On Friday, June 17th, we took a class visit to the Loire Valley, where we took a tour of Amboise Chateau where Leondardo Da Vinci’s remains can be found in the chapel. I had no idea that that he was buried in France, so it was so exciting to visit a location where he once worked on ground-breaking discoveries. He is recognized for his early contributions of anatomical sketches, amongst his other titles as engineer, painter, theorist, architect, and scientist. For neuroscience, he produced neuroanatomical depictions of the brain, skull, and cerebral ventricles as he attempted to localize the sensory and motor functions in the brain. It was so inspiring to be surrounded by his sketches and work, clearly a great example of curiosity and innovation!
On Monday, June 13th, we took a class visit to the Musée de l’Homme which is an anthropology museum. Its yearround exhibition focuses on the evolution of humans and human societies. Pictured above is a display that caught my attention called “ A brain to think about the world.” The neurons painted in the display lit up in a lightening fashion, modeling the speed and connection in neural signaling. In the picture, you can also see the different brains of different animals, including an elephant and dolphin’s. It always amazes me to be able to see such significant differences in brain sizes when comparing them to ours!
Following a busy week of assignments– two papers and a small presentation later– my roommate and I were ready for the weekend! Before arriving in Paris, Solanch, Jewel, and I booked a tour of the Eiffel tower and it turned out to be the perfect adventure after a long week. During the first three weeks in Paris, Solanch and I enjoyed seeing the Eiffel tower twinkle from our apartment kitchen each night before bed. We knew we wanted to enjoy the beauty of the tower as much as possible, so we decided that we would take full advantage of our visit and spend the entire day in the area. While we have gotten the chance to study at the accent center, the nearby cafes, and even the Sainte-Geneviève library, we wanted to experience studying with the tower in the background. We decided that the view would inspire us as we worked on our assignments so we brought our computers to get ahead on some readings.
As we walked toward the tower, we learned that Gustave Eiffel’s apartment could be found at the top of the tower. Apparently, the space was used to accommodate his guests and work on scientific experiments– how cool is this? As I heard this, I thought to myself: I wouldn’t mind the commute every morning! Before reaching the lines to start our ascension, we could already see the Eiffel tower in all of its glory. It towered 1083 feet above us and was even more breathtaking up close. As we got closer and closer, our tour guide pointed out the names that bordered the four sides of the tower. Apparently, the names of 72 scientists, including mathematicians and engineers, were inscribed along the four sides of the tower. I wondered if there were any neuroscientists that had made the cut. A quick google search told me that Marie-François Xavier Bichat, although not a neuroscientist by training, was an anatomist who made substantial contributions that were later used for the development of neuroscientific understanding. He is most recognized for establishing the Medical Society of Emulation and for his publications titled: Physiological Researches on Life and Death and General Anatomy Applied to Physiology and Medicine (Clara et al., 2012). Through many*** dissections of corpses, he was able to identify 21 different types of elementary tissues. All of this was done without the use of a microscope! Pretty remarkable! I love how history is so integrated and evident all throughout Paris. I can’t believe that we have a little over 1 week left of this incredible experience!
Clarac, F., Barbara, J.-G. ., Broussolle, E., & Poirier, J. (2012). Figures and institutions of the neurological sciences in Paris from 1800 to 1950. Introduction and Part I: Neuroanatomy. Revue Neurologique, 168(1), 2–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neurol.2011.08.013
On Friday, June 3rd, my group presented article 3 which focused on the association between participation in professional rugby and mild traumatic brain injuries. Our group introduced the article with a brief presentation on how the game of rugby works, including the different player positions and responsibilities on the field. Leaving class as rugby experts, we were excited to travel to the Stade de France to watch a rugby match between France and Denmark.
As my roommate and I were walking toward the stadium from the metro, we realized the crazy number of fans that were waiting in line to get in. After getting the flag of France painted on our cheeks to prove team pride and blend in, we made our way into the enormous stadium to search for our seats. Minutes before the game started, we finally realized that the field setup did not match the rugby setup. Instead of the H-shaped goal posts, there were two soccer goals.
Although it wasn’t what we were expecting, it was certainly a nice surprise! We were originally tasked to pick out a rugby player and keep track of each time they suffered a hit to the head for the duration of the match. Shifting our task to the soccer match, we noticed that there were few to no instances that the players received a hit to the head unintentionally. Instead, the players seemed to intentionally hit the soccer ball with their heads as part of a play. The combination of so much movement across the field and no real-time replays resulted in an estimation that the French team’s individuals had this type of hit at least 7 times.
Following the preliminary discussion of mTBI in professional rugby players and reflecting on the soccer match, I was curious to learn more about the prevalence of concussions. According to Bunc et al.,2017, a professional soccer player hits the ball with their head between 6-17 times per match. As with professional rugby players, a team of researchers also found “increased evidence for brain atrophy”, or loss of neurons and neuronal connections when they compared imaging to a non-soccer player control group (Tysvaer et al., 1989). These specific findings led to recommendations on emphasizing head injury assessment and treatment, using proper head play techniques, and using a different size ball (3-5) depending on the age ranges of the players. It’s interesting to learn and see how neuroscience findings translate to real-world implications.
Bunc, G., Ravnik, J., & Velnar, T. (2017). May Heading in Soccer Result in Traumatic Brain Injury? A Review of Literature. Medical archives (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina), 71(5), 356–359. https://doi.org/10.5455/medarh.2017.71.356-359
On May 30th, our class took a trip to Choco-Story where we had a mini-workshop on how to coat and decorate various foods in delicious melted chocolate. We were each given marshmallows, chocolate fudge squares, and candied orange strips to dip into our preferred melted chocolate– milk or dark chocolate. In addition to this, we were also able to fill chocolate bar molds and create–or attempt to create– intricate designs.
