After our last day of class, Lauren, Cynthia, and I visited Disneyland Paris! We enjoyed a day filled with thrilling roller coasters, that felt faster than those in Disney World in the U.S.. We then questioned the possibility of differences in regulations and engineering. To end the day, we watched a spectacular sunset behind the castle! Unfortunately, these colorful sunsets are due to the contribution of air pollution which increases the quantity of particles that results in this scattering of light. Upon this realization, the “deteriorated air quality” I have seen on my weather app all week made sense as I finally understood this was a noticeable effect. Lastly, Disneyland performed their signature firework show along with a special light show where images were projected on the castle. These shows were a combination of fireworks, light projections, music, fountains, and most surprisingly, dozens of synchronized drones with colored lights.
Marie Curie is buried at the Pantheon which is only blocks away from her lab that I had the pleasure of visiting as well. While this lab was where she did work that provided significant breakthroughs for science, it is also likely what killed her. Inside her lab, I learned about the history of radium and the misconceptions that existed. Upon the discovery of radium, and the discovery of its ability to kill cancer cells, it was seen as a cure all and added to many products, such as incorporated into the paint on watches and added to razors. Eventually, it became apparent that this misconception was widely inaccurate and that there are many dangers to radium exposure despite it being used as a cancer treatment. I am currently reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and was intrigued to see the reference to Marie Curie and discussion of Henrietta Lacks’s radium treatment.
During a class visit to the Cimetiere du Pire Lachiase, one of the most famous cemeteries in Paris that houses the remains of many royal or famous individuals, gives insight to the cultural traditions regarding death and burial. However, the cemetery also offered the opportunity to learn about famous French scientists and the contributions they made to science. Upon my time at this cemetery, I visited the grave of Etienne Geoffery Saint-Hillaire who was a naturalist contributed to the theory of evolution. Geoffery had a significant role in the establishment of the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle and performed work supporting the presence of homologous parts. Additionally, Geoffery made significant contributions to developmental biology and performed work on the organization of structures across different species. It was exciting and inspiring to have the opportunity to visit a founding scientist that contributed to so many concepts I have learned about.
This past weekend, Lauren and I visited the Catacombs – an underground storage of the many bodies that overflowed the French cemeteries and needed to be moved to prevent disease and make room within the cemeteries for the French population that needed ongoing space for those the passed away. Previous to the construction of the Catacombs, overflowing cemeteries and mass graves were spreading disease and causing preventable deaths among the living population. In order to address this issue, the Catacombs, underground tunnels originally dug to extract limestone used for many famous castles we still visit today, started to be carefully filled with bones in full cemeteries to create new spaces. Some of the bones in the Catacombs have been studied to tell us more scientifically of the medical state at that time – indicative of bone fractures and how they healed and attempts to determine cause of death.
During our class visit to the Museé des Moulages, I learned about both the science and the history behind dermatology. The Museé des Moulages translates to the museum of castings and is a collection of wax models that depict the dermatological presentations of neurological diseases, including those that we have discussed in class such as syphilis (Lynn et al., 2004; Rasoldier et al., 2020). The museum had an in-depth collection demonstrating the range of skin presentations and the changing appearances throughout the four progressing stages of syphilis.
The story of Museé des Moulages begins with artist Jean Baretta creating models of apples in 1863. Discovered by Charles Lailler, it was suggested that Baretta use his talent to reproduce skin diseases. As a result, the first wax dermatological model was made by Baretta in 1867.
Prior to the creations of castings when photographs were not available, students depended on engravings and drawings to learn about these pathologies. Thus, it was very difficult to understand these diseases and be prepared to diagnose patients. At the Museé des Moulages, castings were made of patient skin conditions and affected body parts to aid the improvement of education and diagnosis accuracy. We were not permitted to take photographs of the castings out of respect for privacy and patient confidentiality. The castings are painted, appear incredibly realistic, and include facial and genital castings which contribute to the seriousness of privacy and respect for those patients. These unique three-dimensional models were very valuable and have curated a historical collection of de-identified patient cases. Many of the castings were quite graphic and demonstrate how far medicine has come. When these castings were made, the treatments for these disorders were nothing compared to today and those individuals’ contribution to the creation of these wax models was essential for the identification of the same diseases that can now be treated. While some of these castings were hard to look at knowing that people suffered tremendously, it is informative to see the severity of syphilis progression and many other dermatological diseases due to the inability to provide medical intervention at that time. I am grateful we had the experience to observe incredibly accurate models of these diseases that we previously were googling to understand. I am glad I now know about the history of advancing dermatology. Knowing wax molds of apples inspired this museum, I wonder if that is where the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” originated from.
