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Creepy Crawlies Around the Clock

Dr Rebecca Nesbit from the Society for Biology explains how their twenty-four hour lecturethon and sleepover coincided perfectly with The National Brain Appeal Pyjama Party.

I never thought that pyjamas would raise the profile of entomologyand epilepsy – but here goes.

On the evening of 13th October, the Society for Biology celebratedc Biology Week in an unusual way: an international twenty-four hour ‘lecturethon’ and an office pyjama party.

Professor Adam Hart from the University of Gloucester was going to speak for a whole twenty-four hours, hence the pyjama party my colleagues and I decided to hold in solidarity. Adam and I had worked together on a house spider survey and flying ant survey, and he wanted to go even further to share our love of ‘creepy crawlies’. Part of my role at the Society of Biology is to organise Biology Week, a celebration of all aspects of the life sciences, and this seemed like an appropriate time to do it so plans were underway well before I had heard of The National Brain Appeal.

Insects are often over-looked – but their world is fascinating, and they are extremely important. In the picture below I am using string to demonstrate how ants lay pheromone trails to a school that had Skyped in from Singapore. We also Skyped lectures to South Korea and Shanghai, and it was interesting to hear their insights into the insects they encounter in their home countries. During the day we invited people to the office to hear Adam’s lectures and to see the honeybees and leafcutter ants which had come to visit.

rebecca string

A few days before the lecturethon, at a time when I spent my train journeys to work feeling both excited and apprehensive about our plans, I spotted a poster on the train about The National Brain Appeal and their pyjama parties. Alongside the fabulous idea of pyjama parties, the figure on the poster that one in six people are affected by neurological conditions really struck me. Relatives on both my and my husband’s side of the family are affected by different conditions, so it shouldn’t have come as a shock to me, but that number really brought it home. It was clearly a cause I was keen to support.

It is also particularly fitting for me that The National Brain Appeal should celebrate with pyjama parties, because my epilepsy is sleep induced (often referred to as nocturnal epilepsy). This means that my seizures only occur at night while I am sleeping. This has various consequences and took a long time to diagnose: I was about 19 when I started having episodes where I woke up with the worse headache I’d ever felt and bruising down the side of my tongue. It was a long time before I worked out the cause, although I knew that something was very wrong. I also suffer from partial seizures in which I don’t lose consciousness and I once heard someone describe his as “a sense of déjà vu so strong I feel sick” – I’m still yet to come up with a better description! Scientifically, I find this fascinating.

That fact that my seizures occur while I’m asleep also very much reduces the impact on my everyday life, risk of seizures during office sleepovers aside!

I am very lucky that my epilepsy is completely controlled by medication and I am pleased that The National Brain Appeal is helping more people to live their lives less impaired by neurological conditions.

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