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Stanford University School of Medicine

Neuroscience camp: Teens learn about mental health

As a teenager, I spent summers swimming and sunbathing at the community pool. However, many teens from around the country found something more interesting to do this summer: neuroscience summer camp at Stanford.

Over 100 high school students attended Clinical Neuroscience Internship Experience (CNI-X) 2016 -- an intensive, weeklong summer program that introduced them to the breadth of work underway by researchers from Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Students came from throughout the Bay Area and from as far away as Georgia and New York.

Several dozen department faculty members taught 90-minute classes, ranging from introductory seminars to hands-on workshops and laboratory tours.

For example, in one session, the teens constructed brains out of Play-Doh, shown above. In another, Kate Hardy, DClinPsy, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, taught a group exercise designed to build empathy for people that hear voices, such as schizophrenics. During the exercise, two students conversed while a third whispered in one's ear. Hardy described the results in a recent news story:

Some students said they found it hard to concentrate; others said the experience was scary or threatening. When I do this exercise with adults, it's difficult to get them to respond. The teens got right into it. There's a great benefit to exposing people at that age to the prevailing preconceptions of psychosis and reduce the stigma, even at a small scale.

The goals of the CNI-X program are to identify promising students interested in mental health and to destigmatize mental illness through education.

"With CNI-X, our faculty are taking the most direct route to the future -- by introducing incredibly bright, motivated young people to the excitement and diversity of clinical neuroscience," said CNI-X program co-director Laura Roberts, MD, MA, professor and chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and chief of the psychiatry service at Stanford Health Care. "We introduce novel science to the interns.... My guess is that in several years we will see some of these students in our medical school classrooms."

Previously: Aspiring young doctors learn the ropes during Stanford summer programAt Med School 101, teens learn that it's "so cool to be a doctor" and Project demonstration today: Stanford's bioengineering boot camp for high schoolers
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben

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