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October 2007 Issue
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Getting fresh pays off for young neuroscientist


A University of Adelaide student whose research is helping us to better understand how the brain works has become the 2007 Young Scientist of the Year.

Martin Sale, a physiology postgraduate student in the School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, has won the honour thanks to his involvement in the national Fresh Science competition.

Fresh Science helps to identify new and interesting research being done by early-career scientists around the country, and gives them the opportunity to communicate their science to the media and the public.

Mr Sale's research has found that the time of day influences your brain's ability to learn - and the human brain learns more effectively at night.

His research involved using a magnetic coil over the head to stimulate nerve activity in the brain, and linked this to an electrical stimulus of the hand.

Mr Sale discovered that the brain's capacity to control hand movements is influenced by the time of day.

This has major implications for the rehabilitation of stroke patients. If the brains of stroke patients can be artificially stimulated to improve learning, they may be able to recover better and faster. By identifying at what point in the day the brain is best able to operate, rehabilitation therapy can be targeted to that time, when recovery is maximised.

Mr Sale was chosen for the Young Scientist of the Year award from a national pool of 16 young researchers involved in the Fresh Science event.

As Young Scientist of the Year, he will get to experience the real world of science communication first hand, working as a journalist for two weeks in The Australian newspaper's Sydney bureau.

He said he was excited about the opportunity.

"This will allow me to learn more about what's involved in science communication and how the media operates," Mr Sale said.

Of the 16 Fresh Scientists selected for 2007 from more than 80 nominations, four were from the University of Adelaide. The others were Quinn Fitzgibbon, Cadence Minge and Edwina Sutton.

Story by David Ellis

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Young Scientist of the Year Martin Sale
Photo by Michael Potter, courtesy of <i>The Australian</i>

Young Scientist of the Year Martin Sale
Photo by Michael Potter, courtesy of The Australian

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