The topic of a recent Brainwave event called “I Was a Child” is one that we rely on every single day: the function of memory. Bruce Eric Kaplan (also known as BEK) has been a cartoonist for The New Yorker for more than twenty years, as well as a writer for shows including “Seinfeld” and HBO’s “Girls.” Joining him on stage was Therapeutic Cognitive Neuroscience Professor Barry Gordon, M.D., to discuss the role memory plays in keeping us bound to the past.
When I think of grated mountain yam (also known as “tororo”), my mind goes back eight years to when I first tried it in Japan. My great-aunt sent a large cardboard box from the countryside filled with potatoes, carrots, beans, a sack of rice wrapped in cloth, and mountain yams—all harvested that morning. My grandmother grated the tororo over a bowl until it was filled with the slimy, white paste, which we ate over rice. It was refreshing and bizarre—and so delicious that I became obsessed.
If you were to ask Tom Colicchio (renowned chef and celebrated judge on Bravo TV’s Top Chef) what he thinks of grated mountain yam, he would picture the same bowl of slimy paste and cringe with disgust. In fact, that’s exactly what he did on Wednesday evening when Dr. David J. Linden asked if there was a specific texture in food that he couldn’t stand. Unfortunately, Colicchio did not elaborate on his memory of mountain yam; though it must have been pretty bad judging by the way he shuddered. We make associations with certain smells, textures, and tastes the first time we experience them, and these associations greatly affect the way we respond when we encounter them again, Dr. Linden said.
As the first event of the Rubin Museum’s eighth annual Brainwave series, the Top Chef and Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist paired up to discuss the importance of the basic five senses –including hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, tasting—in the kitchen. They also discussed how genetics play a major role in the foods we favor or disdain, and why human evolution has changed the way our bodies react to certain flavors.
There are only two more days to receive discounted registration for the next Learning and the Brain conference, “Making Lasting Memories: Using Brain Science to Boost Memory, Thinking and Learning.” It takes place February 12-14 in San Francisco and the Dana Foundation will have a table with free giveaways, so if you’re there, please stop by and say hello!
More on the conference from the Learning and the Brain website:
Neuroscientists are discovering strategies that make learning easier, more effective, and that can boost long-term memory, thinking and academic performance. By using mnemonics, movement, active learning, discussions, gestures and varied practices, teachers can improve their students’ ability to learn, reflect and remember. Discover how the “Science of Learning” can help boost student retention, recall and retrieval of information.
The International Neuroethics Society opened its annual meeting last night at AAAS in DC with a thought-provoking public program on robots in society. Though the title conjures up images from the Terminator movies (at least for me), the two speakers avoided wading too far into a futuristic, science fiction universe, and instead focused on the impact of robots in warfare and healthcare, and the ethical considerations involved.
Craig Stark, Ph.D., a professor at the University of California, Irvine, and a Dana Alliance member, urges caution about how neuroscience advances may influence the courts in the October Report on Progress. In the report, Dr. Stark discusses the neuroimaging of brain scans and the limitation of memory: