Mysteries of the Mind: Knowing Neurons Brings Neuroscience to New Audiences

Neuroscientist on computer: Vidya Saravanapandian

UCLA Knowing Neurons

In 2012, neuroscience graduate students from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of Southern California (USC) founded  Knowing Neurons, a platform dedicated to sharing neuroscience knowledge and passion with the broader public. Today, the platform is managed by approximately 60 volunteer students from across the globe and has received recognition for its insights, articles, infographics, book reviews, videos, and podcasts about the brain and mind.


Bridging the Linguistic Divide in Neuroscience

Addressing the limitation of neuroscience information dissemination primarily in English, Knowing Neurons collaborated with UCLA’s Brain Research Institute (BRI) to explore the potential of translating content into other languages, starting with Spanish. “We recognized the need to make neuroscience accessible beyond the English-speaking world,” explained Rafael Romero, PhD., Associate Director of UCLA’s Undergraduate Interdepartmental Program in Neuroscience.

We recognized the need to make neuroscience accessible beyond the English-speaking world.

Rafael Romero, Ph.D.
associate director,
undergraduate interdepartmental program, neuroscience

The project leveraged a unique collaboration between Knowing Neurons, the BRI, and UCLA’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese. It required a translation management system to facilitate the translation process. This technology would be used by community outreach course undergraduate students to translate content from English into Spanish.

School kids: Nadia Penkofflidbeck


The Value of Real-World Experience

The decision to use Phrase was based on its ease of use and robust functionality. “We needed a tool that was intuitive for students yet powerful enough for our rigorous academic requirements. Phrase came highly recommended and has met all our expectations,” stated Carla Suhr, Professor of Spanish Linguistics and Community-Engaged Learning at UCLA.

Each academic quarter, students translated several articles under the supervision of linguists and neuroscientists to ensure both linguistic fidelity and scientific accuracy. “This model not only helps preserve the integrity of our content but also enriches our students’ learning experience,” remarked Suhr.

We needed a tool that was intuitive for students yet powerful enough for our rigorous academic requirements. Phrase came highly recommended and has met all our expectations.

Carla Suhr


CARLa Suhr
professor of Spanish linguistics &
community engaged learning


Why Phrase?

Since the project’s launch, over 140 articles and interviews have been translated. After initially housing the Spanish-language content in a separate tab of the flagship Knowing Neurons website, the team had translated so much content that it was able to launch a dedicated Spanish-language website. Plans are underway to develop a Spanish-language neuroscience podcast, further increasing the reach of the platform. “The Spanish site’s high engagement levels have encouraged us to consider more ways to interact with our audience,” confirmed Alba Peris-Yagüe, a PhD. candidate and Outreach Leader at Knowing Neurons.

The project was widely regarded as a success, yielding numerous benefits and receiving significant recognition:


  • Educational Impact: In the past 3 years 45 undergraduate translators have engaged with the project, translating over 140 articles. “The real-world translation experience is invaluable,” noted Romero.
  • Academic Validation: Reflecting on the project’s success, Romero shared, “Publishing a paper on this initiative, titled ‘Increasing Accessibility to Neuroscience through Translation: Going beyond the English Language,’ has been a testament to our impact.”
  • Award Recognition: The project received a Next Generation Award from the Society for Neuroscience. “It’s an honor to be recognized for our efforts to make neuroscience accessible,” said Peris-Yagüe. 
  • Expansion to New Languages: The success in Spanish translations has inspired translations into German and Turkish. Peris-Yagüe expressed enthusiasm: “Our proof of concept in Spanish has motivated others to expand into their native languages, enriching our platform’s diversity.”
  • Broader Engagement: The project’s influence has led to the establishment of international collaborations and educational expansions, such as the participation of students from the Universidad Complutense and Universidad Autónoma in Madrid as editors.
Neurosurgeon: Melis Cakar
Neurosurgeon: Melis Cakar


Phrase and Knowing Neurons – Expanding Neural Networks Across Languages

The Knowing Neurons initiative illustrates the power of interdisciplinary collaboration and technological integration in transcending language barriers in science. It not only expands public access to neuroscience but also fosters a globally inclusive scientific community. “This model serves as a blueprint for other disciplines aiming to enhance worldwide engagement,” stated Romero.  

The Phrase Localization Platform helped Knowing Neurons and the BRI exceed the project’s goal of bringing neuroscience content to new and diverse audiences. It also inspired unexpected opportunities. The BRI, for example, now wants to translate the content of its own website into different languages. And as Knowing Neurons expands to new languages, Phrase will be critical to its continued success. 


Credit: Images provided by the Knowing Neurons Team: Neuroscientist on computer: Vidya Saravanapandian, School kids: Penkofflidbeck, Neurosurgeon: Melis Cakar

Using Phrase will be key to the future of Knowing Neurons because of its AI capabilities. It really has started to make a massive difference to be able to use the automation the Phrase Localization Platform offers. This will help us scale our knowledge and content to additional languages in the future.

Alba Peris-Yagüe

Ph.D. Candidate and Outreach Leader at Knowing Neurons.

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