The Louvre Museum: Art on the Brain

Walking out the front door of my Parisian apartment and taking a slight left to get to the Metro station always leads me to a tall, ornate wall. Though I’ve passed it probably 50 times

Taken after our visit, this is me standing outside the Louvre museum in front of the famous pyramid entrance.

by now, it never fails to take my breath away. This wall is one end of the sprawling Louvre museum, a palace converted into potentially the most famous art museum in the world. Naturally, living so close to the museum, it felt only fitting to spend our first full day in Paris exploring the vast halls of artwork.

The Louvre is undoubtedly intimidating, with multiple floors of multiple halls containing multiple galleries each. In fact, our tour guide on the riverboat tour the first day we were here told us that if you were to spend three seconds looking at every piece in the museum, your visit would take you approximately three months. So, naturally, we picked an arbitrary floor and began exploring.

Over the several hours we spent in the museum, we got lost in hallways of renaissance paintings, ancient sculptures, French apartments, and everything in between. The sheer amount of art in the museum was awe-inspiring, and made me consider the role of art and creativity in everyday French culture; from the carefully designed Metro stations to the presence of artifacts and sculptures throughout the city, it feels as though Paris is a kind of

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

museum in and of itself. I have seen art museums before and will occasionally spend rainy days in Atlanta in the High museum, but the appreciation of historical art pieces in Paris gives me an entirely different impression. The museum itself contains art from across world history, but there is definitely an emphasis placed on French culture and history. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a museum that was so focused on national identity in the U.S., and this was definitely one of the features of the Louvre that I appreciated the most.

In the context of our classes here, though, I began to consider the role of art in neuroscience and more specifically mental health. In doing my research, I found a 2021 paper that highlights the effect of cultural engagement, such as visiting art museums, on mental health. Overall, the paper demonstrated a degree of improvement in the happiness of individuals who engaged with art and similar cultural elements. To quote from the article, researchers found more specifically that “cultural participation of museums and galleries affected life satisfaction not only directly but also indirectly through interpersonal relationships” (Lee et al, 2021).

One of the most famous pieces in the Louvre, this sculpture was a highlight of my experience at the museum

While I can’t say whether or not my Saturday visit to the Louvre definitively affected my life satisfaction, I can say that it is an experience I will hold fondly in my memory and recall each time I leave my apartment for the next four weeks.


Lee, C. W., Lin, L. C., & Hung, H. C. (2021). Art and Cultural Participation and Life Satisfaction in Adults: The Role of Physical Health, Mental Health, and Interpersonal Relationships. Frontiers in public health, 8, 582342.

The “Flayed” men of the Musée Fragonard de l’École vétérinaire de maisons Alfort

The most unique class visit I experienced was to the Fragonard Museum in Paris on May 23, 2022. The museum boasted a unique display of “curiosities” with collections ranging from cow intestines to large shelves of bones arranged by age. Walking up to the museum was exciting for many of us, although it turned into a stomach-churning experience for some. During the visit, I found the most interesting museum displays of illnesses and/or deformities that were considered “mythical” for a major part of history but are treatable or can no longer be seen today with the drastic advance in veterinary medicine. 

Mythological animals.
Deformed animals, born of various birth complications were commonly considered “monsters” in various historical mythologies.

As narrated by our tour guide, a student at the veterinary school, we owe it to Claude Bourgelat for establishing the first-ever veterinary school in Lyon in 1761. The École national vétérinaire d’Alfort was first established in 1765 in the center of Paris and later shifted to the outskirts of Paris in 1766.  

The Fragonard museum hosted by the veterinary college explains the importance of museums such as this for learning the history and evolution of veterinary studies. The founder of the school opened the first-ever veterinary school in the center of Paris which later was moved to the outskirts because Paris “distracted” the students. Something that struck me in the tour was how quickly veterinary medicine gained importance, especially concerning pets, farm animals, and/or animals used for sport. One such “ancient” illness we witnessed was one that causes a buildup in brain pressure disarticulating the skull. The display “Tête désarticulé ” shows how the brain would separate before medical interventions were invented. This specific medical complication is ancient because today in the advancing field of medicine, neuroscientists have found effective ways to avoid this even in just-born infants! (Patel et al. 2013)

“Tête désarticules”.
The display shows the complication that splits the cranial bone due to the swelling of the brain.

