Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Shining a Light on Chronic Pain

A recent study from researchers at CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway, explores the use of optogenetics as a method to relieve chronic pain. Optogenetics uses genetically-encoded proteins that change position and shape in the presence of light to turn brain cells on or off.   Pain is comprised of both sensory (physical intensity) and affective (emotional distress) components. A part of the brain involved in the emotional component of pain is called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Dr Sarah Jarrin, CÚRAM, NUI Galway and first author of the paper, said: “There is significant overlap in the neural circuitry of pain and anxiety in our brains. Sensory pain is our body’s natural alarm system, it is an important mechanism that alerts us to injury and danger. So rather than turning off that alarm system, we are targeting the distress component of pain, a promising target for chronic pain relief that is not addressed by current treatments. “The technique of optogenetics is opening up lots of possibilities for further neuroscience research. With the use of light-activated proteins called opsins, optogenetics allows us to switch on or off a selective population of neurons that control this affective component of pain.” The study, funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), focused on the two components of pain (physical and emotional), the distinct roles they play in the pain experience, and how they can often influence one another. Chronic pain and anxiety frequently go hand in hand. People with chronic pain are also more likely to have anxiety and depression than the general population. The research looked specifically at the role of glutamatergic neurons of the ACC (glutamatergic neurons release the chemical transmitter glutamate, responsible for signalling between nerve cells) and changes in a protein marker of neuronal activity, known as c-Fos, in the ACC. The study was able to show that when the glutamatergic neurons in the ACC were silenced, it is possible to abolish the aversion to pain without affecting the sensory component of pain. The study also showed that optogenetic activation of glutamatergic neurons of the ACC has a differential effect in males and females in terms of pain response. Dr Jarrin added: “The inclusion of both sexes in pain studies is critical, because of differences in pain that have been observed between the sexes. Little is known about differences in the regulation of the physical and emotional components of pain in the male and female brain. Studies have found differences in the functional connectivity between the ACC and other brain regions of important regulating pain in males and females, which may account for differences in the effect of optogenetic treatment." Being able to target the emotional component of pain specifically could be therapeutically beneficial for patients with chronic pain, however further research to better understand the neural circuitry is required to develop these improved treatments. Professor David Finn, Co-Director of NUI Galway’s Centre for Pain Research and principal investigator on the published study, said: “We are excited to publish these interesting data which advance our understanding of how the brain regulates pain, and how this may differ between males and females.” The study was carried out as part of Dr Sarah Jarrin’s PhD project, jointly supervised by Dr David Finn, Dr Michelle Roche and Dr Abhay Pandit at NUI Galway. -Ends-

