One of the pleasures of attending the County Councils Network conference, in addition to networking with other local government colleagues, is hearing a range of different speakers. Last evening I listened to a stunning speaker – Baroness Susan Greenfield.
Originally in a totally different career curve, she retrained as a neuroscientist some years ago, and became Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology at Lincoln College Oxford in 1996. One of her many stories – albeit quite a graphic one – related to her first experience of handling a human brain with surgical gloves on. “I wondered if, had I not had gloves on, might a tiny sliver got under my nails? And if it had, what would that sliver have been originally? A thought? A hope? A memory?”
Baroness Greenfield has a great way of communicating complex theories easily. She spoke about the ‘screen age’ where children play constant video games. Where the instant gratification of flashes, bangs, light and sound occurred at the merest press of a trigger. And how, when these ‘pumped up’ and over-stimulated children go to school and find it difficult to sit calmly and concentrate for hours on end, we class them as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and pump them full of drugs.
Was it any wonder, she asked, that prescriptions of Ritalin and other similar medication for children had more than trebled in the last decade?
It was a fascinating and sobering talk, and I hope decision makers will take note.