Category Archives: Dementia

Springtime festival- Student Science communication

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I was really looking forward to the Springtime live fair Sunday 22nd, having had an incredibly intense week of interviews and high level science, a relaxing tailored version of what I love talking about was ideal! I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the size of the event, I’d never been to one of Harrogate’s fairs. I certainly didn’t expect to have such a large space from which to engage the children and parents as well as the 2000+ people that came through the hall.

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The other stalls were very well spaced apart from each other and the indoor hall was well lit, with early spring light pouring through the sky ceilings. You could even see the wild Kites circling overhead, much to the dismay of the display owls indoors who nervously glanced at them, shaking their heads methodically to gauge their distance.

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9:15am and the children came pouring in like hundreds-and-thousands with their multitude of colourful jackets, hats, wellington boots and Spiderman costumes. Their parents initially seemed incredibly eager to engage their children with science, and once again the rat brains drew them in! With equal allurement was the furry pipe cleaners from which we made neurones with the children…I think I can safely say with confidence that I am a fully qualified pipe- cleaner neurone maker now.

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Brian- our model display who was disembowelled at least 53 times by small children… he isn’t as light as he looks…

Peter and Rhian were also experts by now, dispelling equal enthusiasm as the children. It was such a buzz to see the children’s faces and reaction to the realization that what they had in their hands was from a real animal. Their faces were a picture when they were told that human head transplants were a real possibility within two years, even the adults couldn’t resist a comical facial contortion. It was incredibly rewarding to see young families engaging in science and being inquisitive about our work at Leeds.

 

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I also mentioned our last event at the Leeds museum with dementia, and had to draw upon the facts I remembered from that! The body model was HUGLEY popular with children, I think we got through 17 packs of antiseptic wipes to clean him up after! The children particularly enjoyed replacing the organs, and seemed to respond to how each of them worked in their own bodies. Fits of giggle were always had upon arriving at the intestines and bladder. Even the models ‘bottom’ seemed to send 5 year olds into hysterics much to their parent’s amusement.

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The Blood Pressure Monitoring was very popular with the adults (40-60 year olds), and some had a bit of a shock when they got readings of 140/90 +, we couldn’t really recommend anything in terms of health, other than to go and see their GP if they felt it necessary and not to worry too much, that the event noise and excitement could have increased it. One thing I think we should definitely try out next time is face painting- a random assortment of butterfly, tiger, Frozen’s Elsa and Spiderman met me at the stall, and seemed to be incredibly popular. My GCSE art skills would come in handy here… Equally Leeds fancy dress and society social face painting experience will also come flooding back. Painting neurones, facial muscles, bones and body parts on the children could help them to learn more about the body and feel inspired by science. Also the possibility of some exercise demonstrations? I love doing yoga and asked whether adults would be willing to watch demonstrations, and seemed keen. Who knows, I might be posting up video tutorials soon! Overall the day was a real success, with people STILL coming up to us even during packing up and in the car park!

It seems they can’t get enough of the human body! I can’t wait for the next one, which is on June 6th- AND one of my favourite topics- INSECTS!

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Demystifying Dementia

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This event was all about raising awareness about the devastating disease- Dementia. I really enjoyed communicating this fascinating but equally important scientific topic to a diverse audience, ranging from 4-90+. Science communication is becoming ever more so a prevalent skill for upcoming scientists who wish to elucidate their research and the work of others to an audience who have not been fortunate enough to conduct the research themselves or learn from those that have. Dementia is affecting older people every year as well as younger people (it was previously thought that 17,000 young adults had dementia, this was an underestimate and it has since been found that 40,000 have the Alzheimer’s disease). Dementia costs the NHS £26.3bn overall, and the government is considering imposing care tax to pay for the shortfall.

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This, I believe, is an injustice to the victims of a disease where no definitive cause has being established. It is wrong to enable health free care to patients with heart conditions for those who have led an unhealthy lifestyle, and deny the right of the elderly who have paid into the systems for many decades and led otherwise, healthy lives. I talked about the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and possible treatments successfully and reassuringly to the audiences, as well attempt inspire younger public members to keep fit and lead an active life… some inparticular were more eager than others! One girl would not stop having a go on the exercise bikes! I am a passionate sportswoman and really enjoy having a healthy lifestyle, and I wanted to share my experience with others and encourage them to live a fitter and more exhilarating life through exercise.

