The old grey matter was the thought-provoking subject of The King’s School’s special ‘Brain Day,’ as A-level students got a glimpse of the future.
Psychology and Biology A Level students spent the day with renowned international neuroscience expert Dr Guy Sutton who said “we have as yet only scratched the surface of understanding the complexity of brain function.”
Looking to the advances to come in the students’ lifetimes, Dr Sutton added: “Over the past twenty years there have been astounding advances in our understanding of the workings of the human brain and nervous system. Advances in areas such as neurobionics and computer-brain interfaces are likely to have a significant impact on society and health over the next fifty years; these are exciting times in brain research.”
Dr Sutton’s acclaimed ‘Brain Day’ is designed as a bridge between sixth form and top degree courses centered on both biological and psychological perspectives.
Students learned about the working and damaged brain, hearing about a range of unique cases of brain injury and the impacts on mental illnesses and criminal behaviour, as well as how drugs, smoking and social media affect the brain, the benefits of musical education and learning a language for brain development, and the range of new technologies for exploring the brain.
Dr Sutton, who is director and founder of Medical Biology Interactive but also holds the position of honorary (Consultant) assistant professor at the University of Nottingham Medical School, said: “The aim is to provide the student with an overview of how the mammalian brain works, illustrate some elementary principles of neuroanatomy and brain function.
“We then examine what happens when the brain becomes damaged, disorganised and degenerates, with accompanying clinical examples and to explore contemporary issues in academic neuroscience, for example, consciousness, behavioural genetics and methods such as brain imaging.”
His lectures involve the clinical dissection of sheep’s brains, with the various parts and glands getting a close inspection and an explanation of which areas of the brain are affected by different diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Covid. Students also cover important sociological and philosophical questions about the nature of free will and how much our actions are determined by our brain’s bio-chemistry.
King’s head of year-13 and psychology teacher, Maria McMaster, said: “We wanted to bring the biopsychology unit to life and learn about the many amazing things the brain can do. It is such a rapidly developing subject that the day involved learning about research that, in some cases, is only two weeks old.
Both A-level biology and psychology are popular courses at King’s, with Psychology one of the fastest growing A-level subjects in the UK because it explores a number of different topics such as forensic psychology, why people commit crime, schizophrenia, relationships, brain development and language acquisition.