A team of experts from the University of Cambridge’s MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (MRC CBU) and Department of Psychiatry spent a day at Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology, talking to Year 10 students about the teenage brain and how it works, what happens to the brain when it is under stress and ways to stay well.
Interactive workshops, designed to engage students, ran throughout the day. The event was organised as one of the Academy’s Big Question Days, as part of the Personal Health and Social Education (PSHE) which is part of the national curriculum.
Workshops included showing students the direct impact stress has on our bodies and the way we think.
In one, a volunteer was asked to answer challenging maths questions whilst standing with their hand in a bowl of ice-cold water to demonstrate how stress affects a person’s ability to think clearly.
The second workshop involved students being given a super sour sweet and being asked to hold it in their mouths for as long as they could whilst Dr Melissa Black, from the MRC CBU, talked them through the process.
The aim of the workshop was to teach students about working through uncomfortable emotions – using the analogy that working through something uncomfortable and coming out the other end demonstrates to young people the importance of working through difficult situations knowing that things will improve in time.
Organiser Dr Martina Di Simplicio, a clinical scientist at the MRC CBU and psychiatrist in the NHS, said: “The aim of the day is to familiarise the students with mental health and issues around mental illness. We discussed how to maintain their wellbeing using our research and the knowledge of what we understand about how the brain works and what happens in the brain when people start feeling unwell, from having hallucinations to how we respond to stress and social pressure.”