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Before I go on, here are some quick facts about what Dementia actually is:

# 1 What is Dementia?

It is a set of symptoms as a result of several diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Lewey Bodies, Fronto-temporal and Vascular dementia which cause the typical set of symptoms such as:

-Loss of coordination

-Difficulty of remembering times during the day, appointments

-Difficulty with speech, slurring words

Uncoordinated movements

Confusion, fear and anxiety

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Depending on which disease has caused the specific set of symptoms, they can vary enormously. This is why it is VITAL to go to your GP to check this out. They will run a thorough set of checks: blood tests (to see if there is another cause, for example side effects of medication), CAT and MRI scans of the brain, physiologist will perform mental tests to see how the brain copes as well as other in-depth memory tests. There is plenty of info on their website: http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/

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The event was very rewarding and I believe the general public also felt that they had a great experience. The first day on the Saturday I was a little nervous, however as people began asking questions and showed genuine interest I really enjoyed myself, and Sunday I had “rehearsed” the talks. The range of different ages of general public members was large and certainly more interesting. What did work very well was the How brains work stand, with the rat/mouse/snail brains and neurone pipe cleaners, the children were simply enthralled and fascinated by these real life organs, and the younger children were delighted to have something soft and colourful to make and then take home. The adults, to my surprise, asked quite a lot of questions with regards to the symptoms and diagnosis of dementia on this table, which I had prepared for with the excellent notes provided on the Alzheimer’s society website.

The How Science works stall with the chromatography and gel electrophoresis was a bit hit, with the widest range of ages all participating on both activities. We had so many people at one point that we ran out of chromatography paper! We got the children to try a fusion of different patterns and colours from the chromatography which they loved, and the creating of a role play scientist really got them engaging with us and participating in the pipetting of the food colouring in the wells. The thought of dressing up as a scientist for many was the most fun out of the activities on the table, and parents enjoyed taking photographs of them.

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The multi-coloured chromatography designs were dried and stuck into their activity books to keep and show to their teachers; these booklets were most definitely popular and a good motive for the children to keep going around and get involved in all the activities. It was extremely rewarding to see the delight on their faces as they saw what they had created. When praising them for their work they were more willing to try out new activities and ask questions.

What didn’t work as well was the larger neurone which involved more children, it wasn’t as entertaining for them, and they felt slightly more embarrassed than doing the pipe neurones. I think in the future face painting would be a very good way to engage children and keep parents at the event for longer. BBC One show presenter Marty Jopson was also there with his children and wife, so that was a surprise! His children clearly had his love and passion for science, and were particularly good at the exercise bikes and blood pressure monitor testing.

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Having to tailor information for particular age group was initially challenging, but then as I gained more practice at it, I felt more confident in toning town the level of complexity for younger groups, then increasing it again for adults, and more so for academics. I certainly felt more confident in communicating with a broad range of people as well as approach people rather than wait and hold back for people to communicate with you. I never thought that I would be able to relate to children in a scientific manner which I did, and I truthfully felt rewarded when children were inspired and excited by the science we were explaining to them. I had to remember how to use my artistic side, having created a staggering 36 neurones! I really enjoyed myself and look forward to participating in some more, possible even consider leading an event now that I feel more confident.

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Having read up on Dementia and the diseases that cause it has giving me a new found interest in the science behind it, the proteins that cause such damage- talking to the PhD volunteers was interesting and I believe I have learnt a lot about the disease. It has inspired me to go on to do a 5k run for the Alzheimer’s society, and help those in need of care- it really is a good cause and I hope I can do my bit.

Here is the link to the Leeds University web page- the team of researchers are doing an AMZING job of trying to combat this deadly disease: http://www.stem.leeds.ac.uk/ai1ec_event/healthy-brains-leeds-demystifying-dementia/?instance_id=