PSP 3000

(caption: I found a childhood treasure, the PSP 3000.)

During the class visit to the Musee des Arts et Metiers, all of us were on the lookout for communication devices for an NBB 471 extra credit assignment. To reflect on my thoughts for that assignment, I noted how advances in technology have reflected a cultural desire for immediacy. This is a need that accompanies globalization and expansion as a way to remain connected (whether for business, social, or other motivations). Another reflection is found in contrast: current society values visual elements very highly whereas the early adoption of technologies prioritized functionality. 

However, my favorite (sort of) communication device I found was the PSP 3000, my first personal gaming device–it is crazy to think that it is now a museum artifact! This device struck a beautiful balance between aesthetic and functional design. In relation to neuroscience, recent “video gaming studies showed beneficial effects on cognition and the brain”; it would have been helpful to present this to my parents years ago, but I doubt it would have changed their disapproval of video games. 


Anthropology Hype

This is a collection of brains in the context of anthropology. (c.f. the reflections 🙂

This Monday, the class visited Musee de l’Homme, an anthropology museum in Paris–right next to the Eiffel Tower. During the visit, there were audio descriptions in English for a large number of exhibits which was much appreciated especially since the majority of museums we have visited as a class only had French plaque descriptions. There was definitely a connection between neuroscience and anthropology here:


“how anthropology and neuroscience can inform a model of the neural substrate for cultural imitative learning”

However, my favorite exhibit was the sneaker exhibit; I had a hypebeast phase, and so it was interesting to read about the origins of the rubber for the soles and construction of sneakers–products that would grow into luxury and even high fashion items today.




What would your pen name be?

Today (Wednesday), the class visited the Pantheon in Paris. I had no idea that such a building existed, and I was very surprised to know that a select few were buried in the crypts beneath it.

Personally, the big name for me was François-Marie Arouet, known by his nom de plume (pen name) Voltaire. In my preparation to come to Paris, I read his book, “Candide,: which turned out to be a very readible story that I might even compare to a text such as “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. 

This is a statue of the famous philosopher of the pen name, Voltaire. Very cool.

I wonder, however, whether any of the folks buried in the crypt would even consent to being there–it seems that these “important” people were moved posthumously. Perhaps this was a disservice.

The list of 70 figures buried in the crypt include Rosseau, Curie, and even Braille. 

I did not know very much about Marie Curie prior to the visit, and I found that there was actually a pubmed article dedicated to her:

“Marie Curie was a remarkable woman whose discoveries broke new ground in physics and chemistry and also opened the door for advances in engineering, biology, and medicine. She broke new ground for women in science: she was, for example, the first woman to receive a doctor of science degree in France, the first woman to win Nobel Prize, the first woman to lecture at the Sorbonne, the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, and the first Nobel Laureate whose child also won a Nobel Prize. Her life offers insights into the changing role of women in science and academia over the past century. It also offers examples of many ways in which scientists can, and should, work to improve the educational programs and career opportunities available to those who follow in their footsteps.”

However, in response to the prompt offered by the NBB 402W rubric on the question:

“Marie Curie is one of the only women at the Pantheon. Why?”

I felt it would be more appropriate to talk about a female scientist who was not celebrated and honored due to the systemic imbalance of power she faced. In our NBB 471 class, our guest speaker, Dr. Herve Chneiweiss, made several references to Dr. James Watson. Even in the context of this discussion, there was no credit given to Rosalind Franklin who actually discovered the “informative X-ray diffraction patterns of DNA that provided vital clues for James Watson and Francis Crick’s double-stranded helical model.” 

Rather, she was overshadowed by the sexism in science, back when DNA was discovered, and today, in class when she was not a part of the conversation of genetic research. She continued her research and maintained correspondence with Watson and Crick through her study of diffraction patterns of Tobacco mosaic virus–details all swept under the rug by very apparent sexism everywhere we look. 

To answer the question of “why” the one-word answer is: sexism.

This is a picture of me being Voltaire. He actually satirizes sexism in the book that I read, Candide. I would recommend it. Go Voltaire.

p.s. my last Parker pen, a gift from a dear high school friend, was stolen on a trip to Barcelona, and so i purchased a Caran d’Ache pen from Palais du Stylo. i would highly recommend a visit here if you are interested in a new writing utensil. also, a very fun fact is that is that

“Caran d’Ache was the pen name for Emmanuel Poiré (6 November 1858 – 25 February 1909). The pseudonym comes from Russian: карандаш, romanized: karandash meaning “pencil” in Turkic languages. While his first work glorified the Napoleonic era, he went on to create “stories without words” and as a contributor to newspapers such as the Le Figaro, he is sometimes hailed as one of the precursors of comic strips. The Swiss art products company Caran d’Ache is named after him”

My precious.

this fun post-script fact brings us to a full circle ending as Voltaire was a pen name as well.



