The following is a statement issued by UCU with regards to the issues raised in my article in support of staff at UCLan: “You can at UCLan: Well actually you can’t without exceptional staff.“
For 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
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 JEMarsh@uclan.ac.uk or Rachel Thorley at RThorley@uclan.ac.uk. For background to this research click here.
The 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
This 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
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.
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 email@example.com
Supervisor: Dr Nicola Graham-Kevan: firstname.lastname@example.org University of Central Lancashire
A few weeks ago I was asked by the Stockport Humanists if I could present a wreath at the official Remembrance civic ceremony. I was extremely happy to help and also honoured to be asked to take part in a day that has particular importance to me and all other serving and non-serving military personnel past and present. Imagine my surprise to be contacted a little later and told that I was not allowed to lay a wreath as an official part of the ceremony to pay my respects. Certain individuals and organisations including The Rt Revd Robert Atwell have the opinion that “we remain clear that this is a religious ceremony and wish it to continue as such” (Jan 14th 2013). This is also particularly galling when bolstered by the words of one local councillor who exclaims that there was “no stomach” to take on the church in a recent telephone conversation.
As an ex-soldier and Humanist, I have served in Afghanistan and as a communications liaison in Pakistan and feel that I have developed certain insights into the role of religion in conflict, remembrance and wider society. Having recently started work as a Neuropsychology Researcher I also seek to understand the mind set of those that claim to preach peace and equality when their holy books clearly condone war (against the out-group and allowing for interpretation of course). Non-religious people in the forces deserve representation at the official part of this most important civic ceremony. Indeed, having served in areas of the world where religion plays a major, often central and ever divisive part in external and internal conflicts, I can see a greater need for a non-religious representative at such ceremonies rather than another one that caters to the pious community.
The Stockport Humanists have attended the remembrance ceremony over the past couple of years and have remarked in an article that “with fewer and fewer people, including service personnel, attending church or practising a faith, is it really appropriate to have an overpoweringly religious tone to this occasion?” They have then petitioned the local council, The Royal British Legion and local Church to try and make this civic ceremony more inclusive. I for one think it is inappropriate to have an overwhelming religious sentiment at an event that should be designed to be inclusive. After all, the point is remembrance, not religious observance. The Humanists proposed a slight change in format in the form of war poetry, interspersed with names of the dead; instead of 25 minutes of prayer and sermonising. We think that everyone can get behind such moving and often sublime art; it also makes the ceremony more about the soldiers’ experiences which does them more justice than any amount of hypnotic chanting. At the very least one official representative of the non-religious to lay a wreath would be appreciated. Both suggestions were denied.
On the point of Religious observance in the Military, the MOD do keep a record of how many religious and non-religious personnel they employ in a publication called the United Kingdom Defence Statistics. It might surprise you to know that in 2012 there were 148,550 Christians, 520 Buddhists, 820 Hindus, 80 Jews, 650 Muslims and 130 Sikhs. What about the non-religious though? Well there are 26,180 of us in the Military which seems to be conveniently overlooked in Stockport. In fact, the non-religious far outweigh all non-Christians. At the Stockport ceremony there were even representatives of the Jewish and Islamic faiths representing their 80 and 650 personnel respectively but still no non-religious representatives. Are we then to believe that this is inclusive; it looks rather more like it is inclusive as long as you aren’t non-religious!
Further to this, the Military does actually recognise the existence of many non-religious belief types as detailed in the Guide on Religion and Belief in the Armed Forces. Currently, the British Humanist Association actually has a little bit of web space on the British Forces website and an active organisation within the Military (UKAFHA) for which we are grateful. Add to this the fact that in the 2013 British Social Attitudes Survey, 48% of the entire nation identify as non-religious. It then stands to reason that a group recognised by the Military and by wider society, has an equal right to be included in the official civic ceremony (it’s not a religious event) especially when minority religious groups are afforded the opportunity. To my mind, religion is only one of many aspects of Remembrance, but their representatives are far from the only people able to perform this duty. To claim that Remembrance is centrally a religious event, is tantamount to saying unicorn husbandry is part of agricultural events; which is of course ridiculous. More seriously, it seeks to alienate those of us that are not religious, which to any reasonable onlooker indicates that an equal right to express our thanks to our fallen comrades is not observed.
The concept of equality will resonate with anyone familiar with Humanists. If we have any core ‘belief’ as such, as I’m sure the majority of other atheistic world views will agree, it is that of equality under humanity and hard won understanding of what it is to be human, rather than through membership to psychologically tribal religious group. As we strive to achieve equality for all and highlight the part of reason in an enlightened society, it is only right, or rather morally necessary, that we are afforded some of that reasonable equality ourselves, especially when it comes to paying our respects to the military, the actions of whom, religious and non-religious, have helped to develop and preserve much of our society today.
Note: All quotations and statistics come from correspondence between organisation representatives and UKAFHA members, one media article and official government statistic records.