Neuroscience Personal Statement
Submitted by Greta
Mental health is increasingly spoken about, and its issues are being put under a spotlight, making more people aware of how important a healthy mind is. I have personal experience of poor mental health having witnessed my brother develop anorexia at age 11. The rapid deterioration of his health and mental state was a shock to the family. Following his recovery, I was compelled to question how disruptions in the brain can have such huge effects on the whole body. I wish to understand the biological explanation to illnesses like this, as it goes far beyond the usual explanations of stress or a need for control. The most striking part for me was that his case didn't fit all of the usual demographics of eating disorder patients; mental illnesses, I learnt, know no boundaries and can affect everyone. This highlighted the importance of studying the brain as it has critical benefit to all people.
Neuroscience is an enthralling subject that is becoming progressively relevant in society. The increase in neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, which accompany an aging population, along with the underfunding that research into these diseases has experienced, shows me that it is imperative to focus on this area of study. Working at a chemist, and completing their 'Dementia Friend' training, exposed me to this type of mental illness, whose degenerative effects on a patient's life mean the proper treatment of those who live with it is crucial for a dignified quality of life. It is only possible to develop treatments by understanding the structure of the brain, the processes that occur within it, and how conditions alter them, so that solutions and treatments can be developed. Biology and Maths A-Levels developed my problem-solving and perseverance skills; both important in the study of neuroscience as it aims to find solutions to extremely challenging questions. Studying psychology has given me a taste of the world of the mind and how it controls behaviour and thought. This spurred me on to complete a university psychology MOOC, which enriched my understanding of important concepts. I have particularly enjoyed learning the biological origins of depression and how available drug treatments affect serotonin levels. Attending a seminar on the interaction between the immune system and brain, by Prof. Mark Hutchinson, enlightened me to the fact that we can harness the power of immune cells in delivering treatments to the brain, in cases of depression and addiction- another condition which I have become interested in.
After reading the National Geographic article 'The Science of Addiction', and watching the TED talk on the topic of 'Rat Park', I now look at addiction differently. Research has found that addiction is a disease that the patient experiences through physical changes in brain structure, and not simply a weakness of will, as traditionally thought. Therefore, it is important to look at the physical and mental sides of the disease - an understanding of the impact that drugs have on transmitters in the brain, as well as how a person's environment influences the condition (isolation, physical and emotional, for example, can be perilous to an addicted individual) is imperative in creating an effective treatment plan for addiction.
Completing an EPQ in the field of alternative medicine taught how to research effectively and conduct academic writing. I also took the opportunity to write for my school's journal, which is published annually, where I explored the importance of sleep- I enjoyed learning about different hormones and their effects of sleep, and how the circadian clock controls sleep-wake cycles. Through mentoring a lower school pupil and tutoring a GCSE student in maths, I developed my communication skills and an understanding of the importance of patience when trying to aid younger people. I look forward to my time studying neuroscience and welcome all the challenges and new experiences that will accompany it.