Brain de Fontainebleu 

As we toured the seemingly endless halls of Chateau Fontainebleu, I thought about how distinct each room in the manor appeared. There were countless styles to admire from the gorgeous Gobelin tapestries to the baroque frescos to Marie Antoinette’s lavish furniture possession; I was overwhelmed and overstimulated. I was trying hard to connect the dots, to make sense of the rise and fall of these great epochs in French history. I felt that each corridor was a synapse between the many neuron chambers–each complete with a world of organelles from lost ages. I couldn’t make sense of it by the units, but the Chateau made sense as a composite. Perhaps this is how we must view our brains. Consciousness isn’t something so much to be understood as it is to be experienced. As we navigate our memories that construct the rooms within our minds, it should not be so much of a priority to rationalize which doors lead where (for surely, you will get lost), but rather, an exercise to clean and maintain what parts of yourself to which you are still able to access.

Pere Proust

This is the grave of Marcel Proust from our class visit to the Père Lachaise Cemetery. I first discovered who he was from a reference to his work, “In Search of Lost Time.” I have not directly read his work yet, but I read Alain de Botton’s ‘self-help’ book titled, “How Proust Can Change Your Life” where I was encouraged to question many of the social norms and ways of life that most of us find ourselves stuck in. In relation to the class, many have said that Proust was actually a pioneer in neuroscience as a theorist, and modern work simply builds upon the artists of past generations. Proust shined a light upon the nature of the mind and on consciousness.

More here if you are interested:

Dermatology includes Cyclops

Last week, the class attempted to visit the Musee des Moulages, but we were turned away as a result of a scheduling error. Our tickets were for the “7th” of June rather than the “1st.” Today, we bravely made the trek back to see the unique collection of wax dermatological models.

The Hospital Saint-Louis was ordered to be built by Henri IV who wanted plague victims to be treated outside the walls of the capital. I was able to get a selfie with him 🙂

Henri IV and I almost touch hands. Historical moment.

This same hospital eventually hosted the genius of Jean-Louis Alibert who introduced the new medical discipline of dermatology. The idea to represent pathologies in three-dimensional representations was inspired by Jules Baretta who made models of fruit from paper board. According to the museum guide, Baretta made his first wax dermatological model in 1867, and eventually, the museum of wax models was established as a learning tool for the students of the hospitals. 

Apparently, the Hospital Saint-Louis models were the inspiration for similar museums across the world and established a reputation that manifested in over 4,800 pieces today–the largest collection of its kind in the world. It is interesting to think that the majority of visualizations that students have access to today are primarily digital, and it may even be the case that the future will allow augmented reality renditions of these models.

Walking around the exhibit, there were many genital representations marred by a variety of disfigurations. I had a difficult time discerning what the diseases were (the descriptions were in French and there was no tour or explanation), but I definitely saw multiple sections dedicated to syphilis. This closely relates to our class discussion of syphilis wherein the disease presents itself in the skin as well as the forms of neuro and optical forms distinguished in our paper. 

“The first symptom of primary syphilis is a usually painless open sore called a chancre (pronounced “shanker”). The chancre can appear within 10 days to 3 months (usually 2 to 6 weeks) after exposure.” As such, there were plenty of wax models of chancres throughout the exhibit, but I was not allowed to take any pictures as the majority of them were on the first floor by the supervisors.

However, on the second floor, I had a little more liberty to take a picture for the benefit of the class–a notable exhibit I saw was one dedicated to “abnormalities,” and I saw a model of a human “cyclops” baby. Again, the museum had a no photography policy, but I took one for the class, for science. 

[Warning, graphic image below]

This is a graphic model of cyclopia–more information is available in the link below.

Here is what I found in research about cyclopia:

“Cyclopia (also cyclocephaly or synophthalmia) is a rare form of holoprosencephaly and is a congenital disorder (birth defect) characterized by the failure of the embryonic prosencephalon to properly divide the orbits of the eye into two cavities. It is the severest facial expression of the holoprosencephaly syndrome.1 Its incidence is 1 in 100 000 in newborns.”

This condition is interesting to read through especially considering our discussion of ‘ocular’ syphilis. There is little knowledge on the mechanisms or vision with cyclopia given the extremely low survival rates, and I was unable to find any case studies on adult cyclopia. 

Overall, the visit was interesting in that I was introduced to a variety of ailments that I was not aware of, complete with visual representations.


Chocolate, Cigarettes, Fruit Flies.

This Wednesday, the class visited the Musee du Chocolat; it felt strange to know that there was a commercial museum for chocolate in France when the cocoa bean is ultimately an imported good. As a result of this incongruency, I frankly felt skeptical about the whole museum experience… This may also be because I am not a very big fan of sweets.

The first half of the experience was spent “making” our own chocolate. We were given bowls of melted chocolate and chocolate-filled piping bags to dip and decorate marshmallows and chocolate bars. Most of my time was spent eating the ingredients on the side (the hazelnuts in particular). We had a personal chocolatier guide who showed us demonstrations in design that were awe-inspiring (he made it look so easy).

