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The University of Southampton
Southampton Neuroscience Group


SoNG recognises the responsibility of translating its scientific advance into improved quality of life. To help achieve this we welcome contact with local patient groups, carers, charities and other stakeholders.

SONG team

Beautiful Mind- Pint of Science- University of Southampton

Southampton Neuroscience group (SoNG) brought science to the pub this May as part of the Pint of Science Festival. The Pint of Science Festival ran in over 50 cities in 9 countries, covering topics in Oceanography, Neuroscience, Human Physiology and Physics. Members of the SoNG group based each night around a different theme. The first night covered brain development and learning and memory, the second night focused on alcohol addiction and the third night brain ageing and dementia.

Lindy Holden-Dye

The subjects proved very popular with each night selling out, alcohol addiction seeing the highest rate of ticket sales. Each night two speakers from the University of Southampton presented their thoughts and research questions to the public. Interactive presentations using zappers made for fantastic audience participation and a quiz during the interval proved particularly popular.

Vincent O'Connor

Highlights from the event can be seen in the accompanying pictures below. On night two Professor Lindy Holden-Dye used yellow and red balloons to represent inhibitory and excitatory neurons, passing these out into the audience, with some people also receiving pins to pop balloons (illustrating alcohol withdrawal). Lindy explained how the balance of excitation and inhibition changes during alcohol consumption and withdrawal, how this can change human behavior and why some people are driven to drink again. Night three saw Professor Vincent O’Connor cook an egg on stage to demonstrate protein mis-folding, which leads to the hallmark deposits seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease. In his talk he highlighted the requirement for research to focus on early parts of the degenerative process, while synapses are being remodeled and removed before whole neuronal cell death.

This was the first year that the Pint of Science Festival has been run in Southampton, and it was a great success. The SoNG members who spoke on each night injected such enthusiasm for their research and science that feedback from the event demonstrated its power and validity and should be continued each year. The Beautiful Mind team, comprised of Grace Hallinan, Prutha Patel, Megan Sealey, Matt Cotton and Joanne Bailey, would like to thank the speakers from each night, Katrin Deinhardt, Mariana Vargas- Caballero, Lindy Holden-Dye, Julia Sinclair, Vincent O’ Connor and Lesley Collier, for making this such a memorable and exciting event. Special thanks should also be given to the sponsors IFLS, FNES, Mendeley and Promega. Publicity was organised by Katy Stubbs.

4th Annual Outreach Event for 6th form students 2013

The aim of this event was 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 we attracted over 120 students from 15 different schools across Hampshire and Dorset and thereby reached sell-out capacity.

The programme was deliberately built as interactive as possible in order to make sure that the students would get opportunities to learn hands on and ask the participating scientists a lot of questions. The centre piece of the event was a public lecture by Dr Mariana Vargas-Caballero (Biological Sciences), which was entitled "Can we stop memory loss in Alzheimer's disease?" She explained 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. Mariana Vargas-Caballero described how, when there is enough excitement from the spectators, the Mexican wave (action potential) can resonate throughout the stadium and trigger key athletes, namely Usain Bolt (NMDA receptor) to run very fast. The activation of such receptors and their regulation by AMPA receptors are key to memory formation. She also told the students 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 students 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 the students could actively take part in the hands on exhibits, wander through the poster displays, and admire the neuroscience inspired garments produced by the fashion students from Winchester School of Art in collaboration with SoNG researchers. The posters on display 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. The poster exhibit also demonstrated that the activities of the network raise the profile and improve the impact of publicly funded neuroscience research. In addition to the posters, there were also ‘hands-on' exhibits representing some of the research being undertaken within the SoNG network. These included 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. Some of the feedback comments are summed up below:

'truly inspiring'

'this is one of the best activity days I have been to'

'fluorescent worms are awesome'

'the guest speaker was very engaging'

'Southampton seems the ideal place for neuroscience, packed full of interesting information and approachable, knowledgeable people'

'I really enjoyed fruit flies and would like to find out more'.

Interdisciplinary Research Week 2013

The following videos were recorded as part of Interdisciplinary Research Week 2013.

For further information regarding Interdisciplinary Research click here

Report from the 11th Annual SoNG Meeting 2013

Healthy Body Healthy Mind; is it all between the ears?

The following was written by a 6th form student:

The neuroscience meeting was an informative and exciting day. There were a variety of researchers from Southampton University, as well as guest speakers from Newcastle and Osaka.

As a college student doing an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in Alzheimer's pathology and potential future treatments, it was a great opportunity for me to learn about the research taking place in this vital area and speak to the researchers and ask questions. I learnt about new links that I could talk about in my EPQ. For example, I didn't realize that there could be a link between high blood sugar levels and the increased accumulation of a protein called amyloid in the brain, which is thought to be one of the causes of Alzheimer's. This link has been observed in mice, as presented in Dr Asuni's presentation.

I liked the fact that the meeting was attended by a mix of students, researchers, professors and even members of the public who don't necessarily have a background in neuroscience. The questions that were asked by the audience provided the opportunity for the presenters to explain their results and ideas in more detail and give a deeper insight into how they handled their research. I also enjoyed speaking to some PhD students and researchers at the posters stands such as James Fuller, who were passionate about their work and very happy to answer all my questions and explain their work in a simplified way so that someone without much of a background in neuroscience like me can understand it.

