A former Fair City star who was ‘murdered’ by her on-screen ‘husband’ - and is now a neuroscientist and best-selling author - is in West Cork next week to explain how people can reduce their risk of developing dementia.
Professor Sabina Brennan's scientific research at Trinity College Dunlin’s Institute of Neuroscience has focused on understanding dementia risk and protective factors to establish how a decline in cognitive function might be prevented or delayed.
She had been listed as one of Ireland’s Women of the Year 2018 for her impact in her field of research.
A psychologist and neuroscientist, Prof Brennan will deliver a talk on brain health at Inchydoney Island and Spa near Clonakilty, on Tuesday evening next.
Dementia is one of the most prevalent chronic illnesses in the world, with an estimated 77,000 sufferers in Ireland.
The disease affects up to 8% of people aged over 60 and currently costs the state an annual €2bn.
“Continued learning is hugely important for brain health because the brain has the capacity to change and adapt and an enriched, healthy brain which is kept stimulated through lifelong learning is more resilient to the effects of ageing, disease and injury,” she said.
In reality, the brain starts to atrophy from the age of 30, a time when many people stop exercising regularly and cease challenging their brain academically, Pro Brennan explained.
Professor Brennan formerly played single mother-of-three and domestic violence victim Tess Halpin over some 160 episodes of the hugely popular RTÉ television soap.
Her character Tess was separated from her on-screen husband. While she later reconciled with him, she was eventually murdered by him. Ms Brennan left the series in 2003 and went to college to study for a degree in psychology.
“It was difficult to get work as an actor because the character of Tess was so high profile,” she recalled, noting that, at age of 42 she won a place on a psychology degree course at Maynooth.
She later secured a scholarship to Trinity College to do a PhD on age-related brain changes.
“I am passionate about lifelong learning,” Prof Brennan said. She had left school at aged 16 after completing her Leaving Certificate, and, until her 40's, had no further formal education.
"You don’t have to go to college to stimulate your brain - crosswords, knitting, or taking up a challenging new hobby all help to keep your brain active.
“I will also be saying to people that they should stay physically active, and socially engaged, and challenge their brain by learning something new.”
Defying Dementia and Improving Your Memory talk will take place at the Inchydoney Hotel on Tuesday next at 8pm, tickets €10 available at the door or online