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Georgina Donati from the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry research group reflects on her weekend at the Glastonbury Festival talking to the public about science, developmental psychology and mental health.

Georgina Donati  at Glastonbury 2023 © Georgina Donati

Why were you at Glastonbury? 

I have been doing public engagement as part of a team of researchers and clinicians from different universities for a number of years. Our group is called Me__Human lead by Professor Gillian Forrester at Sussex. We run cabaret style evening science events, work at festivals, museums and a multitude of other public spaces delivering fun and interesting science engagement. 

This was our second year at Glastonbury as part of Science Futures and the aim of the group is to engage people in the science of what it is to be a human, including developmental psychology, mental well-being and comparative science. I have a key interest in young people’s mental health and well-being and so for me, Glastonbury seemed like the ideal place to talk to people. 

What were you talking to people about?

We had a few props and bits of equipment that link to different studies but also allowed me to open up broader conversations.  For example we built some big puzzle boxes testing motor action sequencing and tool use for a study looking at language development and evolution.  These puzzles are interactive, drew people over and started conversations about how children learn language behaviourally and neurally and what they need to do this learning.  We also had a scarily life like baby doll (!) wearing a baby grow allowing me to tell people about our current study giving new parents a set of baby grows installed with sensors enabling high frequency sampling of their baby’s motor development over the first year of life. Here we are interested in what the spontaneous involuntary movements in the first few months can tell us about subsequent motor and social-communication development knowing that many neurodevelopmental disorders show atypical motor development later on. We also had a thermal camera room for people to check the temperature of their noses! There is some evidence that you can monitor stress and vigilance in humans (and other apes) by measuring the temperature of their nose. The idea is that as stress and arousal increase, blood moves towards the peri-orbital region to increase vigilance and this can be most accurately measured by a reduction in nose temperature. We are currently piloting this in humans and other apes such as gorillas and chimps, but the tech allows us to open up conversations about measuring and understanding well-being, stress and mental health.

Read the full story on the  Department of Psychiatry website.