How to Scientifically Improve Concentration


Hey guys,

Seeing as it is near to Christmas (and although we don’t want to admit it, slowly edging towards exams), its very important that students do not lose concentration and get distracted. As a result, I am dedicating this weeks blog to providing techniques on how to improve concentration.

So, I am going to keep this as short and snappy as possible, otherwise you will end up losing concentration rather than gaining it…

  • Get regular ‘green’ time

Research has suggested that children’s brain development can be benefited by exposure to nature. For example, studies has shown that “children aged 4–5 to 7 years of age with more green space around their homes scored better in attention tests” and “enriching a bare office with plants increased the productivity of workers by 15 percent.” Maybe taking a few extra nature walks or keeping plants in your study room will do the trick on helping you to concentrate more.

  • Take breaks

Although this may seem obvious, taking a break from background distractions such as listening to music and the TV playing could enhance concentration.

Email – a study has shown that “people who read emails throughout the day switched screen twice as often and were in an ongoing state of high alert with a constant heart rate. When email was removed from these people for 5 days, their heart rate returned to a natural, variable one.” Conclusion – STOP CHECKING EMAILS AS OFTEN

Phone notifications – research as shown that “distraction caused by a notification is just as off-putting as using your cell phone to make calls or send a text message – they tend to trigger task-irrelevant thoughts or mind wandering that damages task performance.” Conclusion – TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS OR LEAVE YOUR PHONE IN ANOTHER ROOM

Social media – “Using social media during working hours has been revealed to have an adverse effect on self-reported work performance and concentration, and the well-being of the organization.” Conclusion – AVOID SOCIAL MEDIA DURING WORK TIME

Work breaks – researchers have recommended that the best times to take breaks include: mid morning break, more little breaks as opposed to less long breaks and breaks involving a relaxing or enjoyable activity. Conclusion – TAKE MORE ‘SHORTER’ BREAKS

  • Change your working environment

As said earlier, try and decorate your work space with nature elements (trees / flowers) and listen to classical music / natural sounds rather than other types of music to increase efficiency, accuracy and productivity. Research ha also suggested that inhaling rosemary aroma can “improve speed and accuracy of cognitive performance.”

  • Do brain-training

Again seeming like an obvious option, brain training has recently been found to improve brain function in later life. Researchers have also emphasized that it matters what type of brain-training methods you do, as some use a ‘dual n-back’ method to remember sequences of stimuli, while other use a ‘complex scan’ method to improve working memory.

  • Enhance your well-being

I would probably argue that this is the most important of all the points I have mentioned, as a healthy body leads to a healthy mind and hard working attitude. Some things you can do to improve your well-being include:

  1. Eat concentration-enhancing foods like walnuts, avocados and chocolate
  2. Exercise to improve performance on cognitive tasks eg. yoga
  3. Maintain body weight to sustain blood pressure / diabetes / sleep apnea.

Thank you for reading this weeks blog, its a bit different to usual but I hope it gave you some useful tips!



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New Cell Death Mechanism Discovered


New research at King’s College London, UK has shown how a dysfunction in the brains ‘self-digestion- system leads to cell death in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. The first author of the study is Dr Olga Baron from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and neuroscience at King’s College London, and the senior and corresponding author is Dr Manolis Fanto, also from the same institute.

In a process called autophagy, brain cells can break down the parts that aren’t useful, recycle them and use them to create new brain cells. However, when this process cannot occur properly, neurodegenerative diseases occur.

Using mice for an experiment, it was revealed that in their autophagy process, a ‘progressive stall’ (“the brain gets ‘confused’ and tries to maintain homeostasis through alternative pathways”) and ‘chronic block’ (‘the cells start ‘throwing out’ parts of themselves”) occurs. Through this, the cells undergo degradation. This was first seen in the nucluus and cytoplasmic layer of cells.

