An Evening of Science and Reason

Originally posted on Project Science and Reason:

An Evening of Science and Reason small

Come along to An Evening of Science and Reason on the 6th of June with Doctor George McGavin and friends at the University of Central Lancashire’s 3d Lecture Theatre in Darwin Building (DBLT). The Theatre has featured various well known scientists in the past such as Professor Richard Dawkins and many others including most recent, Professor Robin Dunbar. So come along and be part of what promises to be and interesting and entertaining event.

CLICK HERE to book a ticket!

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UCLan Psychology; Genetics and Neuropsychology

After a successful debut at The Big Bang in Liverpool’s World Museum last year, I’m honoured to be asked to present my workshop at UCLan covering genetics and neuropsychology on Sunday the 23rd of March; so what’s it all about?

What is Neuropsychology?

DNA extraction

Neuropsychology is the study of how we think, and also how the physical brain helps us to interact with the world. Neuropsychologists seek to find how behaviour can highlight problems in the brain, and also help to indicate if there is a biological or psychological basis to many conditions. As you can probably guess, neuropsychology is a cross between neurology and psychology. Neuropsychologists can work as part of a team involving amongst others: neuroscientists, biologists, neurologists, psychologists and many other “ists”. Many practitioners are invested in applying the science directly to help clinical patients, others help by developing new techniques to achieve this, and other neuropsychologists conduct research into many related areas. Neuropsychologists use many different tools from behavioural questionnaires to sophisticated scanning techniques at the cutting edge of technology. One such recent development in technology has been dubbed “clarity” and is truly mind blowing, having been covered in a very accessible video by the guardian.

Read the rest of this entry

Memories in the Making; Neuroscientists Observe Memory Formation

mouse brainFor the first time in history, neuroscientists are observing memory formation and transmission around the brain of a mammal. Developing on advances in the field of RNA research, this astounding discovery really does reveal how this particular function of the brain might work.

Memory is a complex cognitive process comprising many different facets. Before we have a memory (that which we can reconstruct) it has to be encoded in the brain in some way. This is an ever-changing process that is not entirely understood but what we do know is that an initial phase of encoding must take place; this can involve visual, auditory, olfactory perception and more, with a system of storage following its receipt.

This need to store the memory leads to the alteration of molecular structures in the brain including synapses – think of them as radio antennas, one transmitting a particular signal that needs to hop across a gap to another which is designed to receive it; both synapses and radio signal can be strengthened and thus make the job of bridging the gap easier. Memories on a cellular level are seen to be encoded and stable when long-lasting synaptic connections occur between neurons that are in contact with each other. But how do we see this work? Neurons are minute, despite there being 86 billion of them – a figure arrived at by Dr. Suzana Herculano Houzel of the famous ‘brain soup’ study - they are difficult to see and their processes even more troublesome to appraise.

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Yeshiva University developed a mouse model within which they were able to fluorescently tag molecules of RNA (mRNA) that code for beta-actin (β-actin) proteins. This is a process that we have used before to tag particular types of neurons in the brain; you might also remember a similar technique being used to produce a fluorescent pig! The appeal of this technique is in the fact that one can tag beta-actin proteins without disrupting the normal cellular processes within them. Bet-actin proteins are found thought living organisms with large concentrations in the brain.

One study describes a process where Dr. Park stimulated neurons in the hippocampus (memory associated) of the mouse, producing glowing beta-actin mRNA molecules which they were able to observe travel within the dendrites of the neuron. A second study by graduate student Adina Buxbaum observed that the way in which beta-actin mRNA is synthesised and controlled by neurons may be unique, leading to a process where it is packaged making it inaccessible for making protein and subsequently unpackaged making it available of beta-protein synthesis.

Dr. Singer in whose laboratory this was discovered remarks: “This observation that neurons selectively activate protein synthesis and then shut it off fits perfectly with how we think memories are made.” This would allow for selective stimulation of beta-actin protein where and when needed in order to strengthen synapses and in turn, memories. I only wish my synapses were sufficiently strengthened when taking Japanese language classes: transmission of language through auditory and written media and rehearsal of what is heard leading to better retention and reproducibility, all through the effective functioning of our neural circuitry.

To find out more about the molecular basis of memory please click the links cited within text for academic research articles.
Video courtesy of Albert Einstein College of Medicine

* RESEARCH* Facial Recognition and Eye Witness Memory Study

Facial Recognition Research

Facial Recognition Research

Participants required! 

Earn a £10 Love to Shop voucher for taking part in two Psychology studies at The University of Central Lancashire.

