2017 World Science Festival

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The World Science Festival celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and is once again offering a great series of programs. From May 30 to June 4 in New York City, you can attend events ranging from a trivia night on mummies to a panel talk on the biggest questions in cosmology.

Of course, we’re most interested in the brain-related events, and they don’t disappoint. On Wednesday, May 31, psychologists and neuroscientists will tackle creativity and artificial intelligence–can computers be creative? Friday, June 2, a panel will explore brain development and the roots of human social connections. On the last day of the festival, attendees will hear an update on the Human Connectome Project. Two Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives members will present at this event: neurobiologist David Van Essen, author of a 2016 Cerebrum article on the connectome, and developmental neurobiologist Jeff W. Lichtman.

Tickets are on sale now and sell out quickly! And stay tuned for coverage of some of the events on this blog.

Brainworks Video Nominated for 2017 Emmy Award

Last year, the Dana Foundation partnered with Eric Chudler, Ph.D., from the University of Washington to produce a video to educate kids about the wonders of neuroscience, and just last week, it was nominated for a 2017 Northwest Emmy Award!

Chudler is the executive director of the university’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, and as the host and executive producer of “Brainworks: Exercise and the Brain,” he leads students through various experiments and a meeting with molecular biologist John J. Medina, Ph.D., to learn more about the cognitive benefits of exercise. To watch the video in full, see below:

 

 

Artificial Intelligence, Avatars, and the Future

Most people first heard the word “avatar” from James Cameron’s Avatar, one of the top grossing films of all time. Some consider avatars an extension of the self that can save the world in the context of virtual reality or a video game. In Hinduism, avatars are considered incarnations of deities or immortals. The Hindu god Vishnu, for example, has many avatars, including the Buddha.

Helping to sort out the avatar conundrum and the fascinating field of artificial intelligence was a Brainwave series program at the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC last Wednesday night. The program—“A.I. and Avatar: The New Explorers,”— began with a head-spinning question: “Can machines and other avatars expand the human experience—and perhaps even take our minds to the stars?”

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Video Games and the Brain: Action, Strategy, and Pac-Man

Playing some video games can cause serious harm, while others might improve or restore skills, suggested three panelists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week.

“Not all games are created equal,” said Chandramallika Basak, a researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas. She and her colleagues study how memory and other skills change across our lifespan; part of that includes research investigating brain and cognitive effects of different games, especially as people get older.

Not everything in your brain declines with age (crystallized memory stays strong), but she’s looking for activities that could strengthen the ones that do, especially working memory (including how fast you can update current information) and task-switching (how fast you can switch when multitasking). Assuming there is a “functional threshold” for success at daily life, she wonders, “Can we keep this declining cognitive abilities stable for a few more years” above this threshold. “If I’m going to live to 90, I’d rather get it [dementia] at 89” as opposed to earlier, she said.

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AAAS’s Deborah Runkle moderates the Q&A session with, from left, Craig Anderson, Hilarie Cash, and Chandramallika Basak.

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Dana Press Offers Cerebrum Anthology 2016

cerebrum anthology 2016 cover

It somehow seemed appropriate that this year’s Cerebrum anthology arrived at our offices just in time for the start of Brain Awareness Week (BAW), the global campaign to raise awareness on the progress and benefits of brain research. Cerebrum has the same goal that inspired the Dana Foundation’s idea for BAW in 1996. We just go about it a little differently.

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