A careerfor studentsguideNEUROSCIENCEA Career Guide for Studentswww.bna.org.uk
The BrainThe brain is the mostcomplex system in theknown universe - manyunanswered questionsremain.Weighing about 1.3 kg, the human brain consists of billions of neurons and glialcells arranged in an inter-connected network of circuits and subcircuits, withconnectivity principally mediated through electrochemical transmission at its 1014synapses, which pass an electrical or chemical signal from one neurone to another.It is responsible for our thoughts, mood, emotions and intelligence, as well as ourphysical movement, breathing, heart rate and sleep. It makes us who we are but how? A group of people make it their mission to understand this Neuroscientists.What is Neuroscience ?Understanding thebrain is regarded bymany as the finalfrontier of science.Neuroscience is the science of the nervous system, which includes the brain. It is thestudy of how the brain functions in health and disease. There are lots of types ofNeuroscience, for example:Developmental Neuroscience: how the nervous system grows and develops.Cognitive Neuroscience: how the brain creates and controls thought, language,problem-solving, and memory.Molecular Neuroscience: considers genes, proteins, and other molecules involved inthe functioning of the nervous system.Cellular Neuroscience: considers the cells of the nervous system: neurones and glia.Behavioural Neuroscience: how different regions of the brain process the behaviour ofanimals and humans, including studying the effect of drugs on behaviour.Clinical Neuroscience: how to treat and manage disorders of the brain and nervoussystem.Many exciting discoveries have been made in Neuroscience research but there is somuch more to reveal!Neuroscientists workalongside scientists inmany other fieldsincluding chemistry,computer science,engineering, linguisticsand mathematics.Some new techniques which Neuroscientists have developed include: Tiny electrodes which can touch the surface of cells and can be used to stimulatethe brain of a conscious patient or record its activity. ‘Switching on’ cells using lasers which has already given researchers unparalleledcontrol over brain circuits and may lead to treatments for conditions such asepilepsy, Parkinson's disease and blindness. Silicon chips containing artificial brain circuits. Reconstructing videos of memories from a part of the brain called the ‘visualcortex’. Deep brain stimulation to treat brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
Why brain research is so importantDisorders of the brain are all too frequent in our society. Depression, schizophrenia,stroke, drug addiction, head injury, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are just a fewexamples.Neuroscience is global.You can work in othercountries and workwith colleagues aroundthe globe.We need to understand what happens in the brain in order to find new treatments.In the UK alone:Mental Health Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problemeach year In Britain, 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinicallydiagnosable mental problem Mixed anxiety and depression has been estimated to cause one fifth of days lostfrom work in Britain By 2030, it is estimated that there will be approximately two million more adultsin the UK with mental health problems than there were in 2013.Dementia 850,000 people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK The total cost of dementia in the UK is 26.3 billion It is estimated that 135 million people worldwide will have dementia by 2050We are 2-3 timessmaller in body sizethan gorillas, but ourbrains are 2-3 times asbig!Traumatic brain injury Approximately 50–60 million new TBI cases are estimated to occur annuallyworldwide TBI represents 30–40% of all injury-related deaths, and neurological injury isprojected to remain the most important cause of disability from neurologicaldisease until 2030. It has been estimated that TBI costs the global economy approximately US400billion annuallyBrain tumours At least 16,000 people each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour Less than 20% of brain tumour patients survive beyond five years of theirdiagnosisThere are around 86billion neurones perhuman brain, witheach having anywherebetween 1,000 and10,000 connections(synapases) with otherneurones. And youthought spaghettijunction was crazy! More children and adults under 40 die of a brain tumour than from any othercancerSpinal Cord Injury Around 1,000 people sustain a spinal cord injury each year in the UK and Ireland There are currently no effective treatments for spinal cord injuryStroke Stroke occurs approximately 152,000 times a year in the UK; that is one every 3minutes 27 seconds 1 in 4 strokes are fatal within a year Stroke is the fourth single largest cause of death in the UK and second in theworld
