A week well worth watching

Ella Rhodes previews the Cheltenham Science Festival.

For anyone interested in brains, psychology and human behaviour there’s lots on offer at this year’s Cheltenham Science Festival, held at venues across the town between June 6 and June 11. 

Tuesday 6 June

Becoming British: Immigration And Integration

Nilufar Ahmed will discuss the experiences of immigrants and refugees and consider the psychological impact that fleeing political upheaval and arriving in sometimes hostile environments can have on those who have been displaced.

Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Ladies' College, 1pm to 2pm, tickets £7

Music On Prescription

Social entrepreneur Tim Joss will be joined by medicinal music expert Vera Brandes, singer-songwriter Hannah Peel and psychologist Lauren Stewart, as they will delve deeper into our understanding of the healing properties of music and explore how this knowledge is being used both in clinical settings and our day-to-day lives.

The Crucible, 2.15pm to 3.15pm, tickets £7

The Brilliance Of Birds

'Bird brain' is no longer an insult, with research showing more and more that birds have amazing capabilities for empathy, imagination and problem solving. Cognitive biologist Nathan Emery will explore how birds learn, think and feel, as he gives an insight into some of the masterminds of the avian world.

The Crucible, 4.45pm to 5.45pm, tickets £7

Living with Dementia

Broadcaster, journalist and campaigner Fiona Phillips will be joined by a patient, their caregiver and memory research scientist Chris Butler, to explore the reality of living with dementia. They will consider signs and symptoms, the road to diagnosis and treatment, and how research is informing our understanding of the disease.

EDF Energy Arena, 3.30pm to 4.30pm, tickets £7


Wednesday 7 June

Sex, Lies And Brain Scans

Can brain scans really reveal what is going on inside our heads? Neuroscientist Barbara Sahakian will examine what neuroimaging can tell us and considers the ethical risks associated with ‘reading minds’.

Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Ladies' College, 11.45am to 12.45pm, tickets £7

The Criminal Mind: Can You Blame Your Brain?

If a brain injury or disorder leads a person to commit a crime are they truly to blame? Brain science is increasingly being brought into the courtroom raising many ethical questions. Neuroscientist Barbara Sahakian, Professor of Legal Theory Dennis Patterson and criminal law expert Lisa Claydon will examine neuroscience’s impact on crime and punishment.

EDF Energy Arena, 3.30pm to 4.30pm, tickets £7

The Recovering Brain

In 2010, Kate Allatt suffered a severe stroke that left her ‘locked-in’: unable to move or communicate, but fully aware of her surroundings. Despite being told she would never walk or talk again, Kate regained speech and mobility in less than a year. Kate and neurologist Parashkev Nachev will discuss her remarkable recovery and explore how her experiences are helping us to think differently about the brain after trauma.

Town Hall, Pillar Room, 6pm to 7pm, tickets £8

Your Irrational Brain

How do we make decisions and how sensible and rational are they? Ginny Smith will put audience members’ brains to the test to see just how rational, or irrational, they are. (Please note, to get the most out of this event you will need an internet-enabled device such as a smartphone or tablet.)

Helix Theatre, 7.15pm to 8.15pm, tickets £9


Thursday 8 June

Big Data And Mental Health

From mood-tracking apps and websites, to survey data and digital libraries of patient information, our individual behaviours are being collated and mapped, revealing startling new insights into mental illness. Psychiatrist and app-developer John Geddes, psychiatric geneticist Gerome Breen and data expert Sally McManus will discuss how big data is helping to unravel the complexity of our mental wellbeing.

Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Ladies' College, 1pm to 2pm, tickets £7

Mastering Memory

Join Ginny Smith for a host of quizzes and games to explore memory. With tricks and top-tips on how to improve it, find out what happens in the brain when you learn and store memories, and discover why we shouldn’t always believe everything we remember.

ExperiTent, 6pm to 7pm and 7.30pm to 8.30pm, tickets £8


Friday 9 June

Is Pain All in the Brain?

Pain exists to protect us from harm, but our individual experiences can depend on mood, attitude and even cultural upbringing. And when pain becomes chronic, as it does for about 20% of adults, it causes serious suffering. Neuroscientist Irene Tracey will discuss the mysteries of pain and how brain imaging is helping us understand it.

EDF Energy Arena, 3.30pm to 4.30pm, tickets £8

Can You Retrain Your Brain?

Neuroplasticity suggests our brains have the ability to adapt and change, but is it possible to improve the way they work? By-passing a billion-dollar brain training industry which doesn’t seem to work, science journalist Caroline Williams will be joined by neuroscientists Heidi Johansen-Berg, Martijn van den Heuvel and Ben Martynoga to explore the possibility of changing our brains for the better, with tips and tricks to try for yourself.

