Eric Kandel is Alan Alda’s Podcast Guest

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Image courtesy of Alda Communication Training Co.

On the latest episode of the Clear + Vivid podcast, host Alan Alda, well-known actor, writer, and, in recent years, crusader of science outreach, sits down with old friend and Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member Eric R. Kandel, director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University and author of The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves. Kandel speaks to Alda about his work, the satisfaction of connecting with audiences, and fleeing Austria in the aftermath of its annexation to Nazi Germany.

The podcast focuses on communication and connection. It’s through conversations with individuals holding mastery in various fields that Alda guides the listener, stopping to appreciate peaks and valleys of the art form. In this, Alda and Nobel Laureate Kandel find and sustain a relaxed stride, offering listeners morsels of wisdom: The importance of being mindful of your audience, focusing on one person and changing your approach based on their responses (favorable or not); the role of laughter in forming connections; and the delicate dance of simplifying your ideas to a lay audience without treading on and distorting the science. Continue reading

Sound Health: Shaping Our Children’s Lives Through Music Engagement

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For the second year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts spent a weekend exploring the connections between music, the brain, and humanity. A piece of their ongoing “Sound Health” partnership, the events at the Center this past weekend focused on how important the arts are to children’s development, both experiencing art and practicing and producing it. [See also our report and KC videos from last year’s event.]

The idea partnership came up in conversations between NIH director Francis Collins and renowned soprano and Kennedy Center artistic advisor Renée Fleming, and they led the chorus of brain experts and musical prodigies starting with a conversation and concert on Friday. Collins also announced a new program that will soon offer $5 million in research grants to study the effects of the arts on the brain, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

All the Saturday events are available as webcasts—including a drumming circle led by Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart! They are all worth a watch or two, with engaging scientists talking interspersed with great musicians performing. Together they add up to more than seven hours, so take your time. Many have small sections where the audience can participate; if you really want to get your rhythm on, jump down to the Interactive Drum Circle recording and have at it for a good 60 minutes.

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Explore “The Senses” Now at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian

A new art exhibit in New York City is taking an innovative approach to how our brains receive and experience sights, sounds, textures, scents, and even taste. The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in the city’s Upper East Side is open to the public now through October 28 and is definitely worth a visit, no matter your age or background in science.

At “The Senses: Design Beyond Vision,” visitors are encouraged to take an active role in the various installations that test—and play with—the human body’s five classical senses. From a faux fur-covered wall that responds to touch with orchestral sounds, to wooden chairs that use patterns of vibrations to evoke oddly specific sensations (such as “getting zipped up” or “the needle on a sewing machine”), the multi-sensory experiences achieved by artists reminds guests of the brain’s powerful ability to process information.

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Running your hand along the synthetic fur—or rolling along the wall with your whole body—creates melodies by stringed instruments. The Tactile Orchestra, created by Studio Roos Meerman and KunstLAB Arnhem. Photo: Scott Rudd

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Sleep Video Wins Top Honors in 2018 Brain Awareness Contest

It’s commonly known that sleep is important for people to function, but want to dig a little deeper and learn about how it may affect the inner workings of our brains? Cue the Society for Neuroscience’s winner for the 2018 Brain Awareness Video Contest! In Bradley Allf’s video, “I Think, Therefore I Sleep,” he talks about how sleep is believed to affect our memory, function, and health, using craftsy animations and simple explanations.

SfN holds this educational and entertaining video contest every year, asking contestants from around the world to submit a short video “exploring the wonders of the brain and nervous system.”

The top three winners and one honorable mention were announced this week. Joining Allf, a lab technician at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are Catherine Bird with “Runners’ High,” Guillaume Riesen with “The Funny Bone: Butt Dialing Your Brain By,” and Anna Maralit with ”Dopey Dopamine.”

Watch these four videos now and take a moment to vote for the People’s Choice winner! You have until the end of the month to cast your vote.

If you’re interested in entering next year’s contest, you can read the guidelines on this page (just scroll down).

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners!

Extraordinary Show on Consciousness Extended

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Baba Brinkman with his wife Heather Berlin, a neuroscientist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

At $5 a ticket, theater lovers can experience the steal of the century at the SoHo Playhouse through mid-August. Baba Brinkman is starting a new run of his one-man, interactive show, “Rap Guide to Consciousness.” “We’ve had good crowds the last couple of days, and I’m excited to be doing the show again,” says Brinkman. “There’s also a new discount site that lets you book a ticket for $5 and then choose whether to pay more after you see it.”

The play fuses hip-hop, humor, and neuroscience together in a 70-minute multimedia presentation that attempts to explain difficult complex topics such as free will, artificial intelligence, the effects of psychedelic drugs, Bayesian probability, the presence or absence of thoughts in infants and animals, and much more. To hear about the origins of Brinkman’s first name Baba, his rapping influences and origins, and the time he and Lin Manuel Miranda were on the street together in Edinburgh Fringe handing out flyers, listen to my podcast with Brinkman.

– Bill Glovin

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