The Connection Between Neuroscience and Your Health with Dr. Sarah McKay

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In this podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Sarah McKay, who is both a neuroscientist and a health and well-being expert. Dr. McKay explained how science help, instead of self help, can contribute in a large way towards your overall well-being. Join us as we discuss the benefits of finding your passion, appreciating life's little pleasures and how these things are involved in the connection between neuroscience and your health.

About Sarah McKay

Way back in 1998, after completing a degree in Neuroscience at Otago University in NZ, I beat off the competition (200 other hopefuls!!) and won a Wellcome Trust scholarship to complete my Ph.D at Oxford University. I spent my time at Oxford learning the fine art of electrophysiology, examining the neuroplasticity of the developing brain, and entering science writing competitions.

In 2002, I headed to Sydney where a short stint at the National Breast Cancer Centre (now Cancer Australia) was followed by five years of postdoc research. Firstly, at the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute in the Spinal Injury group, and secondly with the Garvan Institute’s Hearing Research Group. But over time, I found myself getting frustrated with experiments, applying for grants, and the unbearable slowness of the publication process. I much preferred giving talks about science to the public, teaching on the Sydney University graduate medical program, and writing for online science Q&A forums.

I eventually worked up the courage to hang up my lab coat and took up a position as a medical writer for Discovery (part of the Publicis Life Brands group).

Nowadays, I combine raising my two small boys on Sydney’s Northern Beaches with running my own medical writing business – and couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect job!

I am a member of the Australasian Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and was elected secretary of the AMWA executive committee for 2012-13.

In 2013, I launched a blog – where I break down neuroscience research into simple actionable steps to improve brain health.


  • D.Phil. University of Oxford, UK. 1999 – 2003
  • M.Sc in Neuroscience, University of Oxford, UK. 1998 − 99
  • B.Sc (Hons) 1st class, Neuroscience, University of Otago, New Zealand. 1993 − 96


Employment history

Freelance Science and Medical Writer. April 2008 – present
Tutor, Graduate Medical Program, University of Sydney, Australia. April 2008 – November 2009
Medical Writer, Discovery (Medicus International), Sydney, Australia. September 2007 – April 2008
Postdoctoral Researcher, Hearing Research Group, Neuroscience Research Program, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia. May 2005 – September 2007
Conjoint Associate Lecturer, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australia. 2004 – 2005
Postdoctoral Researcher, Spinal Cord Injuries Research Centre, Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, Sydney, Australia. August. 2003 – May 2005
Project Officer, National Breast Cancer Centre, Sydney, Australia. February 2003 – August 2003
Tutor, (Philosophy, Psychology, Physiology), Lady Margaret College, University of Oxford, UK. September 2000 – June 2001
Research Assistant, Radiology Department, Christchurch Women’s Hospital, New Zealand, Summer Vacation Project. November. 1996 – May 1997
Laboratory Demonstrator, (Neuroanatomy for 3rd year Medical Students), University of Otago Medical School, New Zealand. Feburary – October 1996

Professional Affiliations

  • Australian Science Communicators
  • Australasian Medical Writers Association (Secretary AMWA Committee 2012)
  • American Medical Writers Association
  • Inspiring Women (a Northern Beaches business community)
0:11 Introducing Dr. Sarah McKay

1:59 A deep sense of motivation

  • Interest in neuroscience
  • Time spent at Oxford University

7:26 Finding the right path

  • Know yourself and your strengths
  • Surround yourself with inspiring people

12:13 A different calling

  • An inner conflict as an neuroscientist
  • A desire to contribute more

22:12 A transition from academic science to science writer

27:28 Science help

  • Neuroscience applied to health and wellbeing

31:00 Meditation vs. mindfulness

33:27 The art of napping

  • Respecting your biology
  • The benefits of 20-25 minute naps

36:39 Tapping into the mind's creativity

  • Napping, showering and walking

39:42 How to give life meaning

  • Enjoying simple things
  • Passion and purpose

46:50 The role of relationships

  • Drawing support from family

48:18 Integrity during transitions

  • Honoring health and wellbeing
  • Learning to understand emotions

53:15 Dr. Sarah McKay's resources

  • Blog and social media
  • Neuroscience Academy

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