Science Meets Art in New Kandel Book

Creativity (2).jpgWe don’t typically think of science and art as rooted in similar methodologies or techniques. Science is considered a strict, fact-based study of the world around us, while art is a no-rules expression of creativity. By thinking of the two disciplines as distinctly different, there has not been much study of their similarities.

Dana Alliance member Eric R. Kandel, M.D., noticed the lack of interdisciplinary study of artistic and scientific methodologies and used it as the foundation for his new book, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures. The book examines modern neuroscience alongside modern art, focusing on how both disciplines use reductive techniques. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal about his book, Kandel said:

This is reductionism—to take a complex problem and select a central, but limited, component that you can study in depth. Rothko—only color. And yet the power it conveys is fantastic. Jackson Pollock got rid of all form.

[In neuroscience] you have to look at how behavior is changed by environmental experience…I began to realize we’ve got to find a very simple learning situation…I looked around for an animal that had the kind of [simple] nervous system I would like. Aplysia [has] the largest nerve cells in the animal kingdom.

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The Power of Positive Thinking

While exercise has been widely accepted for its cognitive benefits, practices such as yoga and meditation are gaining attention for their specific contributions to brain health. “Meditation can change certain anatomical structures of the brain, and attention function can be improved, just as it can be with exercise,” neuroscientist and Dana Alliance member Wendy Suzuki said in a podcast called Ariana Yoga, which focuses on her exercise-based brain research. The technique of meditating allows for the ability to focus attention without distraction, as well as a better capacity to control emotional impulses, she explains.

As a new type of workout, Suzuki has taken the concept of applying positive thoughts to physical exercise for a practice she describes as “intentional exercise.” The combination of a favorite aerobic activity paired with a positive affirmation or mantra “adds another element,” she says. “Exercise is changing all sorts of neurochemicals and growth factors in your brain,” Suzuki explains in the podcast. Her fascination with the cognitive effects of consistent exercise, and consequential shift in lab research from brain plasticity and memory, was sparked through her own positive experience.

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2016 International Neuroethics Meeting in San Diego

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Photo Credit: International Neuroethics Society website

This November, hundreds of minds will meet in San Diego for the annual International Neuroethics Society (INS) conference. The program is packed with experts from around the world who will be discussing important issues regarding social, legal, and ethical implications of advances in neuroscience.

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From the Archives: Treating Opioid Addiction

It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide; the US government estimates that 2.1 million people in the United States have substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012 and another 467,000 are addicted to heroin. Consequences include a spike in the number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain relievers (including the recent death of the musician Prince), and growing evidence to suggest a relationship between increased non-medical use of opioid analgesics and heroin abuse in the US.

OBrien_Charles_featWhat can we do to help? This spring, Charles O’Brien and colleagues reported results of the latest in a series of studies testing the drug naltrexone as a preventive against opioid relapse in people greatly at risk for relapse: formerly addicted convicts. “This U.S. multisite, open-label, randomized effectiveness trial showed that among adult offenders who had a history of opioid dependence, the rate of relapse was lower among participants assigned to extended-release naltrexone than among those assigned to usual treatment,” they write.

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Dana/EDAB FENS Outreach Champions Announced

The European Dana Alliance for the Brain (EDAB) presents two Outreach Champion Awards with the Federation of European Neurosciences Societies (FENS) every two years at the biennial FENS Forum of Neuroscience. The 2016 winners were announced during an awards ceremony on July 4th at this year’s FENS Forum in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Dana/EDAB Neuroscience Outreach Champion, also known as The David and Hillie Mahoney Award for an Individual’s Contribution to Outreach, is presented to a person who has significantly contributed to the promotion of brain awareness, through continued public outreach efforts for a period of three or more years. This year’s winner is Paul Bolam, emeritus professor and senior scientist at the Medical Research Council’s Brain Networks Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford. His outreach includes 75 talks over the last seven years, usually covering topics such as the aging brain and Parkinson’s disease.

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From left to right: FENS President Monica DiLuca and Paul Bolam            Photo credit: Jesper Ludvigsen 

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