So what's in YOUR head? That is the question which was addressed by Professor Billy O'Connor in his inaugural lecture, The Brain:The Final Frontier on the occasion of his appointment as Professor of Physiology in the Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) at the University of Limerick. Using a basic understanding of brain structure (neurology), Professor O'Connor explained what makes the brain work and will consider if we can find an explanation "in our heads" for such human states as happiness, creativity and stress.
A constantly changing brain in a constantly changing world
In his lecture Professor O'Connor argued that the most important discovery from neuroscience to date, is that the brain is plastic - it is constantly re-wiring itself from the inside-out depending on how we choose to use it. Each brain is essentially a work-in-progress and recent experiments show that exercise can enhance this process while stress seems to work against it. Additionally, the recent discovery of Mirror Neurons which helps us to respond sympathetically and empathetically to others, provides more knowledge about autism and other brain disorders associated with poor social interaction, and offers new therapies for helping stroke victims regain lost movement.
Mirror neurons help connect us emotionally to other people.
According to Professor O'Connor these findings can dramatically alter our understanding of mental health and provide new opportunities to learn healthy habits to lift our mood and enhance our brains longevity.
Professor O'Connor is a leading figure in neuroscience research with 25 years experience in research and teaching in medical schools both in Ireland and Sweden and further collaboration with research scientists across 16 countries. He is one of the most cited neuroscientists in the country, with over 200 refereed publications to his name.
Professor Billy Connor has a Degree in Biochemistry and a Doctorate in Pharmacology from NUIG Galway and was Associate Professor at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden and more recently, leader of Neuroscience Research in the Conway Institute at UCD prior to taking up his current position as Chair and Head of Teaching and Research in Physiology at the Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick.