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The Oxford Neuroscience Experience is an annual public engagement event where Year 12 pupils are invited to gain an insight into what neuroscience at Oxford looks like. The experience aims to expose the pupils to some of the fundamental questions addressed by neuroscience research.

2 PERL researchers talk with 3 students around a table.

In July 2021, the Psychopharmacology & Emotion Research Lab (PERL) ran an interactive session in the University Parks, as part of the Oxford Neuroscience Experience.  The focus of our session was the development and testing of new antidepressant drug treatments to help individuals suffering from mood disorders, including depression. Dr Susannah Murphy, a Senior Research Fellow in PERL, introduced the session and spoke about the importance of developng new treatments for depression. The pupils initially discussed what they already knew or had heard in the media about depression, possible treatments, and the stigma attached to them. Afterwards, pupils were encouraged to come up with a way to test a potential novel treatment whilst accounting for the various experimental issues to consider when designing an experiment. These issues were tackled at different workstations – from deciding on appropriate sample sizes and test subjects, to implementing the necessary control measures, as well as ethical considerations. At each workstation, PERL researchers were available for support. At the end of the session each group presented the desgn of their proposed study to the other groups, and received feedback on their designs and ideas.

From the perspective of motivated attendees and researchers, the PERL session at the Oxford Neuroscience Experience was a success – something even the Great British summer rain couldn’t change!