Pint of Science - 'Mental Health Night' - 17th May 2017

Title: 'Pint of Science - Mental Health Night'
Date: Wednesday, 17th May 2017
Time: 19:30 - 21:30
Venue: The Percy Arms, Percy Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RW

Professor Hamish McAllister-Williams from NCMD contributed to this years “Pint of Science” event this year.

Pint of Science was founded in 2012 in London. It is a non-profit organisation that “brings some of the most brilliant scientists to your local pub to discuss their latest research and findings with you”. It has grown massively and is hosted in over 150 cities around the world. This year in the UK Pint of Science ran events in Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Guildford, Hull, Leeds, London, Manchester Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Southampton, Teesside, York, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Durham, Canterbury/Medway and Liverpool.  Events ran over three days of 15-17th May. Many different scientific and societal themes were covered, including “Beautiful Mind” covering topics in neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry.

The Newcastle Beautiful Mind’s theme ran in the Percy Arms on Percy Street. The third night was “Mental Health Night” and included talks from Dr McAllister-Williams from NCMD and Dr Nick Neave from Northumbria University. The session was completely sold out and there was a lively atmosphere in the pub.

Dr Neave’s talk was tilted “Does your car have a name?” The talk was about hoarding behaviour where people end up with homes completely overflowing with clutter and rubbish. The title of the talk was related to “anthropomorphism” which is the tendency to give human characteristics (feelings, personality) to inanimate objects, such as giving your car a name. Dr Neave described how this appears to be linked with hoarding behaviours. He described ongoing research at Northumbria that he is doing in collaboration with councils (because of the impact hoarding can have on the state of some council properties) and the fire brigade (because of the fire risk that hoarding can cause).

Professor McAllister-Williams’s talk was titled “30 or 50 winks is not good for you, especially if you have bipolar disorder”. He described recent research conducted in NCMD examining the nature of the sleep problems that people with bipolar disorder suffer from. These are very mixed but particularly include over-sleeping and disruption to normal sleep/awake patterns. He then went on to discuss ‘cognition’ – brain functions such as the ability to focus and concentrate on something, learning and memory and the ability to plan activities. He illustrated some of these processes by getting (willing!) volunteers from the audience to have their cognition tested in front of the audience.  Dr McAllister-Williams then went on to describe that these cognitive functions are impaired in many people with bipolar disorder. However, it appears that the people with impaired cognition are the ones with impaired sleep. This, perhaps not surprising finding, is entirely new. Professor McAllister-Williams explained that a new study is about to start to see if these findings can be confirmed but also to see if therapies aimed at improving people’s sleep leads to an improvement in their cognition.

At the end of the evening, both speakers spent time answering questions from people in the audience. Overall the meeting was well received with feedback showing that people found the talks interesting and well presented. Comments included: “The NCMD talk was fantastic, loads of info, new ideas and education”; “Most interesting information. Well presented”; “Great talks, really enjoyed them”.

Pint of Science events will be occurring again next year.