Synaesthesia is more common in autism

Synaesthesia, a mixing of the senses where by people see colours associated to sounds they hear or link musical notes to tats, could be more prevalent in people with autism according to new research by the journal of Molecular Autism.

Scientists from Cambridge University found that whereas synaesthesia only occurred in 7.2% of typical individuals, it occurred in 18.9% of people with autism. The scientists tested and confirmed the prediction that if both autism and synaesthesia involve neural over-connectivity, then synaesthesia might be disproportionately common in autism. Read more of this post


Discussing Irish abortion laws and Ireland’s Budget 2014 in French

Here are recordings of the two latest topics I’ve spoken about on Dublin’s NearFM as part of French language programme ‘Qu’est-ce que c’est le Craic’.

The first time gardener: Swiss Chard

Swiss chard grown in Dublin, just cut and ready for dinner

Swiss chard grown in Dublin, just cut and ready for dinner

This year’s new project was to create a kitchen garden in my back garden in North Dublin city. The magnitude of this project can only be comprehended when seen through the prism of my illustrious botanical CV.

Previous experience with growing living things involved killing anything with leaves within a 2m radius, including two cacti. Apart from one hardy cheese plant I inherited from a departing friend, which has inexplicably survived for a decade despite sometimes not seeing water for 6 months at a time, I have managed to keep alive a grand total of zero plants.

Therefore, it is no mean feat for me to announce that today for the very first time, I harvested and ate something I grew myself. In my back garden. In Dublin. That beautiful thing is called Swiss Chard.  Read more of this post

Irish coverage for World Scleroderma Day

Two of my articles recently appeared in the Irish press to coincide with World Scleroderma Day on June 29th  in a bid to highlight this terrible disease.

I wrote both these articles based on my 8-month masters thesis project, which saw me produce and narrate a 45 minute radio documentary examining the life of sufferers of scleroderma in Ireland and the progress that has been made in understanding and treating the symptoms of this incurable auto-immune disease.

Woman’s Way magazine:

This article appeared in Woman’s Way magazine, dated June 24:

Womans Way June 24 Monica Heck scleroderma

This article ran on, dated June 29th and got nearly 20,000 views.


Swinging success for Bank of Ireland business event

A swinging success: Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny looks on during Bank of Ireland's Building Business Momentum conference.

A swinging success: Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny looks on during Bank of Ireland’s Building Business Momentum conference.

It’s expected of journalists to be cynical, especially about a business event involving two stages, organised by a bank, with a line-up including the top man in Ireland, the top man at Ireland’s top bank and a man who shook Nelson Mandela’s hand on numerous occasions and who is not Bono.

After all, the banking industry is one of the most maligned entities in Ireland, if not worldwide. So positively praising an event organised by one of those terrible banks and worse, actually admitting to taking something from it can feel a little like selling out.

Yet it was hard to fault the Bank of Ireland’s Building Business Momentum Conference this morning, which closed the bank’s National Enterprise Week initiative. It was of course over-seasoned with upbeat messages about the current business climate, shimmering with the promises of billions in available loan funds and layered with covert admonishments of the media’s penchant for doom and gloom. Read more of this post

The Marble Lady: the face of scleroderma in Ireland

“If…cancer, my particular cancer was put in front of me and scleroderma was put in front of me I’d pick cancer. Strangely. I’m better from cancer, I’m not going to get better from scleroderma.”

Unpredictable, irreversible, progressive and as yet, incurable , scleroderma is considered the deadliest of all connective tissue diseases. It’s estimated that 1 in 10,000 people will develop it.

From the Greek words “Skleros”, meaning hard, and “Derma”, meaning skin. It develops when the body produces too much collagen and hardens. Few people know about it yet in most cases it’s a life-changer and in some cases, it can kill.

Last year, I produced a radio documentary about this little known auto-immune condition, telling the story of patients in Ireland, mainly women and a handful of men, who suffer from this rare, debilitating and life-threatening auto-immune connective tissue disease. Read more of this post

The first time gardener

DaffodilHeuston, we have a daffodil! One single, lone daffodil. It popped out of the earth like a curious alien and unfolded its golden shade last week, the sole survivor of my first questionable gardening experiment, which involved the hurried planting of half-sprouted forgotten bulbs in early April. That was never going to be a downright success, which makes that lone daffodil a symbol of hope for my project of the year: to grow a veggie garden.

A proper garden with flowers and vegetables, which I can magnanimously pick when visitors drop by on bicycles with wicker baskets and rustle into healthy soups and tasty sides to serve to friends and family. Aaah, I can picture myself already come September, rosy-cheeked in a spotty blue apron and my hair in an effortlessly chic bun, picking spotless carrots out of the ground with one hand and feeding the birds with the other. A modern day Cinderella without the stress of the Ball. And the mice. Read more of this post