Would you like to take part in two pieces of research that contribute to the understanding of Face Recognition and Eye Witness memory?

This research will involve tasks such as learning faces and selecting faces from a lineup, as well as naming celebrity facial composites and attempting to name celebrities based on the description given. Te session will last approximately one hour.

If you would like to book a time slot or you would like further details, please contact Dr John Marsh at or Rachel Thorley at For background to this research click here.

Japanese Cultural Showcase

ImageThe Japanese Cultural Showcase is one of many excellent events that our society hosts under the heading of cultural exchange.

On the 21st January in the Atrium from 12:00 – 16:00, there will be a showcase of various aspects of traditional Japanese culture. On the day, there will be a wide range of activities including: Shodō (Traditional Calligraphy), Origami, Sushi Demonstrations, Ikebana (Flower Arranging), Kimono Demonstrations and Traditional Dance.

All of these activities and demonstrations will be headed by professionals in their respected fields.

The pricing of the event is as follows:

UCLan Japanese Society Members: £3
Non-Members: £4

Tickets and Reservations are available for the event, just ask any of the Committee members. If not, on-the-door payment will be accepted.

Hope to see you all there, this promises to be a memorable and fun event for all those who have an interest in Japan and its culture.


Engaging the Public in Research at UCLan

UCLan astrophysics research

UCLan astrophysics research

Would you be interested in taking part in real world academic research at The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)? My name is Glen Carrigan, a Neuropsychology research assistant at UCLan and I am currently interested in seeing how many people would be interested in taking part in research as members of the public. We will be giving presentations around the UK in February and March with regards to how the public can become engaged in research and would love to speak to as many people as possible.

Briefly, we’re trying to set-up a serious, community participation centre for the public to take part in research at our institute in many different disciplines. There is a vision for an online portal for people to join so they can easily keep up to date with current research and take part by booking themselves into a study via a simple to use interface. There will be many laboratory based studies using our neuroimaging, audio perception and memory labs to name but a few! On top of this there will be many online studies to choose from and also the facility to visit participants at their convenience for particular research, so the opportunity is very much open to all interested parties, whatever their interests, location (you could even be in another country for the online studies!) or time commitments.

Neuroimaging Research. Image by Karl Hopkinson: http://www.photoPychopathology/

Neuroimaging Research. Image by Karl Hopkinson: http://www.photoPychopathology/

I would very much like to hear if you are interested in this opportunity and how many people you know who might potentially enjoy taking part in research too: individuals, schools, academic groups, community centres and so on. Our research areas are as diverse as they are interesting so there will be something for everyone. Your contributions to research really will make an impact in those areas that studies address and we really do value your time and commitment in helping us achieve new standards of research in collaboration with the wider public and indeed, for the benefit of us all. Please feel free to contact me with any questions by email and I will be more than happy to address them. Alternatively leave a comment in the comments section.

Glen Andrew Carrigan

Research Assistant, founder: JSOC 会長, Project Science & Reason
The University of Central Lancashire
Email:, Linkedin, @CarriganGlen

Women in Science

Originally posted on Project Science and Reason:

The Students

The Students

Please support Francesca Sloane and company in their bid to go to China and promote science. It’s very important that we encourage young scientists to get out into the world with their research, and I for one think that enabling such opportunities for young women is a very worthy cause. I first met Francesca at The Big Bang in Liverpool’s World Museum when I was presenting Genetics and Neuropsychology. She’d just won a competition with regards to her project ‘Genetic Transformation of E. coli Bacteria with the pGLO Plasmid.’ I remember thinking to myself that I’d never met such an impressive and confident young woman before and that she deserved to win hands down. The prize was the trip to China although it is only partly funded and so the team are embarking on a charity drive to raise the shortfall. If you can help please do.


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Comet ISON

ISON by Damian Peach

Credit: Damien Peach. ISON and its tail

As a Science communicator and one of many insignificant humans – especially in the face of such an ancient object – I find myself extremely excited by the prospect of seeing comet ISON on the Eastern Horizon on the 3rd of December. The last time I was this excited by something in Science it was one our our own acheivements of putting Curiosity on Mars (which I got up very early to watch). This is wonder and grandeur of a more primal nature, free of human interaction, something truly transcendent. It may be something many of us will never see the like of again and so to miss out this time would be a terrible shame. So what is so special about this particular lump hurtling through space?

