Meet Dr Martin Sale, researcher in brain plasticity and stimulation, and sleep.

1. What's the main focus of your research?

Martin SaleI’m trying to work out whether we can harness the beneficial components of sleep while the brain is awake. We know that sleep is important for maintaining brain health, has an important role to play in neuroplasticity, and is important in offsetting the detrimental effects of ageing, such as Alzheimer’s disease. I’m trying to determine if we can use brain stimulation to provide these benefits without actually sleeping.

 2. What drives you/why did you choose this area of research?

I’ve always been fascinated by sleep and also by neuroplasticity, and I’m really excited that I now have the expertise in both these fields to combine them into asking some really exciting questions. 

 3. What motivated you to become a researcher? Did your interest in science start when you were young?

As a young kid, my first career choice was to be a garbage truck driver. However, I quickly changed my career ambition to scientist, and have pretty much continued with that desire throughout my life. I like asking questions about how things work, and what I love is that a career in science allows you the opportunity to answer them. That’s something that garbage truck drivers don’t generally get the opportunity to do!

4. Who inspires you?

Those scientists who can convey their research in an engaging and accessible way. I think one of the responsibilities but also challenges of scientists is to inform other people about their scientific discoveries. Too often there is a temptation to impress people by talking in a complicated way. The skill is to condense and convey your research in a way that everyone can understand. Very few scientists can do this well.

5. What is one thing or fact that amazes you about the brain?

There are so many, it’s hard to think of just one! How does it manage to store all that information, and somehow retrieve the appropriate memory when we need it most? I find all aspects of memory formation and storage fascinating.

 6. What advice do you have for young people interested in science?

When I was in high school I had the opportunity to do some work experience in a physiology lab at Monash University in Melbourne. I got to see how a lab was run, what experiments were like, and what the day-to-day life of a scientist was like. I think it helped me to understand what science life was all about. I would strongly encourage young people to do the same thing if they have the opportunity – ‘try before you buy’. QBI hosts the Queensland Brain Bee Challenge that allows students to come and see how neuroscientists work, and if your school has access to this program, then go for it!


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