News Archive

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Ireland’s first science film festival asks audiences to ‘Join the conversation’ in a time when the public rely heavily on accurate and sensitive scientific facts and research Today marks the official launch of the ‘Science on Screen Film Festival Ireland’ an exciting new annual Irish Film Festival, running from the 5-8 November 2020 online. The free online Festival will showcase the best of science in film and this year incorporates themes of representation and diversity in science and the value of art-science collaborations. The Festival tagline, ‘Join the conversation’ invites audiences of all types to immerse themselves in scientific storytelling, hear from filmmakers and researchers on critical topics such as climate change and health research, and take the opportunity to question leading scientists on cutting-edge research. The Festival is hosted by CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, and Galway Film Centre who established the successful Science on Screen scheme in 2016. The Festival programme will be announced at the end of October 2020 and will include science themed feature films and short film programmes, as well as all of the original Science on Screen documentaries. These documentaries tell the stories of patients living with chronic conditions like Parkinson’s, diabetes and stroke recovery and the Irish researchers working to improve their quality of life. Over 200 primary school children from around Ireland have submitted their questions for the ‘Ask A Scientist’ panel session, to be broadcast online on Friday, 6 November at 11am, following a selection of three minute science films created by school children for ReelLIFE SCIENCE’s programme in recent years. The Ask A Scientist session will be chaired by two sixth class students from Gaelscoil Riabhach in Loughrea, Co Galway, who will put the questions to a panel of three top researchers in biological, engineering and environmental sciences. The opening feature for the Science on Screen Film Festival, called ‘Picture a Scientist’ will be hosted as part of the Science Foundation Ireland Annual Summit. Picture a Scientist chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. Biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring lead viewers on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, ranging from brutal harassment to years of subtle slights. Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, we encounter scientific luminaries - including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists - who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all. The film will be followed by a panel discussion on representation and diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director, CÚRAM, NUI Galway, said: “We are very proud to be launching the first Science on Screen Film Festival this year. Ireland really is a nation of scientists and storytellers, something that has been illustrated particularly well through the award winning documentaries produced through the Science on Screen programme in recent years. CÚRAM’s public engagement programme aims to provide easy opportunities for the public to ‘join the conversation’ about Irish research and the role of science in society generally. This year the programme will focus on themes of representation, diversity and public trust in science, as well as looking at ideas and opportunities for greater collaboration between science and the arts to create better access to and awareness of research that impacts us all.” Alan Duggan, Manager, Galway Film Centre, said: “We are delighted to be launching Ireland’s first Science Film Festival in partnership with CÚRAM. Building on the success of the Science on Screen documentaries, which have reached an audience of over one million worldwide, the festival will showcase the engaging and thought provoking content that is born from collaboration between our industries. In a time when our reliance on the accurate and sensitive portrayal of scientific facts and research is more important than ever, there is no better moment to ask audiences to join the conversation.” Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), said: “SFI has been developing initiatives to improve the participation of women in STEM careers for some time, as well as funding projects that can help to ensure inclusivity and a diversity of voices in STEM research. There is still much collective work to be done however, to address bias, harassment and the lack of opportunity, diversity and equality for underrepresented groups, such as people of colour, those with disabilities, migrants, those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and the LGBTQ+ community. “I am particularly pleased to see the Science on Screen Festival promote the ‘Join the conversation’ hashtag, as it is only through multiway dialogue, and by actively listening to those impacted, that we can really improve institutional and toxic workplace culture. The ‘Picture a Scientist’ film is a powerful example of courageous individuals breaking barriers, which in turn can create lasting cultural and political change, which I believe will prove to be both inspirational and motivational to the research community here.” The Science on Screen Film Festival forms part of CÚRAM’s public engagement programme ‘Breaking Barriers’, which aims to forge collaborations between researchers and the community to support the Science Foundation Ireland goal of having the most informed and scientifically engaged public. ‌ View the Festival Trailer here: https://vimeo.com/470302101 Further information on the film programme, speakers and themes will be released on the Festival website at the end of October at www.curamdevicesengage.ie. For more information contact sosfestival@galwayfilmcentre.ie. The Festival is free to attend, but ticket numbers are limited and registration is essential. -Ends-

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

The first session of this semester’s Druid Academy, open to NUI Galway students and staff, will take place today (Wednesday, 21 October) from 4pm- 6pm online. Following on from NUI Galway’s close partnership with Druid Theatre Company, the Department of Drama and Theatre Studies are delighted to work with Druid to present the Druid Academy, where students have the opportunity to connect with, and learn from, practitioners working in the field across a large number of roles - from producing, directing, performance and playwrighting, to creative roles such as costume and set design, to administrative roles such as marketing and fundraising. Professor Patrick Lonergan, Drama and Theatre Studies, NUI Galway, says: “This week’s focus is Costumeand we will be kicking off the Druid Academy for this semester with an interview with Clíodhna Hallissey, costume designer for Druid's recent production of Tom Murphy’s one-act play On the Outside and costume supervisor for Druid’s landmark tour of the one-act plays of Lady Gregory, DruidGregory. Clíodhna is a graduate of the Drama and Theatre Studies department and we’re delighted to have her back to speak about her career in professional theatre to date.” The session will take the form of a 45 minute interview followed by questions. Clíodhna will talk about her work in costume supervision and costume design, and early-career trajectories in theatre in Galway and Ireland. The following is the full schedule for the Druid Academy for this semester (please note that this is subject to change, based on practitioners’ availability).  All sessions will take place online on Wednesdays from 4pm - 6pm. Druid Academy Schedule 2020-2021 – Semester 1 28/10/20 - Reading and Development Week 04/11/20 – Brian Fenton, Producer – Starting out as a producer, commissioning new work and producing during a pandemic 11/11/20 - Sonja Kelly, Playwright – Playwrighting, writing for a commission, creating and acting in your own work 18/11/20 – Sara Joyce, Director – Directing and assistant directing 25/11/20 – Alison Greene, Marketing and Communications – Audience engagement, marketing and communications (Alison is a former graduate of Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway) Clíodhna Hallissey is arecent graduate of the BA in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies and English at NUI Galway. Clíodhna was the 2019/2020 recipient of the Marie Mullen Bursary for female theatre artists working in the fields of design, directing and dramaturgy. Clíodhna has worked with Druid on a number of productions, most recently as Costume Designer for On the Outside and Costume Supervisor for DruidGregory.  She was Assistant Costume Designer and Dresser for The Cherry Orchard and Costume Dresser for DruidShakespeare: Richard III at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Her other work in theatre includes: Costume Designer for Ar Ais Arís (Brú Theatre/Galway 2020); An Dara Réalt, Yummy Mummy (An Taibhdhearc); Aisling? (Ealaíon na Gaeltachta); BAOITE (An Taibhdhearc / Abbey Theatre); Costume Assistant and Dresser for Grief is the Thing with Feathers (Landmark Productions); The Country Girls (Abbey Theatre). Clíodhna’s work in film and television includes: Costume Designer for Living with a Fairy 2; Costume Assistant for Mr. Mender and The Chummyjiggers; Costume Trainee for Wild Mountain Thyme. The Druid Academy is a ten year partnership with NUI Galway that covers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Drama, Theatre and Performance, as well as PhD research opportunities. Borne out of a vision of Galway as a location for the creation of excellent theatre, teaching in the Druid Academy follows the Druid approach, focusing on ensemble as a mode of performance, rigorous critical analysis of theatre, by both practitioners and audiences, and an awareness of the importance of audience, in a variety of locations: locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. The Druid Academy sessions take place online through Blackboard and can be accessed at: https://eu.bbcollab.com/guest/5ab05488c4cf44658e63a2124c2652a5. -Ends-