At the moment all approaches to treat neurodegenerative diseases boost cell clearance, but now it seems that this isn’t the best strategy to take as during degradation, the cell process “depletes the cell of material, damaging its nucleus and cytoplasm and leaving behind cell corpses with a fragile nucleus and thin cytoplasmic layer.” Therefore, the researchers of the study are currently trying to confirm whether the findings occur in all autophagy-faulty diseases.

Thank you for reading this weeks blog, if you found it interesting feel free to leave a comment down below!



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Humans of the NHS


Today’s blog is a little different than usual, but I feel it is very important for me to use this ‘social platform’ I have created to inform you about a very inspirational website I came across…

‘Humans of the NHS’, as described on their website, ‘aim to show the public a more personal view of the people who work in the NHS by giving them a voice on a larger stage and celebrating their hard work and dedication to patient care’.

Obviously, I could write URL of the website and tell you to check it out yourself (which you definitely should, so so worth it!). However, before you do that I will try to summarise the origin and meaning of the website, as well as providing some examples of the content they post.

Who Started ‘Humans of the NHS’ – the initiative was started as an independent project, and is ran by four doctors: Natalia, Powers, Ilona Blee, Pareena Patel and Jonathan Tsun.

What Is ‘Humans of the NHS’ – as stated above, they are a website that allow professionals working for the NHS to send in and share their life-changing / memorable experiences.

Where to contact / find ‘Humans of the NHS’ 






Why was ‘Humans of the NHS started?’ – to provide a social platform for NHS staff to share their stories, and for others to appreciate the work of all the individuals that contribute to the NHS

How does the ‘Humans of the NHS’ work? – NHS staff members are interviews, their photo is taken, and their story is shared on social media.

Examples of content:

The one thing that really caught my attention about this site was the variety of different stories from a range of different individuals. There was no bias towards doctors or nurses, in fact every individual working for the NHS has the right to send in a story of their experience.

There were stories that were hugely eye-opening and emotional…

“I’ll tell you about my most memorable patient. This elderly gentleman came in with his wife in a wheelchair. He said, ‘She’s just not walking… we don’t really know why.’ I asked, ‘Is she normally in a wheelchair?’ He said no. Something wasn’t right with his wife, I examined her and I couldn’t find anything, so I organised some tests, and then ended up sending her in to A+E the following day.
3 weeks later, the husband came in to see me on his own. I knew in the meantime that his wife had passed away because we had received a notification from the hospital. He came in, and on his left hand he had two rings – his ring and her ring. There was a palpable sense of sadness when he came in. He, of course, had tears and he said it had been so fast… just 3 weeks. I didn’t expect the 3 weeks and neither did they. He wanted to just come, not for himself, but just to come and talk.
He talked about what happened in hospital and about what would happen next. Toward the end of our appointment, I asked him, ‘Is there anything else that you need from me? You can always come back and see me. It’s going to be a difficult for a few weeks. A few months, maybe longer.’
And he just said, ‘Would you do one thing for me? Will you just dance with me?’ I’ve never been asked that. I said of course. He mentioned ballroom dancing during one of our previous appointments and I mentioned I was still learning. He took my hands and held me, and we just danced a few steps in the room. He just wanted a hug; he just wanted to be held after he’d lost his wife. That was the last time that I saw him. It was a lovely way of saying goodbye.” – Rachna, GP
Whereas other stories were incredibly heart-warming…
“We had a patient who was diagnosed with a very serious condition who was due to go in for surgery. The doctors didn’t know if he would survive the surgery, but they reserved him a bed in the Intensive Treatment Unit. This was in January and he was due to marry his fiancé in July.
They really wanted to get married so I arranged for someone to come from the local registry office to marry them. I went to the florist and she had a posey made and the best man had a buttonhole. The patient had a buttonhole in his gown as well. We transferred him to the Intensive Treatment Unit and they got married in the hospital. He went for his surgery, came out, went to intensive care, and stayed with us for 5 weeks while he recovered.
We got him back on his feet, and he went home, he married his wife properly in a church and had a big ceremony. They come in every year to see us and bring in sweets and biscuits.” – Healthcare Support Worker
Some stories managed to show just how caring and supportive the staff of the NHS really are…
“I had one patient who was dying and had no recollection of what was going on around her. The relative came in and she eventually passed away. I believe that, when a person is gone, they are gone. But after I’d finished my shift, I went in there and said goodnight to the patient who had just passed away. The relative stood there and cried and said, ‘Just to see that you cared that much… For you to come and say goodnight to my mum who has died… It means a lot.’ It was really important for him to hear that someone who cared that much had looked after his mum.” – Ward Sister

And others highlighted how difficult working in the NHS actually is, making us respect the staff even more…

“When people ask me if I remember past patients, one young man always comes to mind. He died following complications after an elective operation I performed, and he left behind a wife and young child. 20 years later, I still look back on that memory and wonder how it could have been different. But I have never made the same mistake again and I made sure I passed on the information I had learnt.

But it wasn’t a very caring system back then. I went to Coroners’ Court and had to stand up and explain in front the patient’s family and in the full blaze of publicity how an operation I had performed led to the death of somebody they loved. I then returned to work and nobody asked, ‘Are you alright?’ Worse still, I did an operating list the following day and I was terrified. The list went well, but it would have been helpful for somebody to say, ‘I’m going to just stand by you while you do the next case.’” – Peter, Chief Executive of FMLM

These stories are only a few of the range of experiences available to read for free on the ‘Humans of the NHS’ website. Regardless of whether you aspire to be / are already working in the NHS or if you are someone who has nothing to do with the NHS, please have a look and share this website to give the doctors who came up with such a great initiative the credit they deserve. I am sure everyone can agree that working for the NHS definitely isn’t easily, but hopefully through this website we can at least appreciate the work they do for us on a daily basis.

Thank you so much for reading, if you enjoyed this style of blog please let me know by sharing and commenting down below!



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‘Fault-free’ Obesity is a Thing


New research shows that obesity could actually not be our fault, as a gene mutation has been shown to control weight gain.

The research was done on mice, and it was found that ‘mice that have mutations in a gene called ankyrin-B are fatter than mice that don’t. Ankyrin-B can be found in every bodily tissue, tying proteins to the inside of a cell’s membrane.’ This happened despite the fact that the mice were exercising and eating the same amount as the normal-weight ones.

However, as explained by Dr. Bennett (senior author of the study), “we still didn’t know how this gene worked. There is this common belief in the field that much of obesity can be traced back to appetite and the appetite control centers that reside in the brain. But what if it isn’t all in our head?”

It is hoped that later in the future, the research team will come up with a plan on how to identify the people who have this gene mutation (it has already been discovered that 1.3% of Caucasians and 8.4% of African Americans carry this gene mutation) and identify how many calories they should be eating and how much exercise they should be doing in order to control their weight and metabolism.

Thank you for reading this weeks blog. If you found it interesting, feel free to comment your opinion down below!



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Chromosomes ‘cheat’ their way into the egg


First of all, lets talk about fertilisation n a way that is known to all of us; all cells have two copies of 23 chromosomes – one copy is inherited from the mother and the other copy is inherited from the father. This must mean that when an egg or sperm is created, each copy of the 23 chromosomes have an equal chance at being passed on. However, a team from the University of Pennsylvania seem to have disproven this universally-accepted theory.

Scientists have been aware for a long time that genetic elements ‘compete’ during meiosis (which can be seen from the differences in transmission rate to the gamete), however the team of scientists from the university of Pennsylvania now think that some chromosomes can, infact, ‘cheat’ and increase their chance of making it into a sex cell by creating asymmetry in meiosis and moving themselves to the right side of the cell during anaphase in order to be in the egg.

