Soldier to Neuroscientist

A Starting Point

It’s the middle of my first semester at uni and I’ve just had an employability week at uni and it’s got me thinking about a few things. Most graduates probably know about using an online blog to develop their writing skills for various topics like science and how it can even build an online identity acting as an online CV of sorts.

So first things first my degree subject is neuroscience and I think I also have a unique perspective on things; being a mature student with my background as an army medic. This has already influenced me into making a few decisions about my post graduate direction.

Neural Prosthetics

I wish to work in the burgeoning field of neural prosthetics, while neuroscience itself is undergoing a lot of growth this sub-field is pretty damn cool – I’m thinking full body prosthesis a la Ghost in the Shell’s anime cyborgs. I have already been told about an opportunity to assist an expert in this field arriving in the new year who has come from MIT, so I’m gonna be in there like swim wear.

I have already began to produce some coursework including an academic poster which I think will be perfect to use here and the working title is ‘Intracellular Recording and the Giant Squid Axon’. I would have written about the Hodgkin-Huxley model but I don’t think that it would be appropriate on my course at this point.


I’ve applied to a couple of organisations to get some experience in relevant areas too. Headway are a neuro trauma and rehabilitation charity, since I have a thing for trauma and they have worked with veterans I thought this would be good match. The other charity I hope to get involved with are Blesma (British Limbless Ex-Serviceman Association) since this will be of the same avenue with more veterans and I might get to talk to them about their experiences with prosthetics.

I have decided that joining the University Officer Training Corps (UOTC) may be a good idea as it will streamline the process of joining the army reserve (they seem to be really slow but I can then get my ex-regular bounty – helping with rent!) to maintain my fading clinical skills as well as gain a nice leadership and management certificate. The field hospital unit I spoke with said they may be able to get me some placements and I may even ask to shadow a doctor in relevant areas. I was told not to hold out for Headley Court but with a bit of persistence and networking I will have my way.

Headley Court is the Armed Forces rehab center, if you follow the media then you might have heard about a soldier who lost his arm and was the first person in the UK given a neural prosthetic. He was sent to Otto Bock (who I will write about later) in Vienna and his prosthetic is interfaced with and controlled by his brain!

…So if you think you might be interested in what I have to write about please watch this space…


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Consciousness Explained by John R Searle


John Searle, one of the world’s great philosophers of mind and language, has something to say about consciousness as a biological phenomenon. Underneath the clip I have listed some of his arguments. And at the bottom there’s a link to his paper ‘Consciousness’, where the text is copied from.

1. Resistance to the problem: Studying the brain without studying consciousness would be like studying the stomach without studying digestion, or studying genetics without studying the inheritance of traits. Brain scientists have mostly not been interested in the question, but the race to solve the problem of consciousness is already on, and Searle’s aim is to characterize some of the neurobiological problems of consciousness from a philosophical point of view.

2. Consciousness as a biological problem: The problem, in its crudest terms, is this: How exactly do brain processes cause conscious states and how exactly are those states realized in brain structures?…

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Stress and Trauma

The Mindset Effect

Day 11 of our series on stress.

Wow, it feels like we’ve done heaps in such a short amount of time! But there is still so much to cover that it also feels like it will take forever to reach the end of the month! I have faith that we’ll get there though. We’re a resilient lot, really! We’re almost half way through the month and if you’re reading this, I’d like to thank you for sticking with us and hope you’re enjoying the series.

Today is all about trauma. Like we did in the first few days of the series, it’s probably a good idea to define what we’re dealing with here. So, according to the free dictionary, trauma is a noun:

    1. A body wound or shock produced by physical injury, as from an accident.
    2. The condition produced by this.
  1. Psychiatry. Psychological shock or severe distress from…

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3D printed Iron Man prosthetic hand

3d Printing the Future

The idea of using 3D printing for prosthetic purposes has been around for some time and some great work has already been done in the area. But with 3D printers coming down in cost, inexpensive prosthetics with a greater ‘coolness’ factor has been made possible by printing prosthetics to look like Iron Man or Wolverine for kids. This helps them overcome what practical and social difficulties they might have (what kid wouldn’t want an IRON MAN HAND – hell, I want one). It also allows for a larger prosthesis to be made as the child gets older. Great work.

Here’s a video outline the features of the Iron Man Gauntlet and a link to the article from that inspired me to write this post 🙂

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