Memory as a Creative Act

Creativity (2).jpgDaphna Shohamy, Ph.D., is more comfortable in her lab at Columbia University than on stage in front of an audience. So why did she agree to participate in the 2018 Brainwave series for a live discussion? Because art and science are more alike than they seem, she said, and she wanted to help explain that.

The series pairs accomplished professionals with neuroscientists for a themed discussion at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. When asked who she would like as a partner for the discussion on the relationship between narrative/storytelling and memory, Shohamy knew right away she wanted to be paired writer Nicole Krauss, author of New York Times bestselling books Great House and The History of Love, because writers truly “understand the force of memory.”

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#Brainweek Partner Interview: Cecilia M. Fox

This is the second in a series of Brain Awareness Week partner interviews, in which partners share their experiences and tips for planning successful events. Cecilia M. Fox, Ph.D., is a professor of biological sciences and the director of the Neuroscience Program at Moravian College. She is also president of the Lehigh Valley Society for Neuroscience Chapter.

ceciliafoxheadshotFor several years, you’ve organized a film series during Brain Awareness Week. What topics have you explored and why do you think this type of event works well to engage the public?

Since I am a neuroscientist at a liberal arts institution, we deliberately plan our annual BAW Film and Seminar Series involving topics that bridge the humanities and sciences. We have offered programs focusing on themes such as The Art of Neuroscience, The Musical Brain, Brain Sex, and The Neuroscience Underlying Poverty and Inequality. By offering such broad topics, we can to make connections across disciplines and attract a more diverse audience. We publicize events through our Lehigh Valley SfN Chapter website and through local connections in colleges, public schools, public libraries and assisted living communities. We also ensure that our Brain Awareness Outreach Programs continue with this interdisciplinary thread. In addition to brain dissections, reflex testing, and EEG recordings, we offer “artsy” neuroscience related stations entitled “Dendritic Art,” “Lego Concussion Man,” and “Neuron Lanyards!”

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Free Public Event: The Aging Brain

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Image: Shutterstock

What does every congressional district have in common? Baby Boomers – the sizable generation of people now in their 50s to 70s. It is well documented that the collective aging of the Boomers will have public health impacts. This includes the impacts of the aging brain. Come and learn what happens to the brain as we get older, what happens when the process goes wrong, and what we can do to strengthen the brain as we age.

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Digital Health Awards Winner

healthawardswinner

The Dana Foundation’s Successful Aging & Your Brain PSA has won a Silver Award in the Digital Health Awards Spring 2017 competition! The video features a 90-second animation with four factors on how to live a brain healthy life. The award was submitted under the Educational Institution section and the Web-based Resource category.

The Digital Health Awards recognizes high-quality health resources for consumers and health professionals. Submissions were judged by a panel of health technology professionals and graded based on content, format, success in reaching the targeted health audience, and overall quality. The awards program is organized by the Health Information Resource Center, a clearinghouse for professionals who work in consumer health fields.

 

Remembering Breakthroughs

A New York Times profile earlier this week on Brenda A. Milner, Sc.D., credited her with changing “the course of brain science for good as a newly minted Ph.D. in the 1950s by identifying the specific brain organ that is crucial to memory formation.”

Milner

Photo credit: Owen Egan; Courtesy of the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University

Milner, a Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member, identified the hippocampus and other areas of the brain that process memory while working with Henry Molaison, more commonly known as H.M., who developed amnesia at age 29 from the removal of tissue from both his medial temporal lobes, a surgery that was supposed to alleviate his epilepsy.

With the help of H.M., Milner discovered that memory was processed in the medial temporal lobes, which was why he could no longer form new long-term memories. He was, however, able to learn new tasks, meaning he must remember the actions in another part of the brain. His ability to acquire new skills proved to Milner there are two types of memory that occur in different parts of the brain – explicit memory, which recalls describable details like facts and events, and implicit memory, for unconscious memories such as actions and procedures. Milner described this finding in a 2010 Dana Foundation interview:

I went to the McGill psychology department and borrowed learning tasks to give him [H.M]. I took down a maze task, which I was sure he wouldn’t learn, and he didn’t. It was a nice control test, because he showed absolutely no progress over three days. Then I gave him the mirror drawing task. H.M. did 30 trials over three days and at the end of the last trial, his performance was absolutely perfect. I can still remember him looking at what he had drawn, saying: “This is strange. I thought this would be difficult, but it looks as though I’ve done it rather well.” I was very excited because it showed that he could have this excellent performance without any awareness that the reason he was doing so well was that he had had the chance to practice the task over three days.

When I saw that H.M.  had this beautiful learning of something he had no memory of having acquired, I then speculated that this task, which involved motor learning, depended on a different system in the brain. His surgeon had damaged his medial temporal system, but this was a kind of learning that was unaffected by this operation, so therefore it must involve other structures.

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