The scientists hope to use this discovery to lead to a more confident and better understanding of meiosis and why mistakes / cheating occurs. As said by Michael Lampson, associate professor of biology and senior author of this study…

“If we understand how these selfish elements are exploiting the mechanics of meiosis, then we’ll understand more deeply how that process works in the first place. Usually we think about selfish genes at the level of natural selection and selection of the fittest, that might mean a gene that makes you live longer or reproduce more or kill your enemies is more likely to be passed on. But we can also think about selfishness at the level of the gene itself. In that context, genes are competing with each other to get into the gamete. And while we had evidence that this could happen, we didn’t really understand how it did happen.”

This finding was discovered through experimentation of microtubules in mouse gametes, where they found that the asymmetry in the cell was only present at the anaphase stage, when the spindle movers towards the cortex from the middle of the cell. This means that some sort of signal is being transmitted from the cortex, telling the signal to move towards it in an asymmetrical fashion. But what is that signal? Scientists are yet to figure that out.

Lampson summarised the finding of the study quite nicely:

“If you’re a selfish centromere and you’re facing the wrong way, you need to let go so you can face the other way, that’s how you ‘win.’ This work gave us some good information about biased transmission of centromeres, but it also brings up a ton of other questions: Why do our centromeres look the way they do, and how do they evolve to win these competitions? These are fundamental biological questions that we still don’t know a lot about.”

Hopefully, scientists will find out the answers to these questions very soon and be able to distinguish between the characteristics of strong centromeres and weak centromeres.

Thank you for taking the time to read this weeks blog. If you found it interesting, feel free to   suggest any ideas for future blogs or write any comments down below!



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Personalised Healthcare


Let me start off with a definition of what precision medicine is:

‘According to the Precision Medicine Initiative, precision medicine is “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.” This approach will allow doctors and researchers to predict more accurately which treatment and prevention strategies for a particular disease will work in which groups of people. It is in contrast to a one-size-fits-all approach, in which disease treatment and prevention strategies are developed for the average person, with less consideration for the differences between individuals.’

The ‘Precision Medicine Initiative’ talked about in the above definition was launched by Barack Obama, former president of the United States of America, in 2015. Through the initiative, it is hoped to provide doctors with new and efficient treatment options based on the specific individual. As a matter of fact, the Precision Medicine Initiative is already undergoing clinical trials to treat patients with melanoma (mutation in the BRAF gene). In addition, cancer treatment is also being increasingly tested for by precision medicine in oder to provide personalized treatment.

As said by Drs. Kurzrock and Kato said:

It was especially important to institute this approach in rare tumors, since there are often so few traditional therapies available to these patients. We were, therefore, filling an unmet need for new treatments for these patients by applying our internal expertise in genomics, immunotherapy, and personalized medicine.”

It is hoped that in the future, personalized medicine will be more readily available to all patients. However, until that happens the Government will need to decide ‘who pays’ as precision medicine is definitely not going to be cheap. It is pretty clear that if precision medicine can come into everyday use, it it will revolutionize the way doctors treat and diagnose illness.

Thank you for taking the time to read this weeks blog. If you found ti interesting, feel free to share and leave any comments down below!



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Precision Medicine: New Paradigms, Risks and Opportunities

Increasing Brain Power


Cognitive training has been found to be the most effective way to train the brain and enhance working memory, as claimed by researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement

.In the study, 136 adults participated in two types of brain-training activity and their brain activity was measured before and after each of these exercises. As explained by the researchers: participants saw a blue square on a gray background in one of eight spatial locations on a computer screen and at the same time heard one of eight letter sounds. the participant’s task was to remember the order and locations of red squares presented in a 4 x 4 grid.”

From these exercises, it was found that the working memory of participants who had engaged in the dual n-back task had improved by 30 percent — which is almost twice as much as the improvement shown in participants who had been assigned the complex span exercise.”

The researchers next hope to use these results and adapt them to make the ‘brain-training’ exercise more consumer-applicable for use on wide-scale.

