What makes a memory? Prof Tomás Ryan, TCD will explain in public talk

Prof Tomas Ryan, TCD, will explain what a memory is, in a public talk on Wednesday 25th October (Source: TCD)

How are our memories, thoughts, and experiences stored in the brain?

The scientific search for what precisely makes a memory and the physical basis of self is older than science, psychology, or modern medicine.

The search even predates the theory of evolution and over the centuries has been led by priests and physicians, philosophers and physicists.

Only in recent time has a basic understanding of memory emerged from modern scientific investigations. Though such investigations are still in their infancy, some surprising findings have emerged.

In this public lecture, Assistant Professor in Trinity College Dublin’s School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Tomás Ryan, will discuss recent technology that he and his colleagues have developed that allows us to label and switch on (or off) specific memories.

Professor Ryan will also describe how such technology has allowed us to gain unprecedented insights into the true nature of memory loss, amnesia, and depression, before elaborating on the implications of such studies for our understanding of aging, dementia, mental health, and the nature of our own individuality.

The talk takes place in the Stanley Quek Theatre, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Pearse Street.

Date: Wednesday, October 25th, 6:30 pm. Admission is FREE and all are welcome.

Better treatments for nerve damage can follow new CÚRAM research

Better treatment methods for regeneration or repair of nerve tissue can follow new CURAM research (Pic: CURAM)

Better treatment options for those that have suffered nerve damage can result from new research at, based at NUI Galway, according to researchers.

The treatment of peripheral nerve injuries that result in the loss of motor or sensors remains a major problem around the world.

However, new research at the Centre for Research in Medical Devices, supported by SFI, can provide improved treatment options. The results of the new study were published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Researchers have used artificial nerve grafts in recent years in an attempt to restore the function of the injured peripheral nervous system; which is that part of the nervous system that lies outside the brain and spinal cord.

This study explored the differences in nerve repair that result from the use of such grafts made of two different materials: collagen and polymer PLGA.

Both collagen and PLGA have been successfully used to repair damaged nerves in the laboratory, but this success has not transferred to patients in the clinic.

The CÚRAM study results supported the idea that the success of attempts to regenerate damaged nerves is dependent on the graft material used.

The different impact of graft material had been shown by many previous studies but this CÚRAM study provides a clearer understanding of how the body responds to collagen and PLGA grafts specifically.

According to the researchers, this paves the way for the development of specific nerve regeneration strategies based on the biomaterial used.

The study focused on a non-critical nerve injury and did not incorporate the effect of increasing gap distance on the regenerative response.

Women make better surgeons; Trump plans Moon return; Women brain’s wired to be selfless; voice key to emotional state

Patients are 12 less likely to die 30 days post-op if the operation was performed by a female surgeon (Source: gender.stanford.edu)

Broadcast on The Morning Show with Declan Meehan on East Coast FM 12/10/17


Male & Female brains not different; why sleeping naked is good for health; anti-cancer nanorobots built; Hawking proved right about ‘Black Holes’


This interview was first broadcast on The Morning Show with Declan Meehan on East Coast FM (17-08-2016)


Tiny nano robots have been built from DNA which can carry anti-cancer drugs to where they are most needed inside a cancer tumour (Picture source: http://www.meddeviceonline.com)

Contrary to popular belief, Men are not from Mars and women from Venus, at least when it comes to the human brain. Neuroscientists believe that the differences between male and female brains are the result of what society expects each sex to be good at.

If you need naked with your partner every night, scientists have good news for you. This practice boosts the immune system, reduces infections, and helps establish natural body rhythms, and all of his is beneficial to our health.

Scientists in Montreal have unleashed tiny nano-robots, made up largely of DNA material, which can carry drugs to where they needed inside cancer tumours. This provides a potentially more effective cancer treatment than existing therapies, which can kill healthy cells, and can’t get access inside tumours.

Black Holes are swirling cosmic whirlpools, with enormous gravitational power that suck everything, including light, and destroys it. However, Stephen Hawking predicted that not quite everything would be destroyed and some radiation, ‘Hawking radiation’, would escape. A new experiment confirms Hawking’s theory.

Girls Texting Problem; Memory Implants Possible; Tests for Mars Mission Begin; Human Species Going Slowly Blind

Click above to listen to discussion The Morning Show with Declan Meehan, 3/03/’16

Teenage Girls Texting

Teenage girls are more likely to become compulsive texters than boys

Good memories could be implanted by ‘synapse surgeons’ in the future, and bad memories erased, according to a leading memory scientist.

Girls are more likely to become compulsive texters than boys, and to suffer academically as a result.

Captain Scott Kelly, US astronaut returned to Earth this week after 340 days on the International Space Station.

Scientists will compare his blood, saliva and other bodily tissues with his identical twin, Mark, also an astronaut, who remained on the ground.

The idea is to determine the impact of long duration space missions, in advance of the NASA-led manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.

Half the world’s population will be short-sighted by 2050, with one fifth, or an estimated 1 billion people, having a severe short-sightedness, scientists predict.


Justification for torture is scientifically bogus, according to Irish neuroscientist

The justification for torture in Northern Ireland, Iraq, Algeria and many other places has always been that, while distasteful, it produces results that save innocent lives.

