2018 World Science Festival

worldsciencefestival2018

The annual World Science Festival is back in New York City, starting May 29 and continuing until June 3. Since 2008, the week-long festival has collectively drawn over 2.5 million visitors from all over the world with the mission of cultivating a general public informed and inspired by science. Offering an exciting series of programs featuring experts spanning science and the arts, the World Science Festival will host discussions, debates, theatrical works, musical performances, and outdoor experiences to take science out of the laboratory and into the streets and parks of New York City.

We’ve covered their brain-related events in the past featuring Dana Alliance members, TV celebrities, renowned journalists, and many more. This year, events will uncover everything from black holes in space to cells in the human microbiome that can be linked to debilitating brain diseases. Neuroscientists Nim Tottenham, Ph.D., and Carla Shatz, who are both Dana Alliance members, will be guest speakers alongside Alvaro Pascual-Leone at the May 29 event: “The Nuts and Bolts of Better Brains: Harnessing the Power of Neuroplasticity.” Tottenham and Pascual-Leone were also featured authors of two Cerebrum articles last year on emotional development and brain enhancers.

We will be attending events throughout that week, so be sure to check in for detailed coverage. If you haven’t already, look through the 2018 event list and buy your tickets! They sell out fast.

And All That Jazz: A Q&A with Michael Shadlen, M.D., Ph.D.

Guest post by Kayt Sukel 

Famed artist Barbara Januszkiewicz once said, “Jazz is the art of thinking out loud.” Is it any wonder then that jazz has made its way into a variety of neuroscience laboratories to help researchers investigate the neural underpinnings of creativity, communication, and timing?

In honor of International Jazz Day, a day designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate jazz’ ability to connect people from all over the globe, Michael Shadlen, M.D., Ph.D. , a neurologist at Columbia University (and jazz guitar player), shares his thoughts about jazz, timing, and the celebration of what our brains do each and every day in the service of cognition.

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Photo: Michael Shadlen

You are a jazz guitarist. What first got you interested in playing jazz music?

MS: I’ve always been interested in music. When I was younger, I played the violin. Later, I switched to guitar—mainly because my violin teacher wanted me to choose between basketball, girls, and violin. So I switched to guitar. I played in a rock band for a long time doing covers. We had the Bar Mitzvah circuit down!

But the drummer in our band was in the jazz band in high school. And he turned me on to it. We’d go to this amazing café called Amazing Grace in Evanston, Illinois. They had mostly folk music but also a lot of jazz acts. I remember seeing Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, and all kinds of amazing artists play there. It was pretty spectacular.

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The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives Celebrates its 25th Anniversary

DABI_25_Anniversary

President George Bush designated the 1990s as the “Decade of the Brain” to “enhance public awareness of the benefits to be derived from brain research.” Yet, in the early 90s, even with this presidential proclamation, there was not much information about the brain available to the general public. Outreach was still uncommon and neuroscience funding had even decreased.

In response, thirty of the United States’ preeminent neuroscientists met at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) to discuss the progress and promise of brain research. Led by James D. Watson, Ph.D., co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, and David Mahoney, Dana Foundation chairman at the time, attendees of the meeting vowed to change the landscape of public support for neuroscience. Shortly after, those scientists became founding members of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI), an organization comprised of neuroscientists dedicated to advancing public awareness about the progress and promise of brain research. On this day in 1993, the creation of DABI was announced at a press conference in Washington, DC.

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From left: W. Maxwell Cowan, James Watson, Guy McKhann, and David Mahoney announce the creation of DABI at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

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Sapolsky on the Biology of Good and Evil

Guest post by Carl Sherman

“We’re a miserably violent species,” said Dana Alliance member Robert M. Sapolsky. “But we’re also a profoundly empathic, compassionate species.”

“How do we make sense of this… how do we understand the biology of it?”

sapolsky 10-2006, Stanford News Services

Robert M. Sapolsky, Ph.D.

In his keynote lecture that launched the “Learning & the Brain” conference in New York City last week, Sapolsky, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences, neurology, and neurological sciences at Stanford University, led his audience on a whirlwind tour of the many-layered terrain from which human acts that include “the horrific, the wonderful, and everything in between” arise.

“We’ll get nowhere if we look for one part of the brain, or one gene, or one childhood experience” responsible for brutal murder and sublime self-sacrifice, he said. “Instead, we have to do something more complicated: to ask what went on in a person’s brain in the second before; also in the minutes, hours, days before; what hormones did to make that brain sensitive. We have to go back to adolescence, to childhood, to the cultures our ancestors invented, to ecosystems, all the way to evolution.”

In his talk, Sapolsky enlivened systematic explanations with intriguing details and quirky research findings.

Among its diverse role in regulating emotion, he pointed out, the insula cortex generates gustatory disgust; it activates if you taste spoiled food. “But it mediates moral disgust as well. When we hear of someone doing something appalling, we’re ‘sick to our stomach.’ It leaves ‘a bad taste in the mouth.’ The insula cortex can’t tell the difference between rotten food and unsavory behavior.” Continue reading

Dana Press Offers Cerebrum Anthology 2017

anthology cover

When the cardboard cartons containing Cerebrum: Emerging Ideas in Brain Science 2018 arrived at our offices in midtown Manhattan a few weeks ago, pulling them out for the first time felt a bit like the birth of a new child. And like a newborn baby, each of the five anthology’s I’ve edited since coming to the Dana Foundation has its own look, personality, and distinct characteristics.

Let’s start with the look. The provocative cover is the work of J.F. Potevin, a French born, California-based artist whose work has appeared on the covers of Scientific American and Discover magazines. The cover also includes a complete list of contributors, many of them among the most distinguished neuroscientists in their research areas: Helen Mayberg on imaging, Beth Stevens on microglia, and Alvaro Pascual-Leone on deep brain stimulation, for example.

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