Explore “The Senses” Now at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian

A new art exhibit in New York City is taking an innovative approach to how our brains receive and experience sights, sounds, textures, scents, and even taste. The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in the city’s Upper East Side is open to the public now through October 28 and is definitely worth a visit, no matter your age or background in science.

At “The Senses: Design Beyond Vision,” visitors are encouraged to take an active role in the various installations that test—and play with—the human body’s five classical senses. From a faux fur-covered wall that responds to touch with orchestral sounds, to wooden chairs that use patterns of vibrations to evoke oddly specific sensations (such as “getting zipped up” or “the needle on a sewing machine”), the multi-sensory experiences achieved by artists reminds guests of the brain’s powerful ability to process information.

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Running your hand along the synthetic fur—or rolling along the wall with your whole body—creates melodies by stringed instruments. The Tactile Orchestra, created by Studio Roos Meerman and KunstLAB Arnhem. Photo: Scott Rudd

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#WSF18: Harnessing the Power of Neuroplasticity

The World Science Festival in New York City, now in its 11th year, offers fascinating talks on a variety of science disciplines, and notably for us, neuroscience. At last week’s talk on neuroplasticity, we heard from neurobiologist and Dana Alliance member Carla Shatz, developmental psychologist and Dana Alliance member Nim Tottenham, and neuroscientist Alvaro Pascual-Leone. Moderated by neurosurgeon Guy McKhann, the discussion included what neuroplasticity is and why it’s important, critical periods of development in the brain, and the possibility of accessing it later in life for cognitive enhancement.

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From left: Guy McKhann, Carla Shatz, Nim Tottenham, Alvaro Pascual-Leone. Photo: World Science Festival/Greg Kessler

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2018 World Science Festival

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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.

Public Event: Managing Neuropsychiatric Symptoms in Neurodegenerative Disease

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Neuropsychiatric symptoms such as agitation, aggression and psychosis are frequently found in patients with neurodegenerative disorders. These symptoms increase the already significant burden of neurodegenerative diseases and complicate diagnosis and disease management, yet effective diagnostics and treatments are lacking.

Towards the goal of reducing this burden, this symposium will review state-of-the-art methods in the diagnosis and behavioral and pharmaceutical management of neuropsychiatric symptoms across a spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases. Speakers will address the challenges of defining neuropsychiatric symptoms in the context of neurodegenerative diseases, present findings regarding emerging diagnostic biomarkers and novel therapies, and discuss current estimates of associated societal and economic costs. A closing panel discussion will identify strategies to reduce these costs for patients, caregivers, and society.

Call for Abstracts

Abstract submissions are invited for a poster session. For complete submission instructions, please visit this online portal. The deadline for abstract submission is Friday, April 27, 2018.

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Coben Reveals Secrets to Success

A recent Brainwave program focused on a best-selling author’s approach to writing thrillers. The featured guest was Harlan Coben, the 56-year-old author of 30 novels (seven New York Times No. 1 bestsellers) and a Jersey guy with a shaved head and a keen sense of humor. Matching wits and finding neuroscience angles was David Eagleman, the Stanford University-based author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain and Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, and the writer and host of the Emmy-nominated PBS television series The Brain.

The Rubin Museum in New York City advertised the science of suspense as the program’s theme, but the conversation covered any number of areas that a writer of thrillers considers: memory, empathy, manipulation, human nature, and consciousness, to name a few.

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Coben explained that he helped jumpstart his thought process for his next book by sitting and observing people in Strawberry Fields in Central Park for three days.

Coben’s stories almost always contain woods and basketball and are set in North Jersey, where he lives (Ridgewood) with his pediatrician wife and two dogs. Growing up in a loud, Jewish home in Livingston, he said storytelling was essential to be heard at the dinner table. Even with four children, he says he still thinks of himself as a 17-year-old who is waiting for his life to begin. He believes that every individual has their own compelling story to tell and, in discussing human nature, said with a twinge of sarcasm, “We think we are uniquely complex, and no one knows what is really going on inside us. At the same time, we all think we are very good at reading the thoughts of others.”

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