This premise is scientifically bogus, according to TCD neuroscientist Professor Shane O’Mara. The neuroscientist details exactly why in his new book ‘Why Torture Doesn’t Work‘ (Harvard University Press)

Torture Doesn't Work

Full body transplants in two years; true artificial intelligence draws closer; the ‘ad men’ get literally inside our heads


Advertisers now have the power to see how the brain reacts to commercial messages (Credit: http://www.sketptikai.com)

Imagine if advertisers could literally get inside our heads, and see how the brain reacts to various selling messages?

Well it’s  happening and it’s called neur0-marketing. The ad men now have access to our private thoughts, thanks to sophisticated brain scanning and thought-reading technologies.

Meanwhile, an Italian surgeon has stated that full body transplants will be available inside two years. This is thanks to advances in surgical techniques and drugs that suppress a bodily reaction to a new head.

It’s expected that such transplants will be outlined in the USA and the EU, but the surgeon believes that if it is possible, then people that have no other option to live, but to find a new body will make use of the technique.

The decade long drive towards true Artificial Intelligence, where software can learn like a child and develop its own strategies, appears getting nearer with the development of Google’s Agent software.

To listen to a discussion of the above on Declan Meehan The Morning Show.


This was broadcast first on East Coast FM on 26th February 2015.






What’s It All About on RTE Radio 1, The Brain (Episode 1)

Scientists are only beginning to unlock some of the secrets of the remarkable human brain (Credit: howtofascinate.com)

Scientists are only beginning to unlock some of the secrets of the remarkable human brain (Credit: howtofascinate.com)

What makes a psychopath? Why are some people more empathetic to others? How does mindfulness change the brain? Are parasites controlling our minds? Are infections a significant cause of mental illness in humans?

These are some of the questions myself Sean Duke, and Colette Kinsella, explored here in episode 1 of What’s It All About? on RTE Radio 1


The week’s contributors:

Dr. Robert Hare is a Canadian psychologist and researcher, who was the first to suggest that psychopaths’ brains might be ‘wired differently. He is the author of several bestselling books about psychopaths including ‘Snakes in Suits‘ which described how psychopaths operate in the corporate world. For more information on Dr Hare visit http://www.hare.org/welcome/


Prof. Christian Keyers is a Dutch scientist and part of the group of researchers that discovered ‘mirror neurons’ in the brain. These neurons are active when we are subconsciously imitating the actions of other people or their  patterns of speech. Christian wrote a book, ‘The Empathic Brain‘ which provides a scientific explanation for empathy. For more information on Prof Keysers visit: http://www.empathicbrain.com/


Donna Andersen is an entrepreneur, author and owner of the website http://www.lovefraud.com Donna set up this website after a disastrous two-year marriage. She has also written two books, ‘Love Fraud‘ and ‘Red Flags of Love Fraud‘ to provide useful information for people who are in, or who have been in, damaging relationships with psychopaths/sociopaths.


Dr Dusana Dorjee is a neuroscientist based at the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice in the School of Psychology at Bangor University. Her research investigates the links between mindfulness and mental well-being. She is particularly interested in mindfulness as it impacts on the mental health in children and adolescents. For more information about Dr Dorjee visit: http://www.mindfulbrain.bangor.ac.uk


Joanne O’Malley  is a mindfulness facilitator trained by the Centre of Mindfulness Research and Practice,  at Bangor University. The recording used some background sounds from a class given by Joanne O’Malley, of ‘Mindfulness at Work’ now known as ‘Mindfulness and Compassion’. She offers Mindfulness Courses and Training in Dublin. For more information email: info@mindfulnessandcompassion.ie or visit http://www.mindfulnessandcompassion.ie


Carl Zimmer is a world-class science writer and columnist with The New York Times, where his column, ‘Matter’, appears each Thursday. In his books, essays, articles and blog posts, Carl reports from the frontiers of biology, where scientists are expanding our understanding of life. He is a popular speaker at universities, medical schools, museums and festivals, and he is also a regular guest on popular US radio shows such as This American Life. He is the author of several books, including ‘Parasite Rex’. To find out more about Carl and his work visit his blog at http://carlzimmer.com/


Dr Jaroslav Flegr is a Professor of Biology at Charles University in Prague. He is a parasitologist, evolutionary biologist, and the author of the book ‘Frozen Evolution’. Dr Flegr work on the influence of toxoplasmosis infection on personality, sex ratios, and risks of traffic accidents, has received substantial media attention, with his work on road accidents being particularly prominent. He has claimed that Toxoplasma gondii infection might increase the number of road accidents by as much as one million crashes worldwide per year. For more information on Jaroslav’s work visit http://web.natur.cuni.cz/flegr/index.php


Dr. E. Fuller Torrey is a renowned research psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive illness). He is a founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center and executive director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute, which supports research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He is also a Professor of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.He has also carried out research in Ireland and Papua New Guinea. For more on Dr Torrey and his research visit http://www.treatmentadvocacycentre.org/about-us/dr-e-fuller-torrey


Professor Joanne Webster is a scientist at the Imperial College London. After gaining a double First class B.Sc. hons, she did a D.Phil at the University of Oxford where she examined the epidemiology of zoonotic disease within the UK. Her doctoral research developed a new line of research on the impact of Toxoplasma gondii on host behaviour and is association with chronic disease. For more on Prof. Webster visit http://bit.ly/1l3KyNa