What jobs to Neuroscientists do?The following is a snapshot of different neuroscience-related careers.The brain of an adulthuman weighs around3 pounds (1.3kg).Although it makes upjust 2% of the body'sweight, it uses around25% of its energy.ResearchResearch Neuroscientists carry out experiments to understand more about the brain andnervous system, both in normal circumstances and in nervous system disorders. Theyoften work in laboratories in universities and industry and communicate theirexperiments in peer-reviewed journals and local, national and international conferences.Clinical SciencesClinical scientists (or healthcare scientists) use their knowledge of science to helpprevent, diagnose and treat illness. They research and develop the techniques andequipment used by medical staff with clinical trials. Clinical trials are conducted toestablish the safety and efficacy of drug candidates.BiotechnologyBiotechnology is technology based on biology. Biotechnology harnesses cellular andbiomolecular processes to develop technologies and products to help improve our livesand the health of our planet.Pharmaceutical IndustryPharmaceutical companies discover, develop and market new medicines—translatingneuroscience research into useful products. There are a number of different roles withinthe pharmaceutical industry, from research scientists to sales reps.The brain is separatedfrom the bloodstreamby a collection ofspecialized cells thatmake up the bloodbrain barrier.Medical devices industryThe medical device manufacturing industry is a highly diversified industry that provides arange of products designed to diagnose and treat patients in healthcare systemsworldwide. Medical devices range in nature and complexity from simply tonguedepressors and bandages to complex programmable pacemakers, transcranial electricalor magnetic stimulation devices and sophisticated imaging systems.CRO IndustryA contract research organisation (CRO) provides support to the pharmaceutical,biotechnology, and medical device industries in the form of research services outsourcedon a contract basis. A CRO may provide such services as biopharmaceutical development,biologic assay development, commercialisation, preclinical research, clinical research andclinical trials management. CROs also support foundations, research institutions, anduniversities, in addition to governmental organizations.Regulatory Affairs, Policy and Research AdministrationRegulatory affairs officers and policy implementers ensure that scientists, companies andtheir products comply with current legislation and national and internationalrequirements. For example, the regulatory requirements for the approval to market anew medicine, biomarker or medical device.The human cerebralcortex has 16 billionneurons – the most ofany brain – and thismay explain thesuperior cognitiveabilities of our species.Publishing and MediaScientists publish their work in scientific journals. Often the people involved in theediting, publishing, and reviewing the papers are scientists themselves. Having a sciencebackground also opens doors to the media world: many of the science reporters you seeon TV, or read about in the news, have a science degree. Neuroethics - the social, legal and ethical consequences of advances in brainresearch.Neuroeconomics – risk-taking and decision making that influence business and theeconomy.Neuroaesthetics – creativity and the brain.Neurotechnology- combining engineering and IT with Neuroscience.Neuroprosthetics - the interface between humans and machines.
How to get into NeuroscienceThe human brain canprocess entire imagesthat the eye sees in aslittle as 13 milliseconds– less than the blink ofan eye!Foundation programmesA route to degree coursesat specific universitiesand designed forstudents who lacktraditional educationalqualifications.See ers.One or two years andincludes lectures,tutorials, project workand exams. Checkwww.bna.org.uk forpostgraduateopportunities.The myelin sheath is afatty layer thatsurrounds the axons ofsome neurons. It is thereason why actionpotentials (neuronalmessages) can be sentat speeds up to 150metres per second!Complete 3 ‘A’ levels /Scottish AdvancedHighers / IB usuallyincluding twosciences. Checkspecific institutionalrequirements atwww.bna.org.ukNeuroscience or relatedundergraduate degree.Usually 3 or 4 years. Fordifferent degree optionssee www.bna.org.ukPostgraduate studyAccess to Higher EducationDiplomaThey aim to prepare youfor study at degree level ifyou haven’t got the gradesthat you need straightfrom school. See http://www.accesstohe.ac.ukPhD/doctorate.3 or 4 years and consists ofyour own research projectunder the supervision ofan experience researchacademic. PhDs don’t haveany lectures or “taught”elements, but you willhave to write a thesis anddefend your work in a oralpresentation (Viva).Neuroscience degreesThere are many Neuroscience undergraduate degrees available at universitiesthroughout the UK. You can study a straight Neuroscience course or a combineddegree such as Neuroscience with Psychology. The qualification gained is usually aBachelor of Science with Honours [BSc (Hons)] but can also take the form of aBachelor of Arts [BA], Master of Science [MSc] or Master of Biology [MBiol].Neuroscience and related degrees are usually 3 or 4 years full time and some includea placement in industry or academia. For a full list of Neuroscience undergraduatecourses in the UK and Ireland please visit the ’Careers’ section at www.bna.org.uk.Important! – Each university has different entry requirements so make sure youcheck the website of the university that you are interested in.The human brain isprotected by the skull(cranium), a protectivecasing made up of 22bones that are joinedtogether.What you willbe taughtvariesbetweenuniversities,howevermost degreeswill coversome ofthese topics.
