Sound Health: Music and the Mind

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Kennedy Center for the Arts have teamed up to explore the connections among music, the brain, and human wellness. The idea for the “Sound Health” partnership came up in conversations between NIH director Francis Collins and renowned soprano and Kennedy Center artistic advisor Renée Fleming. In March NIH hosted a science workshop, where researchers shared what they know about sound and sense with Fleming and other musicians, scientists, and music therapists. This past weekend, they moved to the Kennedy Center for a shared performance with the National Symphony Orchestra and a day of talk and music-making for the general public.

Bone flute from Geissenklösterle, a cave in Germany. Photo by José-Manuel Benito Álvarez

“Music is a critical part in understanding how the brain works,” Collins said on Friday. It’s likely that early people made music before developing formal language–we’ve found  flutes that are more than 35,000 years old. “It’s critical to understanding” how the oldest circuits in our brains work, and it can add “new and stronger scientific basis” to the range of techniques that music therapists use to help people recover from stroke, trauma, chronic pain, and other maladies.

All the Saturday events except a kids’ movement workshop were recorded; I’m including them here. 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! I’m listing them in the order of the day, but if you want the general overview, skip down to “The Future of Music and the Mind” (but that is the only one without a musical performance).

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Brain Awareness Week 2017 in Photos

Iran

A lecture demonstrating stereotaxic surgery on a rat, organized by Ferdowsi University of Mashhad in Iran.

Brain Awareness Week (BAW) has come and gone and now is the time to reflect on the success and reach of BAW partners’ efforts. Impressively, there are more than 800 events on the BAW Calendar of Events! Perhaps the best way to see the success of the campaign is to check out the BAW Photo Gallery.

Virginia

Minds games at Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute’s Brain School.

The photo gallery reflects the international nature of BAW, a global campaign with more than half of the events during the week occurring outside the US. From Germany to Australia, Brazil to Nigeria, Canada to Spain, partners coordinated events from all reaches of the globe. For BAW 2017, there were events in 40 countries and 46 US states!

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2017 Brain Awareness Video Contest

If you love crafting video ideas and have a passion for neuroscience, then the Brain Awareness Video Contest is just for you! The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) hosts the video challenge each year for those interested in developing a creative way to explain a brain-related concept. The best part is, anyone can enter!

Applicants have the opportunity to work directly with a member of SfN to sponsor and produce an educational video (the online entry form can only be submitted by a member of SfN). The first place winner will receive $1,000 and a trip to SfN’s 2017 annual neuroscience conference in Washington, DC, where the video will be presented. All submissions are due on June 15—so you have exactly one month left!

Last year’s first place price went to Akshay Balaji, a high school student from Virginia, for his video titled, “Hearing Red, Tasting Blue: When the Senses Mix!”

If you’re interested in entering the contest, please read the guidelines carefully. To watch past winning submissions for inspiration, click here. Good luck!

Diamond in the Rough World of Neuroscience

We have the ability to change our brains. Throughout life, even into old age, new neural connections can be formed. However, the idea the brain can change, called brain plasticity, is relatively new. Before 1963, scientists theorized that the brain remained static after birth and environment played no role in its potential.

The woman who changed the conversation around brain plasticity, Marian Diamond, professor emerita of integrative biology, University of California, Berkeley, was the subject of “My Love Affair with the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond,” a documentary that aired this week on PBS.

Diamond focused on proving that the brain is shaped by environment, not just genetics. She performed an experiment where one group of rats were kept in enriched cages, with toys and other rats to socialize with, while another group lived in impoverished cages, with no other rats or objects to interact with. Rats housed in enriched cages had brains that were six percent larger than the rats in impoverished cages. She reacted to this finding by running across the campus to tell her research partner the results. “This will change science,” he told her. And it did.

Diamond-2.jpg

Photo courtesy of Luna Productions

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Brainworks Video Nominated for 2017 Emmy Award

Last year, the Dana Foundation partnered with Eric Chudler, Ph.D., from the University of Washington to produce a video to educate kids about the wonders of neuroscience, and just last week, it was nominated for a 2017 Northwest Emmy Award!

Chudler is the executive director of the university’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, and as the host and executive producer of “Brainworks: Exercise and the Brain,” he leads students through various experiments and a meeting with molecular biologist John J. Medina, Ph.D., to learn more about the cognitive benefits of exercise. To watch the video in full, see below:

 

 

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