PERL at the Oxford Neuroscience Experience
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. This aims to expose the pupils to some of the fundamental questions and topics researchers from various disciplines in the field of neuroscience are facing on a daily basis.
For researchers in the Psychopharmacology & Emotion Research Lab (PERL), many of these questions pertain to the development and testing of antidepressant drug treatments to help individuals suffering from mood disorders, including depression. The lab held an engaging session, introduced by Dr Susannah Murphy, a senior research scientist at PERL, who spoke about the importance of pharmacological interventions to improve the well-being of depressed patients. 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, implementing control measures to ensure the efficacy and validity of their medicine, as well as ethical limitations. At each workstation, PERL researchers and psychiatrists were available for support. Each group eventually presented their experiment in front of the other groups, receiving feedback on their designs and creative 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!