Sleep and animal stress top of mind at 3MT finals

PhD student Clare Ladyman will be heading to the Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition in Brisbane in October.

PhD student Clare Ladyman has taken out the 3MT (Three-Minute Thesis) finals, and will be heading to Brisbane in October to battle it out at the international competition.

Four master's and 11 doctoral researchers competed at the finals held on the Manawatū campus last night. The competition requires research students to deliver a succinct “elevator pitch” summing up their topic for a non-specialist audience, in just three minutes.

Ms Ladyman from the Sleep/Wake Research Centre won the doctoral heat, while Morgan Heslop from the School of Veterinary Science won the master’s competition, as well as being crowned the section’s People’s Choice winner.

In her presentation, entitled Is sleep the ‘black box’ to pregnancy and post-natal depression, Ms Ladyman spoke about her analysis of the sleep and depression patterns of 856 women from late pregnancy to three years post-birth – New Zealand’s first study of this kind.

“My results showed that a woman who has elevated depressive symptoms in late pregnancy has an 83 per cent chance of experiencing it again three years later. If that mother is Māori, that likelihood increases to 98 per cent. As expected, women in this group also have significantly poor sleep,” she said.

Ms Ladyman developed Sleep HAPi – a comprehensive sleep education booklet and intervention, started early in pregnancy, to try and prevent sleeping issues and depressive symptoms before they begin.

“At the end of pregnancy, the intervention group had significantly better sleep quality but they could also get to sleep and stay asleep, better than the comparison group. And while one in five women in the comparison group had the expected elevated depressive symptoms, all of the intervention group had minimal levels of depression,” she says.

“What’s really exciting about this research is the ability to transfer sleep education as a treatment or prevention option to other groups at high risk of depression, such as teenagers, which is really promising given the current mental health crisis our country is facing."

Morgan Heslop won the Master's round and will represent Massey at the 3MT New Zealand Master’s Final at the University of Otago on next week. Sam Powick was runner up with his presentation, entitled Towards emissions-free hydrogen: Cracking methane with black sand.

Master's winners

Morgan Heslop’s presentation, entitled The cellular scar of stress, highlighted the plight of zebrafish used in scientific research. Her thought-provoking opening got people thinking.

“Imagine spending five years in an empty room with 19 other people. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. Do you think that would leave you scarred? This is the reality for millions of fish used in research around the world.

“From these fish we can learn about human function and disease, from Parkinson’s to leukaemia. Zebrafish truly are little lifesavers,” she said.

Ms Heslop carried out a welfare assessment on Zebrafish, effectively measuring stress scars on their DNA tissue. “I’m measuring changes in telomeres [a compound structure at the end of a chromosome], in stressed and non-stressed fish, to establish this as a valid marker of stress for use in animal welfare assessments. Once it’s established, we can use this marker to ask, ‘Just how stressed are these fish?’ and we can ask that question again after making changes to see if we have made things better.”

Ms Ladyman will represent Massey at the Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition at the University of Queensland in Brisbane on October 4. Ms Heslop will represent Massey at the 3MT New Zealand Master’s Final at the University of Otago on August 22.

Massey University 3MT finals winners

Doctoral winner – Clare Ladyman - Is sleep the 'black box' to pregnancy and post-natal depression (Sleep/Wake Research Centre) - $5,000, plus travel and accommodation to represent Massey University at the Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition

Doctoral Runner Up – Gina Sopha - The Tale of Shallot (School of Agriculture and Environment) - $2000

Doctoral People’s Choice – Du Le Hoang - Colorectal cancer: Prevention (School of Food and Advanced Technology) - $1000

Master's Winner – Morgan Heslop - The cellular scar of stress (School of Veterinary Science) - $1,000, plus travel and accommodation to represent Massey University in the Inter-University 3MT Competition

Master's Runner Up – Sam Powick - Towards emissions-free hydrogen: Cracking methane with black sand (School of Fundamental Sciences) - $500

Masters People’s Choice – Morgan Heslop - The cellular scar of stress (School of Veterinary Science) - $250

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