Helix Theatre, 7.15pm to 8.15pm, tickets £8


Saturday 10 June

Joys Of Toys

Suitable for babies aged 6 months to 2 years, and their parents, Psychologists Caspar Addyman and Nathalia Gjersoe reveal the science inside the toy box in this interactive play session with your baby. Let your little one enjoy the colours, textures, sounds and movements and discover how toys are helping their brains develop.

Venue TBC, 10.30am to 11.15am and 12pm to 12.45pm, tickets £6 per baby

What Is Consciousness For?

Nick Shea and Ophelia Deroy ask what consciousness is doing for us and reveal results from data they collected at last year’s Festival that help answer this question.

Helix Theatre, 12.30pm to 1.30pm, tickets £8

The Psychology Of Bribery

We may reward kids with cash for finishing their homework or bribe footballers to miss in a penalty shoot-out, but why do financial incentives so often backfire? Radio 4’s All in the Mind presenter Claudia Hammond will explore the psychology behind what works when trying to get someone to do what we want.

Town Hall, Pillar Room, 1.45pm to 2.45pm, tickets £8

Memory Games

Ideal for children aged 10 and over, uncover the mysteries of your memory with Ginny Smith and discover what happens in the brain when we learn and remember things, and find out whether you can really trust what you remember.

Venue TBC, 2pm to 3pm and 3.30pm to 4.30pm, tickets £8

Brainwash LIVE

Researchers have recently discovered a hidden brain pathway, which detoxifies the brain while we sleep. Using powerful MRI scanners and live experiments, Mark Lythgoe, Ian Harrison, Oz Ismail, Jack Wells, Isabel Christie and the CABI team on live-link will see if a brainwash can open up our minds.

The Crucible, 3pm to 4.15pm, tickets £8

Drugs And The Brain

Drug use can drastically affect brain states and behaviour, Psychologist and Say Why to Drugs podcaster Suzi Gage will be joined by psychedelics researcher Robin Carhart-Harris, health psychologist Sally Adams and journalist and novelist Lionel Shriver to discuss how different drugs affect the brain and to explore the positive and negative impacts of both legal and illegal substances.

Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Ladies' College, 4.15pm to 5.15pm, tickets £8

Surviving Social Media

Social media has had some bad press, so how can we work it to our advantage? Consumer behaviour specialist Ben Marder, online behaviour expert Adam Joinson and media psychologist Ellen Helsper discuss the pitfalls and the positives and consider how not to let social media rule your life.

Helix Theatre, 5.30pm to 6.30pm, tickets £8

How To Survive The Workplace

Offering up his best strategies for survival at work, psychologist and management expert Adrian Furnham will tackle teamwork, personality, leadership and everything inbetween with Radio 4’s All in the Mind presenter Claudia Hammond.

Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Ladies' College, 6.45pm to 7.45pm, tickets £9

What Do Babies Think? ­­– Sponsored by the British Psychological Society

Developmental psychologists Caspar Addyman and Nathalia Gjersoe will delve into the minds of babies and young children and explore how this can help us better understand our adult psychology.

The Crucible, 8pm to 9pm, tickets £9


Sunday 11 June

Will Gregory: Writing Emotion Into Music

TV and film composers like Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory use the psychology of music to manipulate emotions, but how does music evoke such powerful reactions and in what sense can it be said to behave like a language? He'll be joined by psychologist Catherine Loveday to uncover music’s extraordinary power to play with our emotions and to explore how this can be used to great effect on screen.

Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Ladies’ College, 2pm to 3pm, tickets £9

Music On The Brain

Also join neuroscientist and musician Catherine Loveday later in the day for an exploration of what happens in the brain as we listen to, create and perform music.

Helix Theatre, 5pm to 6pm, tickets £8

Introvert, Extrovert, Or Just You?

Psychologist Brian Little will go beyond traditional personality traits to explore when and why we transcend the misleading categories of introvert or extravert. Find out more about how your personality shapes your life, what you can – and can’t – change about it, and how to thrive in the best way for you.

EDF Energy Arena, 6.15pm to 7.15pm, tickets £9

Why Do We Laugh?

Why do we find jokes funnier when we like the person who’s telling them? And why are we 30 times more likely to laugh if we’re with someone else? Dead Ringers impressionist Jon Culshaw will join cognitive neuroscientist Sophie Scott for an exploration of the science of cracking up. They will explore what makes us giggle and why laughter is such a crucial part of the human experience.

EDF Energy Arena, 8.15pm to 9.15pm, tickets £10

All prices above do not include transaction fees. For more information and to book see http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/science


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