The Great British Brain Off
Professor Alan Gow and his team in The Ageing Lab explore how lifestyle factors affect brain health. Alongside their research considering real-world activities as potential interventions, the team regularly communicate messages related to brain health, ranging from activities in the local community to national and international events. Alan received the British Psychological Society Public Engagement and Media Award in 2016, and in 2019 he was one of two runners-up in the Nature Research Awards for Driving Global Impact.
As we get older, we might experience changes in our thinking and memory skills, but those changes vary from person to person. Alan’s team want to develop interventions so that we might be able to maintain, or even improve, our thinking skills in later life.
Alan’s research focus on real-world activities, that is, learning or engagement opportunities within our communities. If those accessible activities benefit our thinking skills, we’ll have a better chance of supporting people to do more of them. He also want to understand what people think about changes in their thinking skills; if we know the beliefs or fears that people have, we can communicate more effectively.
Changes in thinking skills is a concern people have as they age, worrying that these are inevitable or a sign of something more serious. It’s important for us to directly speak to people, to raise awareness as well as addressing those concerns. What we might do to protect our thinking skills as we age is something that touches almost all us. Speaking to people about brain health directly is one of the most rewarding aspects of what I do, as well as working with our partners such as Age UK and Age Scotland to get those positive messages to as many people as possible.
Since 2015, Alan has regularly performed performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as part of Edinburgh Beltane's Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, in show's exploring the factors that might protect or harm the ageing brain. The audience are encouraged to share their ideas about the key lifestyle ingredients which forms the basis for discussions about how we might best protect our thinking skills as we age. Alan also created trailers for his shows, with a great example below.
During promotion for the original Fringe performance, Alan was invited to contribute to the first episode of a new BBC Radio 4 series "How to have a better brain", presented by Sian Williamss, with Alan exploring How walking can help ward off dementia.