I look forward to attending this meeting again next year. I would recommend it for college students studying sciences who have an interest in neuroscience and are curious about how scientific research works. The study of things like bio-statistical tests can sometimes seem dry and boring at A-Level, but this conference helped me appreciate what a fundamental part of scientific research it is, and I am going back to my A-Levels with a renewed enthusiasm.

We also recognise the importance of enthusing the next generation of neuroscientists and are pleased to have links with local schools and colleges. Our members participate in a lively programme of outreach and public engagement activities including for example the Researchers in Residence scheme and National Science and Engineering Week

We welcome contact from schools, colleges, School visits are also co-ordinated through the School of Biological Sciences which runs a summer school for 6th formers.

Science Week 2012

Neuroscience is a hit in Science Week 2012

The Annual Science Week exhibition was more popular than ever. On Saturday March 10th more than 2000 visitors attended the day. Dr Shmma Quraishe did a great job organising a team of 30 neuroscientists including undergraduates, postgraduates, postdoctoral fellows and academic staff to put on a display showing ‘Journey through your Beautiful Brain', 'Electrical Signals', 'Diseases of the Brain' and 'Neuroscience inspired fashion' it was a very interactive display with visitors learning about the intricate and exquisite morphology of neurons, the properties of signalling in the circuits of the brain through to mechanism of disease and neurological disorders. All of this gave the enthusiastic exhibitors a chance to explain their research and have interesting and thought provoking conversations with the public.

99% of the visitors said it improved their understanding of the brain and commented:
"I liked the jelly brain."
"Very good! Particularly I liked listen to your muscles and the jelly brain."
"More flies would be cool. So you can see their sex cones!"
"It was fantastic."
"What a fascinating collaboration."
"It helped understand these conditions."
"Well done!"
"Better than last years."
"It was really interesting talking to the girl who is researching Alzheimer's in flies. She was very knowledgeable."
"Very exciting ideas. So important to remove myths of mental illness."
"It clearly shows what is going on in the brain."
"Student very informative."
"Really enjoyed this area. Students very helpful."
"It was enlightening."

Outreach Event 2011

This year an invitation was extended to 6th form colleges and more than 60 students attended in addition to undergraduates from the University, early career researchers, academic staff and stakeholders external to the University with 150 participants in total. The event provided a great opportunity to network and share best practise in public engagement.  The centre piece of the event was a public lecture given by Professor Nick Donnelly which provided a very thought provoking insight into the limitations of human visual perception. The third annual event will take place in November 2012. Contact if you would like to be placed on the mailing list.

Brain Waves

The Royal Society has produced a series of reports on the impact of neuroscience on society under the title Brain Waves. You may access the reports here. For further information and podcasts of the reports follow this link to the Royal Society Brain Waves page

Latest Outreach Opportunities

Lindy Holden-Dye outlines the latest opportunities for you to get extra experience in public communication, embellish your cv and fly the flag for Southampton.

Birds and Brains

Lindy Holden-Dye and Louise Fairless from the School of Biological Sciences visited Queen Mary's College Basingstoke on June 16th 2011 to talk to Year 10 pupils about science. The pupils had the opportunity to study animal skulls with Louise and learn more about the relationships between different species and evolution. She also took along some live exhibits, birds of prey, for the pupils to meet. In the afternoon Lindy introduced the pupils to neuroscience, the study of the brain and led a workshop which provided some hands on practical experience for all attending. During the afternoon the pupils took part in a brain quiz, if you want to have a go the quiz is pasted here (and the answers if you want to cheat!).
If you are a YEAR 10 teacher and would like to run a workshop for your class please contact us.

Science Week 2011

This year Science and Engineering Day was more popular than ever. More than 3000 people of all ages and interests visited the campus on Saturday March 12th. Neuroscientists contributed to the exhibition with a range of hands on displays spanning their interest in brain function in health and disease. Visitors learnt about the nervous systems of parasitic worms and how they are being targeted with drugs to treat tropical diseases and looked through microscopes at living worms and brain cells. Young visitors made their own play-doh brain cells and found out a bit more about how the brain works. The Wessex Alcohol Research Collaborative contributed with displays on the topic of what alcohol does to the brain entitled 'Alcohol, your best friend and your worst enemy'. From simple invertebrate worms through to humans, alcohol is a powerful neuroactive drug, both enjoyable and dangerous at the same time. The displays also incorporated provocative posters on the public perception of mental health disorders. Fashion students from Winchester School of Art presented garments they designed on the theme of neurological disorders in collaboration with neuroscientist researchers at Southampton. This is a new and unusual approach to trigger conversations about the impact of disease on the lives of individuals and their families and provide a discussion of the research that is being conducted to improve their quality of life.

Applying Neuroscience to Real-life problems

We have produced a Neuroscience booklet which outlines the work we do (opens as a pdf).

Science week 2011

Set 10 for Britian

SoNG early career researchers show their wares in Parliament for SET1O for Britain 

Changing Minds

SoNG early career researchers are collaborating with students at Winchester School of Art to provide engaging exhibits on neuroscience.

Mothers in Science

This booklet was produced by the Royal Society to highlight the multitude of ways in which mothers are happily combining family life with a research career in science

The Science of the Brain

This booklet, published by the British Neuroscience Association, provides an introduction to neuroscience suitable for school pupils and lay members of the public

Contributed by a pupil from Southlands School, for boys and young men with Asperger syndrome.
Shards of life
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