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Company at forefront of stress breakthrough



Directors: Dr Frederic Boy and Sian Roderick

Directors: Dr Frederic Boy and Sian Roderick

A WHITLAND company could join the fight against stress and mood swings, following research by Swansea University Doctors.

Magstim, which has been at the cutting edge of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for many years, could find themselves developing research recently carried out at the University of Swansea.

Brain scientists and psychologists at the university are developing a new technique which can reduce the impact of stress on mood and help improve your emotional wellbeing.

Dr Frederic Boy, who works at both the College of Human and Health Science and the School of Management at the university, is leading the research. And his work is already receiving international interest in the short period since his paper was published in scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Dr Boy said: “When facing stressful events, the frontal regions of the brain are particularly active and constantly appraise the positive or negative emotions which are generated, and that will, in turn, shape how we react to situations.

“Over time, the negative impact of stressors build up and the physical and emotional wellbeing may be compromised. We asked ourselves – can the impact of stress on the brain of a non-depressed individual be reduced?”

Along with fellow academic Sian Roderick, new brain science research employing weak electrical impulses to stimulate the frontal cortex by placing electrodes on the top of the head has been developed.

And if this sounds like a intimidating process, Sian says the technique is actually very simple and the stimulation is very subtle. She said: “We don’t want anyone to think this is like electrical treatments used in the past. The volunteers were all very relaxed with the process and the stimulation lasts for a very short period and feels like a much weaker version of a TENS machine, for example.”

Dr Boy added: “Advances in transcranial electrical stimulation techniques mean we are able to investigate different clinical and nonclinical people and specific areas of the human brain and see how those regions regulate people’s behaviour.

“What was clear is that the way people behave results from a complex interaction between a number of genetic, social and environmental factors.”

The scientists studied 66 healthy young women, with no history of psychiatric disorders or substance dependence. The volunteers filled in questionnaires, which helped assess different aspects of their current mood, the building bricks of the emotional and physical wellbeing. They underwent a course of 12 min-a-day brain electrical stimulations sessions for five days. A total of 22 individuals received an ineffective, but realistic, placebo stimulation, while the 44 others were administered a real, active stimulation.

Dr Boy explained: “This technique employs electrical power that is more than a thousand times lower than the one used by an energy saving light bulb, and result in a feeble tingling lasting a few seconds in the first instants of the stimulation session.”

Over the duration of the research, the team found that those volunteers who received the active stimulation gradually reported having experienced less negative mood states in the past day. On the contrary, participants in the placebo group did not report notable changes in mood.

“This type of treatment has been accredited by the NHS to be used to treat depression last August. We have shown that weak electric stimulation is also effective to improve the mood of those who are not depressed, but are still affected by the consequence of a stressful, restless and demanding lifestyle,” added Dr Boy, who is Head of Translational and Consumer Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology.

“This technique is based on robust scientific research and we hope it will be developed to create an over-thecounter device which can be used to improve mood and lower stress.”

With the recent statistics showing that more and more young people, are turning to medicating their emotional wellbeing – the number of young people in the UK prescribed anti-depressants increased by more than 50% between 2005 and 2012, according to the new study – could Dr Boy’s research lead to a reduction in this worrying trend?

“Yes, we are hopeful this research can assist in the treatment of low mood without having to resort to medication. “As well as the possible side effects this type of treatment can have on the patient, prescribing drugs in the first instance is a huge drain on the NHS. We are aiming to align our work with the Prudent Healthcare agenda set out by the Health Minister.

“As a university we are excited to be part of ARCH (A Regional Collaboration for Health).

“The ARCH partners are working to use innovation and research to drive health service improvements and we believe this research could be a part of this transformational approach.

“We hope that in developing a device which people can choose to use we are also empowering the population to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.”

Dr Boy and Sian Roderick are both directors of the emerging life science firm Neurotheraputics, and are hopeful their research can be developed by West Wales medical devices firm Magstim.

The Whitland-based company, who pioneer and manufacture non-invasive magnetic stimulation devices, say they are excited by the research.

Charles Hounsell, Magstim product specialist, said: “Magstim is delighted to explore opportunities with Swansea University to expand our understanding of therapeutic techniques using neurostimulation devices.

“The field of non-invasive brain stimulation is expanding rapidly and we are hugely excited about the potential benefits of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). We look forward to discussing this research further with Dr Boy and his team.”

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Milford Haven: Apocalyptic scenes as work truck catches fire in Meyler Crescent



A MILFORD HAVEN businessman says that he is “absolutely gutted”, after he lost his tipper truck in a dramatic fire overnight.

Callum Hicks, of Meyler Crescent, was woken just after 1am on Monday morning (Mar 1) to see his vehicle in flames, with fuel running down the street on fire.

The apocalyptic scenes brought neighbours out of their homes and the fire brigade was quickly called and put out the blaze.

At this time the police and fire brigade are not suspecting foul play, but in a telephone call to a Herald reporter Callum Hicks said that he thought it was impossible that the vehicle would just spontaneously combust.

Work van: Callum Hicks with his truck, which he says was his “pride and joy”

Explaining that he thought his truck had been set on fire deliberately, he said: “There was CCTV of the fire, but its a football pitch length away, with a white van parked blocking the view of the camera. There was not a clear uninterrupted view.”

“I parked the truck at 2pm on Sunday afternoon so it was 11 hours before the fire started. The vehicle was therefore cold, and locked up.”

Firefighters at the scene

The Herald has asked two mechanics, one of whom has worked on Transit vans for decades. The first said: “It is very unlikely that a vehicle like this would catch fire on it’s own – its impossible – I am 99.9% sure that this was arson.”

The second, a specialist in vehicle electronics said: “There are so many fuses and fail safes its highly unlikely for diesel vans to burst into flames like this without some kind of catalyst.”

Burned out shell: The vehicle after the fire

“There have been issues regarding Transits in the past, even a product recall involving a fire risk from a towing module. But, the chances are a million to one of it catching fire after being parked up for almost twelve hours. It just doesn’t happen.”

The Herald asked Callum Hicks if he could think of anyone who may want to torch his truck. He said that he could not think of anyone who would do such a thing.

Commenting on the police handling of the matter, he said: “They told my missus, Rhianna Pearce, that they were not taking matters further because it was just an accident – its not!”

“I have been in trouble with the police before, and they know I am a bit of a boy, but I think this is the reason that the police are not looking into this properly.

“At the end of the day this was a large fire in a residential area, lives could have been in danger. I have lost thousands because I was insured third-party only and I do not have cover for fire.

Dyfed-Powys Police and Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have been asked for a comment.

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50



EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea



A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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