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

The book interrogates the human consequences of conflict and displacement, challenges the thinking of statist security agendas that divide the world into zones of sanctuary and abandonment, and reflects critically upon our interconnected global sense of precarity NUI Galway Lecturer, Dr John Morrissey has published his fifth book, Haven: The Mediterranean Crisis and Human Security, which presents a transformative understanding of security in responding to the Mediterranean refugee crisis by drawing critically on the UN concept of ‘human security’. From a range of Arts, Humanities and Social Science disciplines, and through case studies incorporating key governmental, NGO and refugee perspectives, the book critiques the major geopolitical, economic and social issues of the crisis. It documents the prioritisation of population management techniques that are underpinned by conventional territorial logics of security, before considering the alternative priorities of human security that can facilitate an active human rights framework and a more holistic and humanitarian interventionism. In advancing a human security approach to the crisis, Haven: The Mediterranean Crisis and Human Security interrogates the human consequences of conflict and displacement, challenges the impoverished thinking of statist security agendas that divide the world into zones of sanctuary and abandonment, and reflects critically upon our interconnected global sense of precarity, particularly so in the Covid-19 world. Dr Morrissey said: “Haven: The Mediterranean Crisis and Human Security was inspired by three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s tragic drowning in September of 2015. I was deeply affected by the photographs of his little body washed up and hauntingly alone on a Turkish beach. The book is dedicated to all those who have died in the Mediterranean over the last five years, and dedicated too to a determined calling out of our responsibility in Europe to safeguard human rights and human security for all. “My thanks to the wonderful colleagues and graduate students who fed so inspiringly into an Irish Research Council project I received funding for in 2016. The book is a culmination of that project, and the contributions, which come from leading international writers, Irish Navy personnel, students and activists, reflect a deep empathy and concern for solidarity in an interconnected world – a world whose precarities have become even more acute and visible since the outbreak of Covid-19.” Dr Morrissey is a Senior Lecturer in Geography, Programme Director of the MA in Environment, Society and Development, and Associate Director of the Moore Institute for Humanities at NUI Galway. He has published widely in the areas of geopolitics, security and international development. His other books include: Negotiating Colonialism; Key Concepts in Historical Geography; Spatial Justice and the Irish Crisis; and The Long War: CENTCOM, Grand Strategy and Global Security. His research has been supported by various grants, from the British Academy and UK Economic and Social Research Council, to the Irish Research Council and Clinton Institute for American Studies, and in recent years he has held prestigious visiting fellowships at City University of New York, Virginia Tech, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and Australian National University. The book was supported by the Academic Council on the United Nations System, an NUI Publications Prize and an NUI Galway Grant-in-Aid Award. -Ends-

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