Dr Jack, give us a short fact about the brain
Anything that you do regularly (ideally everyday), intensively (not to tough, not too easy, but nicely challenging) and consistently (over long periods of time) will physically change your brain.
Who was your hero growing up?
Jonny Ball – a children's science presenter who could make exactly the same boring science demonstrations that I saw in school really engaging with infectious enthusiasm and eccentricity.
Have you ever held a brain?
Yes – it was surprisingly turgid (rubbery) but that is because it had been preserved in formaldehyde. Had it been a fresh one it would have been the consistency of blancmange.
What is your favourite song lyric and why?
"Summer girl, make me feel fine/Always in the corner of my mind"
I first heard "Summer Breeze" as a 16 year old kid on a camping holiday in the south of France with five really hot, intelligent, talented girls (the other 4 lads dropped out at the last minute!). The sun was shining, we were sitting around eating delicious French food when the girls put this song on the sound system, cranked up the volume and all started singing along. They all had beautiful voices and spontaneously began to harmonise each time the chorus line repeated. Being slap bang in the middle of that special moment was pure unadulterated teenage ecstasy. And I'm happy to say all these wonderful women are still very dear friends of mine twenty years later!!
Were you a good student at University?
I was the best and the worst student. I often skipped practicals and lectures. But I loved my subject with a passion so I always caught up in the library ahead of exam times and I always took huge calculated risks in selecting my essay questions. For instance, I once wrote an essay about how to create a real life, brain-controlled, prosthetic limb for Luke Skywalker after he got his arm chopped off by a light-saber. All my fellow neuroscientist student colleagues advised me it was a bad idea. But because the concept really fascinated me and because I knew the criteria upon which the essay would be marked I ended up getting a mark of 84% (they'd never before awarded a mark above 79% in the history of the course). I had a lot of fun at uni and a first class degree out of it. In my book that's what university is all about.
What is the last gift you gave someone – who did you give it to?
I gave my sister a baby carrier for her birthday in advance of my new niece arriving on planet Earth.
What means the most to you?
Desiderata - a poem by Max Ehrman. It encapsulates a way of living life that is maximally rewarding to the individual and everyone they encounter. I find myself thinking about lines from it all the time. Anytime I read it out to someone else I find myself choking up. So many of its passages like: "nurture strength of spirit to shield you sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings" have reassured me that I'm on the right track during inevitable rough patches in life. Ultimately I have my mum to thank for that. It was she that put it on the back of the toilet door so that it would seep into my subconscious throughout my childhood. Clever woman my mum!
Tell us a joke...
What does a Welshman have to do when they have to cross a room scattered with eggshells?
Tread Caerphilly (Cheese jokes are the best)
Finally, if we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?