Maryse Thomas – NeuroXXceptional

I was born in Montreal but I grew up in the
United States where I only spoke English. When I came back to Canada at the age of 15
it was very difficult for me to learn French. However, in the end, that challenge is the
reason I decided to study neuroscience. I wanted to know how the brain is
different after childhood which makes it so much harder to learn a language. I study auditory neuroplasticity which is
how the sounds that we hear and interact with throughout our lives can actually shape the
structure and function of our brains. So, different sounds can have different effects
on the brain. When you are learning music, learning to play
a new instrument or learning a new language it actually does change your brain and it
makes you better at discriminating sounds that are important to that language or to
that instrument. Too much noise can negatively impact the brain and that is something we are trying to understand in my lab. And what we see is that after living in a
noisy environment, cells in the brain actually have a less accurate response to sounds then
they would have before. I think having communication barriers
as a kid was one of the things that really motivated me to pursue science communication
projects. Useful Science is a science website and podcast
dedicated to bringing science to the general public. And the way that we do that is by summarizing
scientific articles into one sentence summaries. These are articles that are useful to
everyday life. We cover topics like parenting, nutrition,
health, fitness, sleep, any number of things and most recently we started covering the
environment. We really want them to click on the articles
and make up their own minds about the science. For me this project is really important
because there is so much science out there that happens every single day that could actually
make a difference in people’s lives but does not get to them because it is either behind
a paywall or because they are not scientists or because it does not get reported on. My lab is at The Neuro and The Neuro
is the first Open Science institute in the world. Open Science can really make a difference
in the speed at which neuroscience happens or science in general by improving the sharing
of data, results and materials. One of the most time consuming things about
research is actually obtaining your own data when often times you are really just duplicating
something that has been done before. And so, having access to other people’s
data sets would have maybe helped my PhD go faster. It is always hard to let go of your data because
you spend so much time working on it and you feel a sense of ownership over it but, I think
that I would be honoured for somebody to use my data in their own research. I love learning how flexible the brain
is so its so exciting each and everyday to just see more proof of how much we can learn
and change throughout our whole lives.

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