From the Archives and Beyond: The Dancing Brain

lab-solo-20040117Economist Ivar Hagendoorn’s fascination with dance led to a decade of neuroscience research, described in his 2003 essay in our Cerebrum journal. In  “The Dancing Brain” he argues that while it is the limbs that move, it is the brain that is dancing:

Reading and thinking for several years about what we find interesting when we watch someone dance brought me no closer to understanding what I saw on stage. At some point it struck me that this was the wrong track. Everything we see, hear, feel and do is mediated by the brain. To understand what fascinated and literally moved me in watching dance, we have to look to the brain.

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Music Makes Its Case for Neurological Respect

City Winery in Manhattan was a most appropriate venue to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function. And while not very much music was heard at the IMNF-sponsored forum, music’s impact on the brain was certainly in the air as neuroscientists, music therapists, and one rock music luminary covered the many ways in which music may affect brain development, cognition, and healing.

After all was said and done, however, one point seemed to hover above all the rest: the inability on the part of researchers to produce replicated studies that link the benefits of music to cognitive function.

Hart (left) and Gazzaley (right). Photo credit: Edward Bilsky

Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart (left) and neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley (right). Photo credit: Edward Bilsky

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Neuroscience and Society: Creativity, Genius and the Brain

Photo: spiral galaxy (08/14/13). Credit: NASA/ESO/VLT

Photo: spiral galaxy (08/14/13). Credit: NASA/ESO/VLT

From William Morgan’s sudden insight while staring at the stars that our galaxy must have a spiral shape to Leonardo da Vinci’s deep reimagining of the subject of “The Last Supper,”  stories describing “Aha!” moments and acts of genius can awe and inspire. What do scientists know about the minds of geniuses? Can they tell us anything about creativity, perhaps offer some sort of practice to help the rest of us extend our own creative wings?

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From the Archives: Music in Education

When I came to work for the Dana Foundation in 2006, one of the innovative projects it was funding was called Arts Education, a series of pilot programs teaching artists how to be effective teachers in the classroom. Like most of our seed programs, the funding was short-term, to get the programs up and running and give enough time to prove their worth so other, bigger grant-givers (or government agencies) would fund them.

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The Arts and the Brain

Arts brain aaasFrom left, Alan Leshner of AAAS, Christopher Tyler, Nina Kraus, and Gary Vikan answer audience questions.

Our brains glow with activity when we view or do art. Now that scientists can scan our brains in the act of observation and creation, what can they tell us about what is going on in there?

Quite a bit, we discovered during an evening of talk, food, music, and interactive art at the AAAS office in Washington, D.C., last Thursday. Christopher Tyler of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco presented images ranging from cave drawings to Jackson Pollock that illustrated the idea of embodied cognition.“You can’t appreciate the work unless you feel it in your body,” he said.

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