Science Cafe: New research addresses stress reduction

The Swansea Science Cafe offers opportunities to find out more about new, exciting and topical areas of science in an informal and entertaining way.

Dr Fred BoyTitle:  New research addresses stress reduction

Speaker: Dr Frédéric Boy, Head of Translational and Consumer Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology.

Date: Wednesday 30th March

Time: 7:30pm

Venue: The Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea

Admission: Free, all welcome

In this talk, Dr Boy will explain how brain scientists and psychologists at Swansea University are developing a new technique which can reduce the impact of stress on mood and help improve your emotional wellbeing.

Dr Boy, who works at both the College of Human and Health Science and the School of Management at the university, is leading the research which is receiving international interest since being published in scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology.

He said: “When facing stressful events, the frontal regions of the brain are particularly active and constantly appraise the positive or negative emotions which are generated, and that will, in turn, shape how we react to situations.

“Over time, the negative impact of stressors build up and the physical and emotional wellbeing may be compromised. We asked ourselves - can the impact of stress on the brain of a non-depressed individual be reduced?”

Dr Boy, along with fellow academic Sian Roderick, also from Swansea, have developed new brain science research employing weak electrical impulses to stimulate the frontal cortex by placing  electrodes on the top of the head.

Researchers make it clear that this is not like electrical treatments used in the past and the volunteers were all very relaxed and the stimulation lasts for a very short period and feels like a much weaker version of a TENS machine, for example.

Dr Boy explains: “This technique employs electrical power that is more than a thousand times lower than the one used by an energy saving light bulb, and result in a feeble tingling lasting a few seconds in the first instants of the stimulation session.”

Over the duration of the research, the team found that those volunteers who received the active stimulation gradually reported having experienced less negative mood states in the past day. On the contrary, participants in the placebo group did not report notable changes in mood.

This type of treatment has been accredited by the NHS to be used to treat depression last August. Research has shown that weak electric stimulation is also effective to improve the mood of  those who are not depressed, but are still affected by the consequence of a stressful, restless and demanding lifestyle.

It is hoped that the technique is based on robust scientific research will be developed to create an over-the-counter device which can be used to improve mood and lower stress.

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