Lynn, W. A., & Lightman, S. (2004). Syphilis and HIV: a dangerous combination. The Lancet. Infectious diseases, 4(7), 456–466. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(04)01061-8
Rasoldier, V., Gueudry, J., Chapuzet, C., Bodaghi, B., Muraine, M., Tubiana, R., Paris, L., Pestel-Caron, M., Caron, F., & Caumes, E. (2021). Early symptomatic neurosyphilis and ocular syphilis: A comparative study between HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients. Infectious Diseases Now, 51(4), 351–356. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.medmal.2020.10.016
“Does anyone know what Rugby actually is?” This question floated around in several variations the week before we were to attend a France vs. Denmark rugby match.
“What?” asked our waiter several times before it was evident we weren’t pronouncing it well enough for him to understand. Lauren gestured throwing a rugby and he finally understood, but said he didn’t know the sport well enough to explain. While the restaurant is nearby our apartment and we have eaten there enough times for this waiter to recognize us when we walk past, an Italian restaurant maybe wasn’t the best place to ask about rugby.
“It’s like football but without helmets,” said a peer. It is important I emphasize at this time she was referring to American football. This statement left me more confused as helmets and padding seem to be the most important part of football, a high contact sport. Research on retired football players with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has amplified in conjunction with the increase of media coverage on cases of severe cognitive deterioration and changes in mood in famous players (Buckland et al., 2019). However, there are minimal studies on CTE and long-term negative effects on the brain for rugby players (Buckland et al., 2019).
Prior to the match, my peers presented a crash-course on rugby and an in-depth journal article review on rugby and CTE (Zimmerman et al., 2021). It quickly became evident that rugby is quite intense, and it was likely there would be many head collisions.
When we finally arrived at Stade de France, all the fans were bouncing with excitement and kids ran around with French-flag face paint. It wasn’t until we settled in our seats and the pre-match rituals concluded that we realized the peculiar goals and that what in front of us resembled European football far more than having any parallels to American football (Figure 1).
While we did not see rugby that evening, we were lucky enough to watch a qualifying match for the World Cup (Figure 2)! Within minutes of realizing this was soccer and not rugby, it became evident that instead of being tackled, there was risk for brain injury from repeatedly heading the soccer ball. The potential force exerted from heading ranges from 500-1200 Newtons (Teymouri et al., 2012) and is equivalent to a maximum of over 250 pounds-force (lbf). While this is not quite the impact of a moving 300+ pound American football player, the European football players are (like the elite rugby players) not wearing helmets. Thus, while soccer is very entertaining, it is important to properly teach young players how to head a soccer ball and be aware of the possible injury.
Buckland, M.E., Sy, J., Szentmariay, I. (2019). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in two former Australian National Rugby League players. acta neuropathol commun 7, 97. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40478-019-0751-1
Teymouri, M., Sadeghi, H., Nabaei, A., & Kasaeian, A. (2012). The relationship between biomechanical-anthropometrical parameters and the force exerted on the head when heading free kicks in soccer. Archives of trauma research, 1(1), 44–48. https://doi.org/10.5812/atr.5307
Zimmerman, K. A., Laverse, E., Samra, R., Yanez Lopez, M., Jolly, A. E., Bourke, N. J., Graham, N., Patel, M. C., Hardy, J., Kemp, S., Morris, H. R., & Sharp, D. J. (2021). White matter abnormalities in active elite adult rugby players. Brain communications, 3(3), fcab133. https://doi.org/10.1093/braincomms/fcab133
As of today, I have officially been in Paris for two and a half weeks. As it is my first time in Europe, I continue to ask myself why the French are healthier than Americans, with one of the “lowest rates of cardiovascular disease in the world,” and what aspects of Parisian lifestyle I can incorporate into my own (Powell et al., 2010). I have internally balanced the cultural differences I have observed, trying to determine what factors outweigh the negatively viewed characteristics. Does the amount of walking Parisians do override the amount they smoke? Does the local food that is less processed outweigh negative effects of foods high in saturated fats like cheese? Is the secret to their health simply attitude and social culture, which results in less stress and greater happiness, the reason they live longer? To answer the question you’ve all been waiting for, and one I hear over and over, how do Parisian’s drink so much wine but stay so healthy? I have found myself wondering if the increase in my own wine consumption during the trip is problematic but realized that is only by American standards. Perhaps, the cultural view of alcohol (where it is viewed as a guilty pleasure) in the United States prevents the reduction in stress and otherwise positive benefits that are seen in France (Hansel et al., 2010).
