Neuroscience and Society: Buildings and the Brain

Panelists Justin Hollander, Eve Edelstein, and Margaret Calkins listen to a question from the audience. About 1/3 of the people in the audience were architects.

“Design saves lives,” Eve Edelstein says. She and her two fellow panelists at a recent neuroseries event at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC, described research and real-world examples of how changing aspects of our built environment can improve people’s mood, performance, and way-finding skills.

When Edelstein was at school studying clinical neuroscience, “neuroarchitecture” was defined as architecture of the brain; now the definition has changed, “and we’re asking how people—how brains—interact with buildings,” the influence of buildings on the brain, the mind, and the body. Now research director for the Human Experience Lab and Gadget Lab at Perkin+Will, she focused her talk on aspects of sound and hearing.

“We need to start changing acoustics for not just building performance but human performance,” Edelstein said. She described emergency rooms in which the sound level averages 80 decibels (equivalent to a jet flying overhead). Normal speech is 55 db and you need a 20 db difference to distinguish speech from noise, so “imagine trying to hear the difference between adrenaline and aspirin with the sound of an airplane engine going on around us,” she said. Citing the number of people suffering “preventable adverse events” in hospitals as around 8 million, she said if designers could alter just 1 percent, by making the areas quiet enough to hear better, “that would be in this country, each year, 80,000 people.” Continue reading

Free Public Event: Buildings and the Brain

 

Building and the Brain.jpg

Image: Shutterstock

“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us” – Winston Churchill

When he made this remark, the great orator was actually speaking about the reconstruction of the House of Commons, but the sentiment is equally true for the more modest buildings we see around us every day and the spaces we inhabit regularly. Using scientific methodology, architects and neuroscientists are increasingly collaborating to explore the variety of human experiences that can change with the design of buildings. Does it matter to our brains if a building has lots of curves or lots of sharp angles? As we walk the streets of our cities, what are the effects on our brains of façade design, greenspaces, and street geometry? Sophisticated neuroimaging technologies have made it possible to answer questions like these. Finally, the program will address the special challenges when designing buildings and rooms for individuals suffering from the extreme neurological deficits that are present in dementia, in general, and Alzheimer’s, in particular.

When:
Thursday, March 15, 2018
5:30 – 8:00 pm (EST)

Where:
AAAS Headquarters
1200 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005

Speakers:
Margaret Calkins, Ph.D.
Board Chair
IDEAS Institute

Eve Edelstein, M.Arch., Ph.D.
Research Director, Human Experience and Gadget Labs
Perkins+Will

Justin Hollander, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Urban and Environmental Policy
Tufts University

Discussant:
Frederick Marks, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Six Sigma Green Belt
Visiting Scholar and Research Collaborator
Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Register by: March 13, 2018 11:59 PM Eastern Time

This event is hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Dana Foundation.

Neurotechnology and the Military

“Every generation has been trying to figure out how to use brain-related technology to improve security,” from caffeine to computer enhancement, bioethicist Jonathan Moreno, Ph.D., said at the Capitol Hill briefing “Neurotechnology and the Military” last week. Moreno and neuroscientist Leigh Hochberg, M.D., Ph.D., had teamed up to give a similar presentation at a luncheon six years ago, and on Friday the two brought us up to date.

Hochberg

Leigh Hochberg used video clips to show how BrainGate works (photo courtesy of The Society for Neuroscience).

Thanks to a half-century of federally funded basic research, researchers have developed a chip carrying 144 electrodes that can be inserted into people’s skulls (over the motor cortex) and send impulses to computers to drive a cursor or a mechanical object, said Hochberg, the director of the Center for Neurotechnology and Neurorecovery at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Brown University and Harvard Medical School.

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Free Public Briefing on Neurotechnology and the Military

In the Washington, DC area on Friday lunchtime? Come learn about cutting-edge, brain-related technologies that are particularly relevant to members of the military and their families.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Come to a free public luncheon briefing, “Neurotechnology and the Military,” hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), through the support of the Dana Foundation, and in conjunction with the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus.

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Neuroethics Society Meeting: Science Communication

Tali Sharot, Alan Leshner, Joseph Fins, and Ed Yong

Gone are the days when science communication mainly consisted of publishing in peer-reviewed journals. Instead, there’s a “hunger” among scientists, and particularly young scientists, to communicate their work to public, said Alan Leshner, CEO emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI).

But just because the enthusiasm is there doesn’t mean that communicating science to a lay audience is an easy feat for scientists. “It’s not an innate skill, it’s an acquired skill,” Leshner said during a panel discussion at the International Neuroethics Society annual meeting yesterday in Washington, DC.   Continue reading

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