New Quarantine, New Me: The Neuroscience of Habit Change

Optimise yourself during the societal demise

Writer: Alexandra Gilbert 
Editor: Elly Chaw
Artist: Lia Bote

In times of uncertainty, anxiety, and crippling boredom, we face the prospects of using this period of isolation to improve our daily routines, garner new habits, and reform the old, menacing ones. Maybe start yoga, get back into art, or finally enforce a healthier sleep routine?

After all, if there’s ever a time to nurture healthy habits, it may as well be during the most devastatingly tedious apocalypse of our century.

How habits and goal-directed behaviour function in decision-making

Our decisions are informed largely by two distinct habitual and goal-directed systems.

Habits have the capacity to shape who we are as people. Alcoholism is one example, and so is that daily morning run we all aspire to, and so is uselessly opening the fridge when walking into the kitchen.

Although habits extend their influence at…

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Introduction to Women’s Week in Neuroscience, 2020

What does it mean to be a woman in science? 

Writer: Ally Gilbert
Editor: Karolay Lorenty

On 8th March, the world commemorated a step in a positive direction towards gender equality and the embodiment of women’s rights.

To celebrate this auspicious and provocative time, UCL Neuroscience Society organised a week featuring the inspirational voices of women that have contributed significantly to the scientific community. In a series of talks and discussions, female scientists gave us insights into academic careers, their research, and how women are represented in academia.

This week elicited a much-needed discussion: what does it mean to be a woman in science?

Frances Edwards, a professor of Neurodegeneration at UCL, kick-started the week, highlighting her contributions to the field of synaptic transmission and Alzheimer’s disease. Most importantly, she tells her story, her journey, trials and tribulations of pursuing a career in academia, as a woman.

Next up…

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Journalism, Uncategorized

The career path of Francis Edwards, Professor of Neurodegeneration: Women’s Week in Neuroscience, 2020

How does a woman in science start her own lab?

Writer: Alexandra Gilbert
Editor: Karolay Lorenty

Prof Frances Edwards sheds light on her journey in Neuroscience research. Her passion for science began at a very early age, inspired by her childhood encounters with kitchen-table dissections of possum lungs with her father, who was a research physiologist.

After completing her BSc with Honours in Australia, Edwards decided to set sail from Tahiti to Honolulu, a journey taking several months, in pursuit of a job as a biochemist in a pharmaceutical company that awaited her in Montreal, Canada. Edwards emphasised the value of her time working for a large drug company: her experience in pharmaceuticals reinforced her decision to pursue original, honest research in academia.

She was met with further disillusionment during her PhD in behavioural pharmacology; although she felt that the subject was important, she found asking herself: “What am I…

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Journalism, Neuroscience

Memory editing: from the Matrix to Medicine

Towards altering our concept of fear and addiction

Writer: Alexandra Gilbert
Editor: Rachel Rubinsohn
Artist: Will Ning

The red pill that bestows the terrifying truths of reality or the blue pill that provides stability and safety; which would you pick?

During the Matrix movies, the main character, Neo, must choose between two worlds, each pill altering his memory either in favour of a virtual reality, or a devastatingly authentic one. Here, the writers of the movies raised a tantalising question: what if we could erase, or edit, our memories?

Other than blocking out cringey high school moments, there are plenty of clinical reasons why we might want to edit our memories. Forgetting the craving cues characteristic of drug addictions and painful pasts in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are a top priority in the field, along with dabbles in memory enhancement for educational purposes.

Despite the attractive (or unattractive) sentiment, the…

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Journalism, News

UCL professor Tim Behrens is awarded £75,000 for innovative neuroscience research

Writer: Alexandra Gilbert
Editor: Karolay Lorenty Vera

It is a tremendous honour to announce that one of Oxford and UCL’s very own Professor of Neuroscience, Tim Behrens, is the Laureate for the Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists, in the field of Life Sciences.

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and New York Academy of Sciences have recognised his enormous contributions to brain imaging and computational modelling. He will receive £75,000 in funding for his future research. Globally, this is the largest monetary award that scientists can utilise purely to advance their research ideas – no strings attached.

What monumental breakthroughs did Behrens achieve to win this award?

Human studies are severely limited given that they cannot be as invasive as post-mortem or animal studies. Even with the revolutionary invention of non-invasive brain imaging, the data acquired from these scans are poorly understood, due to our inherent lack of knowledge of how the…

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Sci Fi, Short stories

The Contemplative Nature of a Park Bench

2 January, 2023 I don’t recognise the voice, but I hear it shimmering in the trees, peeping out and getting carried away like the mutterings of passers-by.  He sneaks among little autumn leaves that crumple into the soil. Perhaps the wind will rustle them, make that woodland sound. It’s as if you can hear the… Continue reading The Contemplative Nature of a Park Bench