The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal


Blending art and neuroscience, a new exhibit in New York City showcases the drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience. The exhibit opened yesterday at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, and you have until March 31 to take it in.

ramon y cajal astrocytes in hippocampus

A drawing by Cajal of astrocytes in the hippocampus of the human brain. Image: Instituto Cajal del Consjo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid/CSIC

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Science Meets Art in New Kandel Book

Creativity (2).jpgWe don’t typically think of science and art as rooted in similar methodologies or techniques. Science is considered a strict, fact-based study of the world around us, while art is a no-rules expression of creativity. By thinking of the two disciplines as distinctly different, there has not been much study of their similarities.

Dana Alliance member Eric R. Kandel, M.D., noticed the lack of interdisciplinary study of artistic and scientific methodologies and used it as the foundation for his new book, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures. The book examines modern neuroscience alongside modern art, focusing on how both disciplines use reductive techniques. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal about his book, Kandel said:

This is reductionism—to take a complex problem and select a central, but limited, component that you can study in depth. Rothko—only color. And yet the power it conveys is fantastic. Jackson Pollock got rid of all form.

[In neuroscience] you have to look at how behavior is changed by environmental experience…I began to realize we’ve got to find a very simple learning situation…I looked around for an animal that had the kind of [simple] nervous system I would like. Aplysia [has] the largest nerve cells in the animal kingdom.

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Genius: Mind, Brain, and Molecules at the 92nd Street Y

What makes someone a genius? According to Nobel Laureate Eric R. Kandel, M.D., it is a person who is a “game-changer” and who “through their work, permanently changed the way we perceive the world.” It is less about IQ and more about “drive, persistence, and creativity.” At the 92nd Street Y’s third annual 7 Days of Genius in Manhattan, four eminent scientists, arguably geniuses themselves, discussed historical geniuses of the mind, brain, and molecules. The three speakers included two members of the Dana Alliance, Larry W. Swanson, Ph.D., and Thomas M. Jessell, Ph.D., as well as Robert Michels, M.D. Kandel, also a Dana Alliance member, moderated the event.

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New Cerebrum Article Looks at Biomarkers for Depression

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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Alda Crushes It

As editor of Cerebrum, the online neuroscience journal for The Dana Foundation, a primary function of my role is to invite some of the world’s top neuroscientists to write articles (with citations) to explain the latest developments in their specialty areas to lay readers. If they agree to the assignment, I encourage them to use conversational language, anecdotes, storytelling, and their own voice in communicating what are often complex and hard-to-explain topics: tau protein, grid cells, circadian rhythm, and stem cells—to name just a few. Sometimes they get it; more often they do not. Continue reading

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