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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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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2017 NYC Regional Brain Bee Champions

For the first-place winner of this year’s Regional Brain Bee, biology was always the high school senior’s favorite subject in school. But it wasn’t until she was 14 years old that Winsome Ching narrowed her focus to neuroscience. After visiting a museum celebrating Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud in Vienna, Ching was “hooked” by his theories on the brain, she says. Since then, she has transitioned from Freud’s psychoanalyses to the biological aspects of brain function.

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Ching’s passion for neuroscience shined through at the Brain Bee this past Saturday, along with her peers from 33 high schools spanning across Long Island, Westchester County, and New York City’s five boroughs. Half of Columbia University’s Alfred Lerner Hall was filled by a grid of white tables, adorned with the students’ name cards, directly facing the judges’ table; the other half was bustling with family members, friends, and teachers all gathered to cheer on the participating students. In the time before the competition began, students were scattered throughout the auditorium for one last chance to review notes and textbook chapters on the brain. Once all participants checked in, the competition began.

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Mysteries of the Sleeping Brain

SleepPunching your fist through a window and eating a snack in bed are drastically different behaviors, but both could be considered effects of parasomnia–a disorder characterized by abnormal or unusual behavior of the nervous system during sleep.

Exploring and explaining different types of parasomnia were Elizabeth Hand, author of award winning gothic nonfiction books, and Columbia University neurologist Carl Bazil, M.D., Ph.D., at a program last Friday night at the Rubin Museum in New York City. Hand talked about the impact that her lasting parasomnia has had on her life. Paired with Bazil for a program in the museum’s Brainwave series, her curiosity about her very real reactions to dreams and night terrors (such as the aforementioned window punching) made for a lively discussion with Bazil about the science behind her actions.

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Huntington’s Disease on NY1

Earlier this week, geneticist and Dana Alliance member Nancy Wexler, Ph.D., was featured in a segment on New York City’s local news channel, NY1. As Higgins Professor of Neuropsychology at Columbia University and president of the Hereditary Disease Foundation, Wexler is a pioneer in the race to find a cure for Huntington’s disease (HD).

The fatal, genetic disease causes a painful deterioration of physical and mental abilities, due to the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. According to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, “HD is known as the quintessential family disease because every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of carrying the faculty gene.”

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