Neuroscientists at workThe posteriorhippocampus, an areaimportant in spatialmemory, is significantlylarger in London taxidrivers – perhaps dueto the mental workoutof remembering andnavigating the 25,000streets.Academia - Hugo SpiersMy research team uses functional magneticresonance imaging (fMRI),magnetoencephalography (MEG) and single neuronrecording to record brain activity. We use virtualreality to transport our volunteers to differentworlds to study how they react when confrontedwith challenges, such as escaping a labyrinth.www.ucl.ac.uk/spierslab or on Twitter @hugospiersMedia – Victoria Gill (Science reporter for BBC)I'm a science reporter for BBC News and primarilyfor the news website.A love to writing, especially about what makespeople 'tick', inspired me to set out on my postgraduate course and pursue a career in sciencewriting and journalism. I now primarily make shortfilms for the website.Twitter @Vic GillThe popular fact thatwe use only 10% of ourbrains is false. Brainscans clearly show thatwe use the majority ofour brain most of thetime, even when we’resleeping.A nerve fibre bundlecalled the corpuscallosum allowscommunicationbetween the twocerebral hemispheresof the brain.PhD Student – Casmira Brazaitis(University of St Andrews)I am now in my second year of a four year PhDprogram at the University of St Andrews and myproject is in drug discovery, where I am looking at adrug that can modulate one of the receptors in ournervous system. I am doing this using a number oftechniques, including taking slices of brains andrecording the electrical activity of the cells.Undergraduate Student – Julie Smilie(University of Dundee)I’m in my final year of my Neuroscience degree atDundee University. I started off doing a degree inbiomedical sciences, however a Neurosciencemodule really sparked my interest in the brain and Iknew that I wanted to study Neuroscience instead. Iswitched degrees in 3rd year and I’m now carryingout my 4th year project looking at the effects ofcocaine on the brain.
Edward McKintosh – Consultant NeurosurgeonSleep is essential forconsolidating theexperiences that havetaken place during theday into long-termmemory.My weekly routine now consists of outpatient clinicsand theatre sessions.I spend 50% of my time with brain tumour patients andthe other 50% with a mixture of brain and spinal injuredpatients, and patients with degenerative spineconditions.http://e-mck.net/Pharmaceutical research - Lisa Wells (Imanova)My research involves the use of positron emissiontomography (PET) and computerised tomography (CT)imaging techniques to measure changes in biologicalsystems in the living brain. We use established anddevelop new imaging probes to help increase ourunderstanding of progressive disease states such asAlzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.Synaesthesia is acondition wherestimulation of onesense evokes aperception of another.Individuals affectedmay ‘taste’ words,‘smell’ sounds, or seenumbers as colours.Useful links and resources British Neuroscience Association – www.bna.org.uk Access to higher education diplomas - www.accesstohe.ac.uk Foundation courses - http://fd.ucas.com/FoundationDegree/About.aspx Universities and Colleges Admissions Service - www.ucas.com PhD positions – www.findaphd.com Postgraduate and funding opportunities - http://targetcourses.co.uk/ Masters positions – www.findamasters.com Neuroscience resources - www.bna.org.uk/schools BrainFacts.org - www.brainfacts.org/ Neuroscience, Science of the Brain - sForgetting is importantin memory. It allows usto focus on the stuffthat's going to helpmake decisions in thereal world.‘Like’ us on Facebook to receive the latest news and AssociationFollow us on Twitter @BritishNeuroSearch for ‘British Neuroscience Association’ on Instagram
Be part of the UK’s largest and longestrunning neuroscience community and helpsupport vital neuroscience researchfrom just 1per monthThe British Neuroscience Association (BNA) has been supporting neuroscience andneuroscientists for over 50 years, ensuring that the UK has the strong base of basic discoveryneuroscience which is absolutely critical for developing treatments for disorders such asmotor neuron disease, dementia, pain, mental health disorders, stroke , autism and epilepsy.We welcome everyone interested in thebrain and nervous system to join us.Our membership includes people working in neuroscience or related fields at all stages oftheir career, from A-Level students to retired academics; and our Associate Membership is forpeople who don't necessarily work in neuroscience but who are still fascinated by the brain.Membership benefits include: Careers advice and opportunitiesStudent prizes and travel bursariesFree membership of the international neuroscience organisations,FENS and IBROChances to meet leading neuroscientistsPrinted publication, the BNA BulletinSponsored abstracts for the Society for Neuroscience Annual MeetingSee full details at bna.org.uk
The following is a snapshot of different neuroscience-related careers. Research Research Neuroscientists carry out experiments to understand more about the brain and nervous system, both in normal circumstances and in nervous system disorders. They often work in laboratories in universities and industry and communicate their experiments in peer-reviewed journals and local, national and .
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