A Tasty Program at the Rubin

The lady has an extraordinary palate, a palate of incredible finesse. She picks up hot ingredients, touches them, and she thinks about this image on the plate. She has the most disciplined execution on a plate that we’ve ever seen. But the palate is where it’s just extraordinary. And honestly, I know chefs with Michelin stars that don’t have palates like hers.                           –Chef Gordon Ramsay, MasterChef judge

Christine Ha’s blindness didn’t stop her from defeating more than 30,000 home cooks to secure the coveted MasterChef title, a $250,000 cash prize, and a cookbook deal. Her extraordinary story caught the attention of the organizers of the Brainwave series at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City, who invited her to talk to neuroscientist David Linden about the food-brain connection in a program entitled, “How Does a Blind Cook Cook?

ha-brainwave

Photo credit: Asya Danilova

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Brain Awareness Week 2017: New Downloadable Materials

Brain Awareness Week 2017 (March 13-19) is approaching and new materials are now available for both adults and kids on the Brain Awareness Week (BAW) website! The fact sheets are easy for BAW partners to print and distribute and provide an easy way to disseminate concise information on the brain to a broad audience. The Dana Alliance’s newly translated materials are particularly useful for international BAW partners.

Brain Briefs on “The Senses” (“Vision”, “Hearing” and “Smell & Taste”) are now available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and German on the Downloadable Materials for Adults page! They provide information on how the senses work, how perception happens at the neurological level, and address problems that can arise, such as hearing loss from loud noises, vision loss in the aging eye, and decline in smell and taste as we age and due to illness. In addition, there are fact sheets that answer common questions about the brain based on Q&A: Answering Your Questions About the Brain translated into Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and German. There are also three new versions of the new “What is Brain Awareness Week?” animation, featuring translations in French, Portuguese, and Spanish:

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New Brain Briefs on the Senses

Do you know that emotions increase activity in the visual cortex, so “colors look more vivid and details stand out when we’re happy, angry, or frightened”?  Or that hair cells play a vital function in hearing and that as we get older the “progressive loss of hair cells means less acute hearing, particularly in higher frequencies”? How about that olfactory receptor cells are themselves neurons that are “on one end in direct contact with the external world and the other in direct contact with the brain”?  Have you ever wanted to learn more about how our senses function?

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SfN Brain Awareness Video Contest Winners

The Society for Neuroscience has announced the winners of the 2015 Brain Awareness video contest. Anyone can enter and work with a member of the Society for Neuroscience in their area to produce an educational video about the brain.

The first place winner, Matthew Sugrim’s, video discusses our perception of color and poses the question: “Do We See The Same Red?” The video is a stunningly simple and colorful animation of the neurochemical process of sight, specifically how the brain turns photons into color. He insists that “it is complicated, but it’s not magic. Variations in the composition of cones in our eyes and the exact wiring of our brains may cause very slight variations in color perception.” Regardless, red really is the same red to everyone. Interestingly, many people have learned from the recent viral phenomenon of The Dress that lighting and color context can create much more variance in how people perceive color.

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An Evening at the Rubin Museum: Attached to Touch

When I think of grated mountain yam (also known as “tororo”), my mind goes back eight years to when I first tried it in Japan. My great-aunt sent a large cardboard box from the countryside filled with potatoes, carrots, beans, a sack of rice wrapped in cloth, and mountain yams—all harvested that morning. My grandmother grated the tororo over a bowl until it was filled with the slimy, white paste, which we ate over rice. It was refreshing and bizarre—and so delicious that I became obsessed.

If you were to ask Tom Colicchio (renowned chef and celebrated judge on Bravo TV’s Top Chef) what he thinks of grated mountain yam, he would picture the same bowl of slimy paste and cringe with disgust. In fact, that’s exactly what he did on Wednesday evening when Dr. David J. Linden asked if there was a specific texture in food that he couldn’t stand. Unfortunately, Colicchio did not elaborate on his memory of mountain yam; though it must have been pretty bad judging by the way he shuddered. We make associations with certain smells, textures, and tastes the first time we experience them, and these associations greatly affect the way we respond when we encounter them again, Dr. Linden said.

As the first event of the Rubin Museum’s eighth annual Brainwave series, the Top Chef and Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist paired up to discuss the importance of the basic five senses –including hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, tasting—in the kitchen. They also discussed how genetics play a major role in the foods we favor or disdain, and why human evolution has changed the way our bodies react to certain flavors.

Tom Colicchio (left) speaking with David J. Linden (right). Photo courtesy of the Rubin Museum of Art.

Tom Colicchio (left) speaking with David J. Linden (right). Photo courtesy of the Rubin Museum of Art.

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