Despite these astounding displays, the most bizarre part of the museum was the “slayed” men or skinned men of the museum. In the finale of the museum tour, we witnessed a room of disturbing yet curious anatomical oddities of authentic-skinned men, horses, heads, and even babies. These were created by Honoré Fragonard in the late 1700s. Although the atrocities of this display may be considered unethical today in many countries, these have paved methods of dissection and preservation more accurately than known before. Some students and I discussed with our professors at the end that the ethical issues of whose bodies were on display and where they came from still concern me. 

The “flayed” or skinned men of Professor Fragonard.
Created in the late 1700s. Professor Fragonard was kicked out of the college for these “bizarre” experiments yet he did introduce a much cleaner way to dissect. Essentially mummification!

Learning and experiencing this museum is a must for all who visit Paris. Regardless of the icky factor of the museum displays, I had the most fantastic day in a museum I have ever had! 


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.

Neuroscience Gone Animal: Our Visit to Musée Fragonard de l’Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire

A parade through both the intriguing and the bizarre, the curious and stomach-churning, our visit to the Musée Fragonard de l’Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d’Alfort was truly a mind-bending experience. Our guide, a veterinary student himself, lead us through the so-called “cabinets of curiosities,” a rather popular display to possess among Parisian elite in the past. These cabinets including both non-human animal and human anatomies. Some, such as stomachs, digestive tracts, and other organs, were simply replicas or molds that had been plastered and painted to show anatomical distinctions. In addition, there were several skeletal figures ranging from smaller animals, like cats, to larger animals, like giraffes and camels. One particular skeleton that stood out to me was that of a dog with “bone-on-bone” caused by a lung infection. The specific mechanistic cause was unknown but seeing how thick the dogs’ legs had become with the layers upon layers of bone was incredibly intriguing. One new thing we learned how vastly veterinary science has changed in expanded in a mere century alone. Our guide mentioned how in the past doctors would merely apply human medical science to animals, but since animals have such differing systems from humans, the veterinary school was founded, initially in the center of Paris, then later moved to the city outskirts, in order to further explore how to treat animals specifically.

In addition, some displays contained formaldehyde jars with actual body parts, including tissue, genitals, stomachs, craniums, and more kept intact via various preservation methods. At this point, I noticed that myself in particular, as well as a few of my fellow students had to step outside for air or sit down because we started feeling rather queasy. After returning home and still not feeling well, one of my roommates mentioned how the odor of formaldehyde can make some people feel ill, even long after leaving the presence of the chemical. This led me to an article describing the psychophysical relationship between formaldehyde odor and irritation response in healthy non-smokers (Kulle, 2008). The study conducted utilized a 19 subject sample that were exposed to various concentration of formaldehyde (HCHO) over a 3-day period and asked each subject to report their subjective symptoms. The researchers found that the threshold of HCHO of just 0.5 ppm of exposure could cause an odor sensation that may make some feel sick and increasing exposure could cause eye irritation or even nose/throat irritation.

Knowing this, it’s curious to consider how the formaldehyde potentially affected only some of us in the museum, while others remained completely unfazed and continued to the end of the exhibition without any problem.


Kulle, T. J. (1993). Acute odor and irritation response in healthy nonsmokers with formaldehyde exposure. Inhalation Toxicology, 5(3), 323–332.



A Visit with the Dead at Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise

A pleasant walk from the 11th Arrondissement to the 20th Arrondissement landed our NBB class at one of Paris’s most unique tourist attractions: Le Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise. Opened in 1804, it is the resting place of many famous people, such as Oscar Wilde, Eugene Delacroix, and Sarah Bernhardt. It attracts millions of visitors yearly, making it one of the most visited cemeteries in the world. Although I was skeptical of walking through a cemetery on a beautiful afternoon like today, it provided me and my fellow peers the perfect opportunity to explore and discover the hidden beauty of the cemetery.

An example of one of the beautiful mausoleums encompassed by lush greenery.


Le Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise is not not only home to famous authors and actresses but also notable scientists. One famous scientist buried in this cemetery is Claude Bernard who made significant contributions to the field of neuroscience during the 19th century. Bernard was one of the first scientists to discover how the sympathetic nerve and chorda tympani are involved in vasoconstriction and vasodilation, respectively. Bernard also worked with antagonistic innervations and curare, a paralyzing agent, and found that it inhibits nerve stimulation of muscles, leading to research of asphyxia and anesthetics. Most importantly, his work with curare provided the basis of the neuron theory and laid the foundation for the future of neuroscience (Gomes & Engelhardt, 2014).