Comet ISON has come from the Oort cloud which is a large region filled with such relics at the very edge of this solar system. It is believed to have remained in the Oort cloud until it was ejected by the gravity of a neighbouring star. This has led to our star (the Sun) tugging on the comet and pulling it ever closer towards it.

The Sun's corona can only be seen when the Sun itself is obscured

The Sun’s corona can only be seen when the Sun itself is obscured

What is so special about this comet is that due to its current trajectory it will pass very close to our Sun indeed. This has earned it the name “sungrazer” as it will pass through the Sun’s corona; the extended outer atmosphere of the Sun. This is a perilous journey for this mass of what is believed to be mostly rock, gas and ice, as the Sun’s rays may obliterate it entirely. This, however, is what will give us our best view of it. As the comet comes into contact with ever increasing ultra violet radiation we can be promised a spectacular view of its tail on its approach. There exist three possible outcomes for ISON at this point as outlined by Dr Matthew Knight from Lowell Observatory in Arizona.

One of the other key features of this event is what we may in fact learn from our encounter with this object. One of the theories that abound as to how water ended up on Earth, and therefore made it agreeable for the development of life, was that comets delivered it here in the form of water ice. There is an abundance of ice throughout the solar system, water ice caps even exist on Mars and the moon Titan contains solid methane which might also be called ice. On our planet though, it is water of a particular type (low deuterium concentration) that is conducive to the development of life; water giving us the medium within which chemicals can mix to become simple amino acids. This event incidently reminds me of a lecture I attended by Lee Cronin about how we make inorganic chemical compounds do more. For an interesting insight into this take a look at the work at Cronin Labs. When the comet passes by scientists hope to analyse the make-up of ISON’s tail to see if there is water vapour there that might indicate the presence of water similar to that on earth. The implications for this would be that if water exists on bodies like ISON that they may indeed have delivered water to us and moreover make the notion that water based life exists elsewhere alot more plausible. Whatever we observe, Comet ISON will surely provide some wonderful insights into the history of our particular planetary neck of the woods.


Comet of the Century: A Horizon Special

Cronin Labs

Dr Knights compilation of interesting ISON related academic papers

NASA’s Comet ISON observation project

You can at UClan; well actually you can’t without exceptional staff.

uclan jpegThis week, many students discovered the impending academic staff losses that are on the horizon at The University of Central Lancashire. They are not pleased. Many of them are proud to be students at UCLan and some of that pride comes from the mentoring and encouragement that they’ve been afforded by inspirational personal tutors, module leaders and lecturers. Sure they have a job description and a certain amount of contact time is mandated, but in the Psychology department at least, there are many students that see them go above and beyond their mandate to enhance the student experience. I love UCLan as a brand and as an institute for education, having worked and studied here for nearly four years it pains me to see the current situation because it’s obvious that here, it’s the students that really matter to the academics which is something management need to take into account.  Read the rest of this entry

*RESEARCH* Reactive and Proactive aggression

Ethical approval: The UCLan PSYSOC Ethics Committee has approved the study: ‘Reactive and Proactive aggression: Factor Analysis of existing measures’. Unique Reference Number: PSYSOC  074_amendment.

Please Participate

My name is Rachel Schofield, I am a PHD student studying Forensic Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire. My supervisor is Dr Nicola Graham-Kevan. I would be most grateful for help with my research, it would entail completing a questionnaire that should take approximately 20 minutes to complete. All participation is voluntary. My research is to explore Reactive and Proactive Aggression.

The purpose of the study is to investigate Reactive and Proactive Aggressive acts and Personality traits. Certain questions are of a sensitive nature such as aggressive acts and antisocial behaviour. Please answer questions honestly, if a question is too sensitive please leave blank rather than answer falsely.

All questions are for research purposes only and all answers are completely confidential.  The purpose of the study is to investigate the relationship between aggression and personality traits. The types of aggression are; emotionally driven (Reactive) and goal driven (Proactive). Questions will include your engagement in antisocial behaviour/acts – some of which are criminal offences; therefore some questions are of a sensitive nature. Please answer questions honestly, if a question is too sensitive please leave blank rather than answer falsely.  Please DO NOT write your name on the questionnaire as all answers are anonymous. Only group data will be used for this research and therefore no one can be identified by what they have written. You may withdraw from the study at any time up until your questionnaire is submitted. Upon completion of the questionnaire contact details for the researchers and sources of support will be provided.

If you are interested in participating please CLICK HERE

Thank you for your time and your participation is greatly appreciated.

Researcher: Rachel Schofield: Email

Supervisor: Dr Nicola Graham-Kevan: University of Central Lancashire



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