Breathing in the Neuroscience

This week I had the opportunity of visiting the Museé de Fumeur. While the front of the shop was unassuming, behind the quaint smoke shop lay a hallway and rooms filled with the historical documentation of smoking. In Paris, it had shocked me how socially pervasive smoking culture was. It often felt as though I couldn’t go five steps without breathing in second-hand smoke. The difference in the acceptability and prevalence of smoking in the US and France had intrigued me.  The museum was fascinating as it helped me see how different cultures throughout time saw smoking and how smoking culture evolved. The coolest part of the museum, for me, was the collection of old smoking pipes. Each was ornately crafted and decorated, turning the pipe into a beautiful and artful piece instead of just a smoking device. I thought the intricate craftsmanship of each pipe was a measure of smoking’s high social value. In fact, the museum’s collection of portraits of famous people illustrated smoking as a form of expression, an accessory that could impact one’s identity and how they are viewed in society.

Image 1: Genevieve and Divi @ Musee de Fumeur

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Photo Blog 4

Image 1: Picture of Eiffel Tower

Paris isn’t anything if not romantic. During my first weekend in Paris, I took a walk from our apartment in the 15th arrondissement to the Seine, Champs de Mars, and Eiffel Tower. At every corner, the breathtaking architecture, aroma, and culture was inspiring and captivating. I was intrigued by the fact that over centuries social definitions of beauty for people have changed, yet French architects had created buildings whose beauty was unbowed by time. The striking fact that I was attributing beauty to an inanimate object surprised me as well. Later, I stumbled across an article that talked about the Neuroscience of Architecture and how characteristics of buildings stimulated pleasure receptors in our brain. It really is possible to fall in love with a city!

Photo Blog 3

Image 1: Divi in front of La petite salpetriere

For our neuroethics class this week, we had the amazing opportunity to attend a Neuroethics conference at La Pitie Salpetriere. There, we heard conversations and seminars from leading scholars on how neuroscience has developed and what its ethical implications could be. When we walked through the hospital complex, I was amazed by the beautiful architecture and landscaping. Coming from the United States, the milieu of Salpetriere was something I had never seen before nor imagined. La Salpetriere is known as one of the birthplaces of modern neuroscience, being able to visit there and learn about how advancements in neuroscience are changing the way we see, characterize, and understand the brain was truly a dream come true.

Photo Blog 2

Image 1: Assorted Cheese

This week I had the pleasure of visiting a Fromagerie, or cheese shop, in Paris. Growing up I had always been the cheese lover, but I hadn’t put any thought behind why humans liked cheese in the first place. A paper we were reading in class, by Ano et al. (2015), claimed that specific kinds of cheese may have anti-inflammatory properties that can help stave off neurodegeneration. The excursion for me, however, was a time to explore the enormous variety of cheese that was native to France. While I may not have loved all of them, it was really interesting to see how different region specific techniques had developed to make tasty and unique cheese.

Photo Blog 1

Image 1: Stade de Frace

This photo was taken when my NBB class went to attend the national rugby final at Stade de France. While I was unfamiliar with the sport, the environment was electric and it was fun to see such a high profile game at this famous stadium. This excursion tied back to my NBB 402 class’s focus on the impact concussions can have on the human brain over time. Specifically, it has been shown that rugby players have nearly 9 head impacts per match and that individuals in this population are at higher risk for neurodegenerative disorders. This experience helped me contextualize the paper we were reading in class and understand how concussions are impacting real people.

Neurosyphilis and its precursors

This week I had the amazing opportunity of visiting the Musee de Moulage! The museum houses a collection of different dermatological illnesses and diseases. As I walked across the museum, I was amazed by the intricate casts that delineated the different conditions doctors had come across during their career. While many of the casts were grotesque, I realized that they served an important role—educating future generations of dermatologists. The elaborate 3D sculptures of faces, limbs, bodies, and genitalia gave future doctors an ability to recognize rare, dangerous infections that patients might present with. While I was unfamiliar with most of the dermatological diseases presented in the museum one caught my eye: Syphilis.

Image 1: Entering the Musee de Moulage.

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Craving something new!

I have always been a fan of chocolate. Ever since I was a little kid, any box, bag, or bar of chocolate barely lasted a day in our house before my brother, and I devoured it. Who could blame us? The rich and sweet taste of chocolate was irresistible, and it never got boring. Throughout the years I had never questioned my love for chocolate. I found my love supported by the hundreds of commercials that aired on TV displaying different types of this sweet treat. This week, for my Neuroscience class we analyzed a paper on cocoa flavanols—an ingredient in chocolate. I was surprised! Could our societal love for chocolate have a biological basis?

To supplement our cocoa flavanol exploration, we also visited a chocolate museum to understand chocolate’s history. It was very interesting to see the different ways chocolate was prepared in different areas and times throughout history. In ancient South American Civilizations, cocoa beans were used as currency and were even often offered to deities. It was clear to see that cocoa beans held tremendous value to the people of these civilizations. Later, we even had the opportunity to make chocolate ourselves. It was amazing to see the chocolate making process and how it has evolved over human history. Continue reading “Craving something new!”

Shocking Psychiatry

This week my Neuroscience class visited the Museum on the History of Medicine. The experience was extraordinary– I learned how medical techniques have transformed over the course of human history. Each technological evolution explored the human body in a novel way and challenged our understanding of physiology and disease.

Some parts of the exhibit were grotesque- replete with bone saws, human tables, and blunt skull drills. Others were awe-inspiring in how surgeons had found unique ways to battle different kinds of diseases and afflictions. One device that had captivated our entire class was an electric shocking device from the late 1800’s. The device would deliver an electric current to patients with depression. As our guide explained the nature of the invention, an almost audible gasp came from our class. We had all read about the medical torture that the mentally ill had gone through in the last few centuries. For many in our class, this device embodied the poor medical understanding medicine has had of mental disease. I, on the other hand, was shocked at how right the inventors of this device had been.

Image 1: Electric-shocking device for treatment of depression.

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I don’t think I could ever leave music behind.

Image 1: Divi playing at his senior recital.

As my fingers dance across the ebony board, I find myself lost in the music. After years of practice, patience, and attention I stand in front of my friends, family, and teacher ready to present my final work—my senior recital. For me, this performance was my swan song and the end of a 13 yearlong journey playing the violin. Thus, when my bow hit the strings, I fell into my music and clung onto every single, last moment of my concerto. When my bow finally fell to my side at the end of the song, I could hardly remember what had just happened. All I could feel was euphoria. Continue reading “I don’t think I could ever leave music behind.”