On Tuesday 3 May, we were treated to a special visit from Dr Guy Sutton who delivered his famous ‘Brain Day’ seminar to Lower Sixth Psychologists.
Pupils consolidated the work they are covering in Biopsychology, looking at the structure and function of the nervous system and synaptic transmission. Dr Sutton performed a sheep brain dissection, with pupils getting to poke and prod key brain structures including the hippocampus and pineal gland.
Dr Sutton spoke about recent advancements in neuroscience, including Oxford University’s work growing cerebral organoids (human brains grown in vitro from stem cells) which raised interesting and important ethical questions: what happens if these organoids become increasingly complex and develop consciousness? Should they be subject to the same ethical standards as human and non-human animal subjects? Would it be unethical to now prevent this technology knowing its important applications in understanding various neurological disorders?
Our pupils had fantastic questions for Dr Sutton, ranging from queries about the effects of bilingualism on the cortical organisation of our ‘brain dictionary’ to transgenerational epigenetics. Dr Sutton helped to bust brain myths and explained how our current models of schizophrenia, language, dementia and even criminal behaviour are rapidly developing based on our new understanding of genetics, neurodevelopment and advanced brain imaging techniques.
Dr Sutton ended the day with a lecture available to all Sixth Form psychologists, biologists and medics on ‘The present and future of the brain’. Dr Sutton took pupils through early research using brain computer interfaces with prosthetics, to contemporary developments with brain to brain interfaces and the future use (and misuse) of this technology. Pupils were also introduced to emerging fields of neuroscience including the neuroscience of climate change and space travel.
The Brain Day can be best summarised in Dr Sutton’s closing remarks to pupils, ‘We very quickly need to consider what it means to be human, because all that is about to change’.
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