February 2010- included the opening ceremony (Prof Ali Qasim, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Prof Khaled Tameem, Rector of Sana’a University attended this function as well other university officials). An overview presentation of the KRP was delivered by Dr. Nagat Sayem on bhalf of Professor Mustafa al'absi, the PI and Director of the Program. Prof Ahmed al Mutarreb gave a presentation on the recent research related to the effects of khat use on heart disease.
During the second day program, a lecture and exercises related to ethical issues in medical research were conducted by Prof Abduallah Al-Hattab from Aden University. A lecture was also given by Dr. Anisa Dokam focusing on psychological functions and brain disorders. Finally, Dr. Prof Mohammed Al-Soofi, Rector of Taiz University, gave a lecture and coordinated activities focusing on research design and methods for data collection with a focus on the KRP as an example.