In our neuroethics class, we recently discussed cognitive enhancers and their implications. For our reflection, Dr. Rommelfanger asked us the following question: Does coffee count as a cognitive enhancer? Initially, I said that no, coffee is not a cognitive enhancer because it only has short-term effects and its consumption can result in an increased state of anxiousness– an opposite effect. However, I left the discussion with a change of heart. Both coffee and chocolate contain caffeine, which has a tendency to improve alertness and attention which are qualities of a cognitive enhancer.
This morning, we made our way to the basilique Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre. We started our journey off by having a nice lunch at one of the local restaurants paired with some Lebanese-style ice cream. Loaded with energy, we tackled the seemingly never-ending stairs. However, the reward of the view was absolutely breathtaking. The beauty extended into the inside, where I was met with stained-glass windows and awe-inspiring images of saints and Jesus Christ.
As I sat alone in the pews, waiting to go light a candle at the altar, I felt such a strong wave of sereneness and a sense of belonging. In an effort to connect this to neuroscience, I thought back to the relationship between religion and mental health. Personally, I was taught that in moments of stress and confusion, I should pray and find comfort in God. In recent studies, it is suggested that practicing religion has a “protective” effect on our mental health.
Last Sunday, my roommate and I woke up bright and early to head to Disneyland Paris and enjoy the day at the happiest place on earth! Once it was confirmed that I would be traveling to Paris, I made sure to pack my Minnie Mouse ears– a souvenir that I have held onto for the last ten years.
Once we got there, we got a map and created a list of attractions and rides that we wanted to make sure to cross off of our list. We started the day off at Frontierland where our first attraction was a spooky tour of the Phantom Manor which was the perfect ride to begin with– nice and slow. However, once we headed over to Discoveryland, I began hearing loud screams coming from the Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain. I should probably note that I’m not a big fan of rollercoasters, in fact, I try to stay away from them. I knew that the main park was meant to be family-friendly, so I was anticipating the classic attractions such as the teacups.
After some internal conflict, I decided to carpe diem and go for it– I was in Disneyland Paris after all. Once we were close to the front, we could see people turning back after being so close to facing their fear. We could also see the look of shock in people stumbling off of the ride, with their hair in disarray after facing such speed. During the ride, I held onto the restraint as if my life depended on it– which felt like the actual task. My head and body were shaken back and forth, hitting the sides of the seat. Once the two minutes of darkness were over, I struggled to get out of my seat and felt very dizzy. After surviving the ride, I had a small headache for the next 30 minutes.
This experience made me wonder if rollercoasters and head discomfort/injuries could be associated. I found that evidence suggests that motion during a roller coaster ride does not meet the threshold of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) (Evans, 2020). While there are case studies that present individuals who have suffered brain injuries after a ride, it cannot be solely attributed to the ride itself, but the condition of the rider and if they have prior known – or unknown- brain/neck injuries. Learning raised concerns about the insufficient warnings for the “thrill” rides, even at Disney. Should theme parks be more explicit in their warnings or should riders be the judge of their participation in rides?
Evans, V. (2020). Newton’s laws, G-forces and the impact on the brain. Australasian Journal of Neuroscience , 30(1), 24–29. https://search.informit.org/doi/10.3316/informit.273755632351926
On Wednesday, May 25th, our class took a trip to a cheese tasting at Fromagerie Monbleu where we were introduced to a variety of cheeses made from goat, camel, and cow’s milk that were unique to France! As a cheese lover, I was excited to stray away from American cheese and try the real deal! To truly be able to savor the distinct flavors of French cheeses, we were first taught the difference between the terms “flavor” and “taste” which are oftentimes confused. Our guide asked us to close our eyes, hold our noses shut, and put out one hand where we would receive seeds to put in our mouths and blindly chew. By restricting these senses, the seeds tasted very bland with no notable flavor. To my surprise, as soon as our guide asked us to open our eyes and breathe through our noses, there was an explosion of flavor in my mouth! It was later revealed that we had been given coriander seeds, distinct for their aroma and citrus flavor. It was fascinating to experience the difference between blocking and allowing our senses to do their function.
The cheese tasting was a perfect continuity to the first article that our class has been discussing in Dr. Easterling’s global neuroscience perspectives course. The study examines the relationship between the macronutrient content of highly palatable foods (cheese) and the stress-relieving effects through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis response (Fourman et al., 2021). In conjunction with the author’s prior studies, the results indicated that palatable foods are able to reduce stress responses no matter their macronutrient content (sucrose or carbohydrate). Our in-class discussion of cheese and its stress-reducing abilities paired with the cheese tasting led to my search for more information about stress-induced comfort eating in college students.
The study that I found talked about stress levels in college students and how students who experienced higher levels of stress developed less healthy dietary behaviors (Choi, 2020). This is especially pertinent to me and my classmates as our stressors include adjusting to a new time zone, adjusting to a new city and rhythm of life, and taking eight credits in six weeks! The study and my experience walking around the city made me wonder about how the scenic routes to and from class, in addition to popular dine-in-only food options, combat our stress responses to the new and challenging environment of Paris. Perhaps the excitement, increased daily walking, and the fresh ingredients in our French cuisine will reduce our stress!
Choi J. (2020). Impact of Stress Levels on Eating Behaviors among College Students. Nutrients, 12(5), 1241. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051241
Fourman, S., Buesing, D., Girvin, S., Nashawi, H., & Ulrich-Lai, Y. M. (2021). Limited cheese intake reduces HPA axis and behavioral stress responses in male rats. Physiology & Behavior, 242, 113614. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2021.113614