I admire my creations in the presence of an unidentified photo bomber 🙂


Personally, I never seek out chocolate or buy it on my own, but I do not mind eating it if it is offered. Thus, it was interesting to think through the potential health rammifications of eating it for substances such as methylxanthines or theobromine that are naturally present in coffee. After the visit, I had to do a lot more reading on my own to learn what these compounds could do to our brain–especially after our NBB 471 class today about “cognitive enhancements.” 

Here are some basic citations about substances in coffee that helped me get up to speed:


… “methylxanthines are also known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties, mediate changes in lipid homeostasis and have neuroprotective effects”

Methylxanthines and Neurodegenerative Diseases: An Update

<REFERENCES are also included at the end>

“Theobromine is used principally to make caffeine (McCutheon, 1969). Formerly, theobromine and its derivatives were used in diuretics, myocardial stimulants, vasodilators and smooth muscle relaxants (Windholz, 1983).”

Coffee, Tea, Mate, Methylxanthines and Methylglyoxal.


With this in mind, perhaps it could be a good practice to start eating more chocolate as a pseudo-vitamin. In relation to the class discussion of cognitive enhancement, it is interesting to imagine a world where we, collectively, realize the benefit of chocolate similar to the way we have commodified coffee. Even today, there are commercial products that claim to extract these compounds for a more measured, direct consumption. But perhaps chocolate is only desirable for the fact that it can be unhealthy–the existence of a limit may very well be the incentive for its consumption.

These are four designs of chocolate that I made during the visit; it is interesting to think about how appearance affects palatability.


Although you have to do a little deeper reading to understand the long term effects of substances like chocolate, I thought it was interesting to compare chocolate and cigarettes in this sense. In relation to societies, both French and Korean cultures see a higher prevalance of smoking than in the US, and both see higher life expectancies. Similarly, it is interesting to ponder the possible health benefits of chocolate on life expectancies–a relationship that may be unexpected because most people see chocolate as unhealthy. 

The most scientific article (outside of editorials) investigated chocolate’s effect on the fruit fly’s life span. 


“… results illustrate that a moderate supplementation of cocoa under normoxia increases the average life span, whereas, at higher concentrations, average life span is normal.”


Cocoa confers life span extension in Drosophila melanogaster


Personally, I will not be eating much chocolate on my own out of preference, but if you do happen to up your chocolate intake, you should consider conducting a research study on this and let me know if you find anything 🙂

These are the aforementioned marshmallows that were dipped in chocolate. Too much sugar for me :/








Fromagerie with Illegal Raw-Milk Cheese (… illegal in the US)

Today, the class visited a fromagerie for a cheese tasting; this was the first time I have ever done anything of the sort. Because of this, the cheeses we had were very different from what I typically eat (often mozzarella in Korean cuisine), but I could definitely appreciate the unique flavor profiles. I learned that cow, goat, and sheep cheeses are popular with 8 further categorizations based on how it is processed. 

Adway and I prepare our palates to taste some flavorful cheese.

During the visit, we divided into groups in competition with each other to play cheese-related games for points. Two of the games involved guessing the identity of different cheeses, and I was impressed when one of the girls in the class, Kennedy, was able to identify two pieces of cheese to both be camembert (one was pasteurized, one was unpasteurized).

Our “guide” explained to us that the pasteurization of milk plays a large role in the final taste of the cheese due to different microorganisms (namely bacteria) that can be in raw-milk cheeses. After the visit, I looked up why the US doesn’t have more varieties of this cheese available, and it turns out that the FDA regulates pasteurization to prevent harmful bacteria such as “listeria, salmonella, E. coli.” 

{Not counted in word count, external source}

Cheese made with unpasteurized (raw) milk can’t be sold in the USA unless it has been aged for at least 60 days. This is regulated by​ The Food and Drug Administration. After 60 days, the acids and salts in raw-milk cheese and the aging process are believed to naturally prevent listeria, salmonella, E. coli and other harmful types of bacteria from growing.

The Spruce Eats:

Five different kinds of cheese that were available for tasting (paired with a mild wine). My favorite was cheese #3, but unfortunately, I already forgot the name.

I felt that this reflected a difference in the US and French cultures; despite the former being “more free” than the latter (according to multiple different indices), it would not be possible to experience raw-milk cheeses in the US. However, because I have never been to a cheese-tasting in the US, I cannot speak much about whether the experience would be much different from today. I have been struggling with figuring out what to eat for meals while we are here in Paris, and this visit has inspired me to try buying cheese to have with a baguette from a local boulangerie.

The unpasteurized cheese was certainly much more pungent with a sharper flavor profile–our guide insisted that we should try to consume more of this variety. Personally, I will be sticking with more familiar cheddar cheeses. I must admit I am content with the pasteurized cheese back home. In the context of our NBB 402W class, we have just discussed a study that shows cheese might decrease stress response behaviors in rats. Unfortunately, the rats did not have the luxury of trying french raw milk cheese, but I am curious as to whether this would affect the palatability of the cheese–perhaps the rats would have a more refined taste than me!


Study hyperlinked above, link provided again here: