Genius: Mind, Brain, and Molecules at the 92nd Street Y

What makes someone a genius? According to Nobel Laureate Eric R. Kandel, M.D., it is a person who is a “game-changer” and who “through their work, permanently changed the way we perceive the world.” It is less about IQ and more about “drive, persistence, and creativity.” At the 92nd Street Y’s third annual 7 Days of Genius in Manhattan, four eminent scientists, arguably geniuses themselves, discussed historical geniuses of the mind, brain, and molecules. The three speakers included two members of the Dana Alliance, Larry W. Swanson, Ph.D., and Thomas M. Jessell, Ph.D., as well as Robert Michels, M.D. Kandel, also a Dana Alliance member, moderated the event.

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Spirituality vs. Science at the Rubin

Zachary Quinto, an actor best known for roles in theater, film, and TV shows such as 24, Heroes, and American Horror Story, spoke about his lifelong spiritual journey at the “The Brain on Spirituality,” a Brainwave 2016 program at the Rubin Museum in Manhattan.

quinto rubin

Photo credit: Filip Wolak

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A Ghostly Presence

Walking through New York City’s Chelsea Market Wednesday evening, it was hard not to notice the macabre graveyard scenery, hanging ghosts, and appendages crawling out of the walls. There was even an installed pipe coming out of the ceiling that had a torrent of “red water” falling into a sinkhole with zombie mannequins creeping out. It was entertaining, to say the least, and visitors were loving it.

But what is it about Halloween that gets people so worked up? Surely, it can’t be just the candy—that can be found on store shelves all year round. For a brief moment, the month of October allows us to unearth our fascination with morbid ideas such as vampires, haunted houses, and ghosts. Beyond the grisly decorations, there are varying superstitions about apparitions and the otherworldly in cultures throughout the world; but how do we explain the unintentional occurrences that spook us into believing in ghosts?

Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

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What Happens in a Medium’s Brain?

This past October, I watched the show “Long Island Medium,” on the TLC channel for the first time. It’s a show about a Long Island mother who is also a psychic medium—she claims she can talk to the dead. I had seen mediums in movies and on television before, so I assumed this one would start talking in odd voices as she became possessed by a spirit. Instead, she kept her regular voice while passing on messages from the deceased in a composed manner. She seemed very…normal.

An article published earlier this week on LiveScience is about a study that looks at the brain activity of a psychic medium in a trance. For the study, published earlier this month in PLoS ONE, 10 mediums were injected with radioactive tracers that tracked blood flow and allowed the researchers to monitor brain activity. The particular type of trance they were looking for is called psychography, when a medium is supposedly under control of a spirit and transcribes messages passed on by the deceased.

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Brain Oddities: Foreign Accent Syndrome

Brain oddities

Something about speaking a foreign language or having a mysterious accent always gives you cool points. I can’t speak for women in other countries, but I think I can speak for a majority of American women, a man (or woman) with a nice South African or Italian accent is immediately more attractive.

FAS blog image

Madonna (Credit: David Shankbone)

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