United Learning in Focus: Students Explore the Science of the Mind

Academic

Earlier this year, Year 10 students from Accrington Academy, Manchester Academy and William Hulme’s Grammar School took part in a workshop on the science behind how our brains work. At the event hosted by Bolton School, 60 students spent a day with staff and PhD students from University College London (UCL) to gain an insight into neuroscience.

The students enjoyed a lecture introducing them to neuroscience and were invited to join in with a series of short experiments. This included the ‘stopped clock illusion’ which shows how the brain can change the perception of time. The lecturers explained why these changes in perception happen and why time can therefore seem to slow down during intense moments – like life-threatening events.

Students learnt how studying the brain can help scientists understand more about human behaviour. They also heard about some of the amazing medical advances that have helped people with paralysis communicate; for example by controlling cursors on a computer screen or using robotic arms.

As part of the day, students divided into smaller groups for a series of workshops run by the neuroscientists. Some of the topics covered were the ethics around neuroscience, visual illusions, drugs, common myths and facts associated with the brain as well as its anatomy and structure. There was also a workshop on memory; the neuroscientists gave students some handy tips for improving memory and recall to help them with their revision.

Finally, students got the chance to quiz the neuroscientists about their studies at A Level and university, what an ‘average’ day looks like to them and where technology and science might lead the world next.

The event was just one of a series of initiatives being run by the United Learning Partnership Fund, of which Bolton School is an associate. The Partnership aims to encourage stronger links between the independent and state sectors, with a view to provide students and staff with invaluable enrichment opportunities.

Accrington Academy Principal Andy O’Brien said:

‘The Science of the Mind event was a fantastic opportunity for our students to interact with staff and students from University College London, learning about how the human brain works, as well as a getting a real flavour of what higher education is about and where it can lead.’

Peter Mulholland, Principal at William Hulme’s Grammar School, added:

‘We really value enrichment activities such as the Science of the Mind event as they help to broaden the minds and experiences of our students.’

Commenting on the workshop, Accrington Academy student Teala said:

‘I found it really interesting learning from PhD students about the brain, particularly about all the different illnesses caused by brain injuries.’

William Hulme’s Grammar School student Britney said:

‘Before this workshop, I didn't really know what research in neuroscience involved, but from the question and answer session with the PhD students, it was clear that it involved a lot of computing and programming!’

Fellow WHGS student Ayana was also impressed with the workshop and said:

‘The part of the day that I enjoyed the most was the interactive session looking at optical illusions. It was amazing to see how our brain tricks us into “filling in the blanks” and seeing things that aren't actually there. We were also given some very helpful tips for revision as we learnt about the different ways our brain stores memories.’

Mr Ickringill, Bolton School’s Ogden Physics Teacher Fellow, said:

‘It was a pleasure to host this event for local schools and our own pupils. The presentations and workshops by UCL postgraduate students and staff were excellent. A delightful Q&A session gave pupils a deeper insight into the day-to-day life of a researcher.’