It is fascinating to learn about the history of neuroscience through the places we visit in Paris. I feel as if everywhere I look in Paris, there is a building or a monument or a statue that represents the history and culture of Paris. It is important to learn about scientists like Bernard because without him, the field of neuroscience would not be where it is today. Until Bernard’s research in the 1800’s, little was known about how the brain and muscles were connected. Now, there is technology such as the brain-machine interface that uses the electrical activity in the brain to guide a computer mouse or robotic limb.

Being able to see his place of burial puts into perspective how far neuroscience has come in the past 200 years. Bernard’s innovation at the time may have seemed preposterous, but with today’s discussion of head transplants in neuroethics, I’ve come to realize that no idea is ever too radical.

Walking around the cemetery and observing the intricacies of the burial plots.



Gomes, M. D., & Engelhardt, E. (2014). Claude Bernard: Bicentenary of birth and his main contributions to neurology. Arquivos de neuro-psiquiatria, 72(4), 322-5.×20130239

Monbleu Cheese Tasting

On Wednesday May 25th, our class went to a cheese tasting at a fromagerie. After our final class of the day, we all took the metro together from the Accent Center (where we have our classes) to Monbleu. I went cheese tasting once with my family on vacation, but the cheeses offered were processed, familiar cheeses, so trying French cheese was a new and exciting experience for me. During this experience, I was able to try raw-milk cheese, an experience I would not have been able to have in the United States. Although I did not love every cheese I tried, I enjoyed being able to taste French cheeses and immerse myself in the culture of France, my home for the next 5 weeks.

A photo of Sam, Rachel, Duke, Elena, and I at the cheese tasting enjoying wine, cheese, and bread.

As for the connection with class, the first research article we reviewed in NBB 402W was a paper about comfort foods and stress response in male rats. Previous studies showed that comfort eating led to less of a stress response in both male and female rats when given sucrose, which brought up the question of whether the macronutrient content or the palatability of the food led to the altered stress response. The study we read used cheese to determine that the palatability of the food was responsible for the decreased stress response in rats (Fourman et al., 2021). This preliminary study can lead to further studies regarding stress, comfort food, and obesity. If the palatability of food causes stress reduction in rats, could this be the same in humans? And if so, could healthier alternatives be substituted for standard comfort food (cookies, cakes, etc.)?

Another study found that Gouda cheese intake had a beneficial effect on stressed mice in recovering recognition ability. The researchers also noticed changes to internal microbiota, which suggests that the bioactive ingredients in cheese may improve mood and brain function. (Yun et al., 2020). The research in this study connects to French culture because the French diet relies heavily on cheese, meat, and wine, many foods that Americans would associate with disease and early death. Yet, citizens of France have a lifespan 3.5 years greater than that of people in living the United States. Because the study found that Gouda cheese intake may improve mood and brain function, this could be a large part of the Parisian’s longer lifespans.

The options of cheese and bread that were offered during the cheese tasting. There was also white wine offered. My favorites were 2 and 3, but unfortunately I do not remember the names.


Fourman, S., Buesing, D., Gervin, S., Nashawi, S., & Ulrich-Lai, Y.M. (2021). Limited cheese intake reduces HPA axis and behavioral stress responses in male rats, Physiol. Behav. 242

Yun, B., Yoo, J. Y., Park, M. R., Ryu, S., Lee, W. J., Choi, H. J., Kang, M. K., Kim, Y., & Oh, S. (2020). Ingestion of Gouda Cheese Ameliorates the Chronic Unpredictable Mild Stress in Mice. Food science of animal resources40(1), 145–153.

Our visit to Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise

By Ally Grubman

Today, the class went to visit Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise in the 20th arrondissement. This was an incredibly interesting and out-of-the-ordinary experience. We walked from the Accent Center (where we have our classes) to the cemetery. There, we strolled through the beautiful and intricate burial grounds of the people buried there.

A picture of the grounds when we first walked into the cemetery.

In regards to our classes, many notable neuroscientists were buried at Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise. