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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life Sciences

4th Annual Outreach Event for 6th form students 2013

Published: 22 November 2013

The aim of the outreach event is to spread information about neuroscience research in Southampton to lower 6th form students from Hampshire and surrounding counties. It also serves as an opportunity to enthuse students to take up studies at the University of Southampton. This year the University attracted over 120 students from 15 different schools across Hampshire and Dorset.

The interactive programme ensured that pupils had opportunities for hands on learning and time to ask the participating scientists a lot of questions. The centre piece of the day was a public lecture by Dr Mariana Vargas-Caballero (Centre for Biological Sciences and Institute for Life Sciences), which was entitled “Can we stop memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease?”

Mariana explained to the pupils how a chemical signal is passed from one neuron to another as an action potential and the importance of the post-synaptic receptors (NMDA and AMPA receptors) that receive these signals in memory formation. This idea was captured with a very powerful analogy to the ‘mexican wave’ during an athletics event. 

She also told the pupils about memory impairments in Alzheimer’s disease and how the hippocampus was identified as an important region in the brain for memory formation and storage. The idea of plasticity within the brain was conveyed and that other brain regions were also important in memory formation and storage. She described studies where patients with lesions to the hippocampus, could still learn new tasks and skill in a ‘hippocampal independent’ manner, but without the memory of learning them.

The pupils found the lecture inspiring and interesting and were able to explore some of the concepts raised in the lecture during the exhibition, where they had the opportunity to test both their hippocampal dependent and independent memory.

After the lecture pupils took part in the hands on exhibits, explored the poster displays, and admired the neuroscience inspired garments produced by the fashion students from Winchester School of Art in collaboration with SoNG researchers.

The posters showcased some of the projects and activities involving schools, charities and patient groups that place neuroscience research in a broad context with relevance to society and demonstrated how these activities raise the profile and improve the impact of publicly funded neuroscience research.

In addition  ‘hands-on’ exhibits demonstrated research being undertaken within the SoNG network such as remote controlled worms, reward games, memory games, an audiological display and a display on research with the fruit fly into Alzheimer’s disease and the biological clock. The exhibits proved to be very popular and the students made it clear in their feedback form that they would like to see more in the future.  Attendees found the event 'truly inspiring', 'one of the best activity days I have been to' and 'Southampton seems the ideal place for neuroscience, packed full of interesting information and approachable, knowledgeable people'

Ursula Puentener & Shmma Quraishe

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