Testing Teenagers and Examining Stress

Headshot-BlakemoreExams can be nerve-wracking to even the most prepared. In England, a roller coaster of emotions has been on display as the nation’s series of grueling public exams, the General Certificate for Secondary Education (GCSE), were proctored earlier this summer. The highly anticipated test grades were finally made public last week, and while the unveiling of the results may have brought about much-needed relief for some, the pressure and preparation needed to do well for others branded the two-year journey with a relentless villain—stress.

The anxiety-inducing exam was the focus of a thought-provoking article in The Guardian that featured Dana Alliance member Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University College London and author of Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain. The self-described champion of teenagers touches on the rash timing and the dread of the exams endured by the 15- and 16-year-olds during a period that she says is critical in a developing brain. From the interview:

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Brain’s Unconscious Loss Processing May Support Grief Resolution

Guest blog by Brenda Patoine

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A whole-brain representation of the neural signature associated with processing the loss of a loved one. Activation of this signature in the absence of a conscious thought of the loss correlated with less severe grieving. (GIF courtesy of Noam Schneck; adapted with permission from Biological Psychiatry: CNNI 2018 in press.)

What might grief look like in the brain? Is there a neural “fingerprint” associated with thoughts of a loved one, conscious or otherwise? Does the frequency with which that fingerprint shows up have anything to do with whether or not a bereaved person is able to move on from the death of a loved one and resume normal daily activities?

As psychiatry grapples with how to differentiate “normal” grief from bereavement-related depression and otherwise complicated or prolonged grief, one young scientist is tackling these questions from an altogether different angle, looking inside the brains of people recently bereaved due to suicide to identify grief-related patterns of neural activity and to track how those patterns might affect grief resolution.

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A Guide to Pursuing a Neuroscience Career

The Dana Foundation promotes a lot of resources designed for young students in hopes of inspiring them to want to learn more about the brain as they move up the ranks of grade school. But what if you’ve already been inspired and are now looking for practical ways to prepare for a neuroscience career? While there is certainly no “one way” to achieve this, we want to share a few resources that can help point you in the right direction.

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) recently published an article on BrainFacts.org (a great resource in itself) with tips for students on how to jumpstart a career in neuroscience. Here are just a few points mentioned:

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Poland Takes Victory in International Brain Bee

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First place winner Piotr Olesky (center), second place winner Giovanni De Gannes (right) and third place winner Huai-Ying Huang.

The International Brain Bee World Championship took place in Berlin, at Europe’s largest brain research conference: the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) Forum. Twenty-five finalists, aged between 13 and 18, represented their countries after placing first in their respective regional and national Brain Bee competitions earlier this year. More comprehensive than the local- and national-level contests, the championship features five sections that explore the student’s knowledge of theory and practice in research neuroscience and medical neurology. After three days of exams on neurohistology (the branch of histology that deals with the nervous system), neuroanatomy, patient diagnosis, and a question and answer session with a live judging panel, the five judges—who are all neuroscientists themselves—declared 18-year-old Piotr Olesky from Crakow, Poland, the grand prize winner. Continue reading

SfN Launches New Brain Facts Book

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Credit: Society for Neuroscience

Interested in learning more about how your brain works? Whether you’re looking for information about psychiatric disorders, the developing brain, addiction, or other brain topics, the Brain Facts book by the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has got you covered. Produced in partnership with The Kavli Foundation and the Gatsby Foundation, Brain Facts gives an overview of the brain and nervous system, covering a variety of important topics in understandable language. Recently, SfN launched the eighth edition of the book, which was scientifically reviewed by nine members of the Dana Alliance, among others, to make sure the information is as credible and up-to-date as possible.

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