Thank you for reading this weeks blog. If you found it interesting, feel free to comment down below!



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The Effect Of Marijuana on the Brain


The main ingredient in marijuana could affect the regulation of dopamine (neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward circuit) in the brain.

This finding was published in ‘The Journal Of Neuroscience’ and was found through conducting experiments on young mice. From the experiment, it was shown that one injection of THC a day for 7-10 days resulted in a blockage in synaptic recovery. 

This shows that drug use will only result in negative impacts on the human brain.

The researchers next hope to find out whether THC has a cumulative effect on the brain, as well as implicating the findings of the experiment to the increased substance abuse in adolescents.

Thank you for taking the time to read this weeks very short blog. If you found it interesting, feel free to comment your opinion down below!



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How Do Allergies Develop?


The World Allergy Organization (WAO) warn that “the prevalence of allergic diseases worldwide is rising dramatically in both developed and developing countries.”

Allergens are everywhere in our environment, and can come in the form of tree pollen, food, mold, dust mites, snake or insect venom, and animals, such as cats, dogs, and cockroaches. When an allergy develops, the body mistakes one of these substances as a threat and hence reacts with the body’s immune system.

One fact that people don’t realize is that the body does not natural have allergies. In other words, nobody is born with an allergy. Instead, everyone who suffers from allergies developed these when their immune systems came into contact with the allergen.

In some individuals, the body’s immune system initiates a pro-inflammatory response as a result of the threat of the allergen. This is known as a type 2 immune response and is caused by allergic sensitization.

Allergies can manifest several different ways, and our bodies can react by developing allergic symptoms such as eczema, fever or anaphylaxis – some of these could lead to a severe and potentially deathly allergic reaction.

Thank you for taking the time to read this weeks blog. If you found it interesting, feel free to leave a like and comment down below!



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The Difference in Male and Female Brains


Male and female are two biological sexes of humans, however have you ever wondered what is different in the brain of these two genders? Recent studies aim to find out these differences…

One of the discoveries made by Dr. Nirao Shah (a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University in California) that there are difference in the ‘behaviours of men and women that are essential so survival’. These differences are said to be innate rather than learned, showing that gender differences must infact stem from the brain.

Another experiment was conducted on rhesus monkeys, through which it was shown that, in relation to which toy they prefer, male rhesus monkeys naturally favoured “wheeled/boyish” toys, whereas the females preferred the “plush/girly” toys. Similar results have been seen in studies on boys any girls between 9-32 months old. At this age, children are far too young to follow gender stereotypes, so there must be another factor to ‘gendered’ preferences apart from social influence.

There have also been a number of experiments conducted that attempt to differentiate between brain patterns in the two sexes. For example, in one experiment males and females had to try and find their way out of a complex virtual labyrinth. In the females, areas of the brain relating to spatial perception, motor control, attention and episodic memory (memories relating to specific experiences) were activated the most. Whereas in the males, the area of the brain related to context-dependant memory was used the most.

In addition to this, another experiment focused on the difference in reaction to threat in the male and female brains by using fMRI to scan brain activity. from this, it was found that ‘adult women had a strong neural response to unambiguous visual threat signals, whereas adult men – and adolescents of both sexes – exhibited a much weaker response.’

Finally, in relation to brain conditions and disorders,it has been found out that brain immune system cells are more active in women, and that women are more likely to be exposed to chronic pain, depression, anxiety and anorexia nervosa. However, more ‘male-biased’ conditions include autism, dyslexia, deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and specific language impairment.

As you can probably tell, there has been a lot of research done by a lot of different researchers in order to truly find out if the brain difference in males and females have an important in role in how the two sexes function. So far, the most important conclusion to arise is that it could be important to give different sexes different healthcare treatments, as their intrinsic differences could make some treatments work better on one type of sex than the other.

Thank you for taking the time to read this weeks blog, if you found it interesting feel free to leave a rating and comment below!



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