Two weeks in, I currently believe that all these factors have close relationships with stress and stress may be the leading cause of negative health outcomes after comparing populations: “Americans can and should look to the French as a model for a healthy lifestyle that includes not just what a person eats, but the attitudes, behaviors, and social context within which one operates” (Powell et al., 2010). While one study (Hansel et al., 2010) studied the relationship between moderate drinkers to those that never drink and found cardiovascular and other health benefits in the moderate to low drinkers, stress undoubtedly connects as well. In Paris, the culture regarding wine is carefree and people take time to enjoy their meal (and take their time off work quite seriously- getting about 6 weeks of vacation time per year) (Powell et al., 2010). While the connection between potential health benefits and wine consumption is challenging to statistically separate from stress, I have concluded that when in combination, if I take the time to taste life (like the French taste by savoring) I don’t need to feel stressed about justifying ordering wine with dinner.
Hansel, B., Thomas, F., Pannier, B. et al. Relationship between alcohol intake, health and social status and cardiovascular risk factors in the urban Paris-Ile-De-France Cohort: is the cardioprotective action of alcohol a myth?. Eur J Clin Nutr 64, 561–568 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2010.61
Powell, L. H., Kazlauskaite, R., Shima, C., & Appelhans, B. M. (2010). Lifestyle in France and the United States: an American perspective. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110(6), 845–847. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2010.03.029
Prior to my departure to Paris for the Emory Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology summer study abroad program, I was told by numerous friends and family to “have some wine and cheese” for them. Many Americans (typically while pouring another glass of red wine) find themselves wondering how Parisians appear so healthy considering the stereotypical cheese and wine consumption in France. Among the many cultural differences I have already noticed my first week in Paris, both the different diet of Parisians and the different attitude towards life and work are quite clear. While engaging in the culture, I realized diet and life-work balance both connect to stress and I began to contemplate how these may all contribute to the health of the Parisian population.
Walking through Fromagerie Monbleu, the cheese shop hosting our class sponsored cheese tasting, I eagerly anticipated learning how to make sophisticated commentary on these much appreciated foods. What I did not expect, was to learn about the biological significance of taste and flavor. At Monbleu, the definition of taste focuses on how something feels to your mouth and detects sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. I’m still a bit unsure about that last one, but it was described as savory and meaty. However, flavor is detected by the nose and breathing in maximizes the sensations from flavor. To enjoy food to the fullest, time is spent savoring it and engaging in the experience of tasting. Therefore, tasting is different from simply eating food as a means of caloric and nutritional intake. While we need to EAT food to survive, I was surprised to learn in class that there is biological significance to taste as well. Separate from the composition of food (the amount of carbs, fats, proteins etc.) that we put into our body, palatable foods which are pleasing to the taste have their own effect on our bodies through our brain’s reward system. Perhaps the Parisian’s enjoyment of delicious food (even if not the “healthiest” in terms of nutrition), contributes to their overall well-being. It was found in female rats that having palatable foods decreases anxiety and stress (Egan et al., 2019). Afterall, stress can be detrimental to our health. If indulging in some “comfort food” that happens to be less nutritious or low-fat results in a lesser stress response, it may be healthier for us to indulge in some cheese and crackers like Parisians than remain in a high stress state while “eating healthy”.
Egan, A. E., Seemiller, L. R., Packard, A. E. B., Solomon, M. B., & Ulrich-Lai, Y. M. (2019). Palatable food reduces anxiety-like behaviors and HPA axis responses to stress in female rats in an estrous-cycle specific manner. Hormones and Behavior, 115, 104557. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2019.07.005