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Dr Sarah

The neuroscience of health, hormones and happiness.


Dr Sarah McKay is a neuroscientist, TEDx speaker, TV presenter and author of The Women’s Brain Book: The Neuroscience of Health, Hormones and Happiness.

Sarah’s keynotes explore the brain science of everyday life, health and wellbeing and prove relevant for those work in the classroom, clinic or corporation.

Because neuroscience has a seductive allure, with neuro-explanations persuasive and compelling, Sarah’s goal is to explain the brain in simple terms using her trademark wry sense of humour and gift for storytelling. Ultimately, Sarah bridges the gap between the neuroscience research lab and our everyday lives, and teaches us how to tap into promise and potential of brain science wisely.

Current Work

Sarah is the founder and director of The Neuroscience Academy, which brings professional development in applied neuroscience and brain health to a global audience. She's a passionate advocate for adult education and her digital programs are designed to democratise neuroscience education.

Sarah is Australia's go-to speaker for brain health and applied neuroscience and has graced the stages of conferences and meetings in Australia, New Zealand, US, UK, Ireland and Fiji. In 2019, Sarah presented an episode of the ABC science documentary show Catalyst exploring brain ageing, biohacking and longevity. She has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Grazia, Sydney Morning Herald and Body & Soul, and can be seen and heard on SBS Insight, ABC Radio National, Radio National, ABC Catalyst, and Channel 7.

Previous Experience

Education: Sarah grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand, and graduated in Otago University’s first cohort of degree-holders in neuroscience. After winning a Wellcome Trust doctorate scholarship she headed to Oxford University for her Masters and PhD training in neuroscience. She sums up her thesis research as: Nature, Nurture and Neuroplasticity.

After five years postdoctoral research in brain plasticity, development and spinal cord injury, Sarah hung up her lab coat to start up a communications business bridging the information gap between the neuroscience research lab and everyday life.

Talking Points

In Her Head

For girls and women (and the men who love them), understanding how our minds and brains are sculpted by our genes and hormones, our life experiences, society and culture, and our thoughts, feelings and beliefs is key to health and wellbeing. Sarah shares the research and unexpected insights gained from writing a book about the female brain.

Sarah’s book takes the reader on a womb to tomb tour, but her keynote can be tailored to focus on any aspect of the female lifespan including infancy and girlhood, puberty and the menstrual cycle, the teenage years, mental health, love and sex, pregnancy and motherhood, menopause, or longevity and old age.

Brain Health from the Bottom-Up, Outside-In and Top-Down.

Key pillars of health and wellbeing such as the importance of sleep, social connection, nutrition, stress eduction and emotional resilience are explored but through the lens of neurobiology and brain health.

- Bottom-Up elements include biological determinants of brain health e.g. include genes, hormones, the
immune system, nutrition and exercise.
- Outside-In elements include social and environmental factors, stress, life events, education, current
circumstances, and family background.
- Top-Down elements include thoughts, emotions, expectations, and belief systems.

This talk is tailored to the particular audience and has been successfully delivered to high school students, teachers, health practitioners, corporate executives, aged carers and women’s health advocates.

Nature, Nurture and Neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to reorganise itself, both in terms of its structure and the way it works. Young people's brains are developing and dynamic, and each new experience (both positive and negative) changes their neural architecture. This keynote or workshop provides and overview of the latest brain development discoveries from birth to late adolescence, with specific attention paid to how life experiences shape the growing brain and nervous system.

- What is neuroplasticity and why it is so much more than just ‘rewiring the brain’. What are the critical
elements that support brain plasticity in our young people?
- What happens to the brain during critical periods of development? How can we can provide appropriate
'grey-matter' infrastructure for children and teens in the classroom, clinic and playground.
- The 'teen brain' is often dismissed as 'off-line' or 'half-developed', but the opposite is true. There are
upsides to owning and operating a teenage brain - adolescents may actually be at their neurobiological
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