Music and Meaning: Hitting the Right Notes

Relating neuroscience to the humanities, politics, and other disciplines is a primary goal of the Center for Science and Society at Columbia University. Part of its mission is to sponsor programs that examine the implications of brain and other kinds of research and debate issues and ideas with scientists and inquisitive audience members.

The center’s most recent program was titled, “Music and Meaning,” and featured three prominent researchers who study the relationship between the brain and music: David Huron, arts and humanities distinguished professor, School of Music & Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences at Ohio State University; Aniruddh D. Patel, professor of psychology at Tufts University; and Elizabeth Tolbert, professor of musicology, Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University. The moderators for the event were two Columbia University scholars: Andrew Goldman, a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience; and Jacqueline Gottlieb, professor of neuroscience.

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Image: Shutterstock

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Free Public Event: To Tell the Truth!

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Image: Shutterstock

Truth and lying are complicated neurological behaviors. Although the role of the visual cortex and other areas of the brain are being identified, and their functions clarified, it is not likely that there is a “truth” center in the brain or a “lying” center. Scientists try to identify neurological correlates of truth-telling and lying in the laboratory, but it is not known if any findings of this type are operative in real life. This program will examine three important real-life aspects of truth and lying.

First, are we born with the ability to understand the concept of truth and lying? Victoria Talwar will discuss the childhood development of a sense of lying and truth-telling. Second, do our “minds” know what is true and what is false? Elizabeth Loftus will describe the phenomenon of so-called repressed memories and how it is possible for someone to be convinced they are telling the truth when they are not. Finally, what do we know about people who are consistent liars? Charles Dike will explore the nature of pathological lying and why some people lie seemingly without purpose.

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Neuroscience and Society: The Meditating Brain

Many people who meditate, practice yoga, or pray report a sense of calm and well-being that extends beyond the time spent in each practice. Using modern neuroscience techniques, researchers have sought to quantify effects of these practices. What do we know so far?

“You can think of meditation as a form of attention training,” said Sara Lazar of Harvard during a panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) last week. The practice involves sustained attention, awareness of your thoughts and sensations, and holding in mind the intention to stay focused. Showing mainly results from studies investigating mindfulness meditation, she described changes in brain structure seen in new meditators after just eight weeks, including increased volume of gray matter and the left hippocampus, and decrease in size of the amygdala.

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BraiNY Neuroscience in Downtown NYC

On Friday, one of NYC’s newest venues in the Lower East Side opened its doors to science enthusiasts and curious bystanders for an evening of happy hour and brain-related activities. The aptly titled event, “Pregame Your BraiNY,” took place at CAVEAT, which launched just over a month ago as an event space devoted to intellectual nightlife and “oddball programming.”

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Photo credit: Kate Downey

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Fall Offers a Slew of Brain-Themed Events in NYC

Brain Event

Summer is officially over and we’re gearing up for a busy–and brainy–fall in New York City. There are a lot of public events coming up that we wanted to highlight.

First up, our neuroscientist friends at braiNY are headed to CAVEAT on September 29 for a neuroscience-themed happy hour. With promises to teach you “science-based party tricks from experts that will make you the coolest kid at the party,” this is surely an event not to be missed.

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