04 January 2024

Before the Christmas break, we welcomed Dr Sutton back to the School to talk to our Sixth Form Biology and Psychology students for Brain Day. 

By Anna L-N, Upper Sixth Student

The first part of the day was aimed towards Upper Sixth Biology Students and Dr Sutton began by developing our knowledge of nerve cell communication with a more in depth look at synaptic transmission. We were introduced to certain disorders that can occur during brain development due to the absence of genes or the inability of the brain to fully separate into two hemispheres. Dr Sutton then went on to explain what makes a human brain distinctive from other species. This was followed by a sheep brain dissection to look at the key structures and compare its neuroanatomy. Afterwards, Dr Sutton gave us insight into the recent developments in neuroscience, including the use of brain organoids and how they can be used to mimic neurological diseases to better understand them. Other future prospects were discussed such as brain-computer interfacing, neural decoding and neurobionics. Daunting but exciting possibilities were considered regarding downloadable memories and thought-controlled computers. 

 In the afternoon, Upper Sixth Psychologists reinforced their knowledge of schizophrenia and explored its link to crime. It was discussed whether having neurological disorders removes the ability to control already existing thoughts or actually causes a change in behaviour. As a result, questions were raised about the extent to which we have free will. Certain controversial law cases were examined in relation to whether or not criminals could be rightly blamed for their actions, including the case of Paul Crossley. This complemented the learning we had done in the classroom regarding forensic psychology as well as issues and debates around free will and determinism. The concept of neuroplasticity - neural pathways in the brain being able to change through growth and reorganisation, was also referenced in relation to gender, the brain’s method of coping with trauma and also as a way to buffer the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. 

Overall, it was a captivating day that offered great insight into the world of neuroscience and was a helpful contribution to our A-Level studies.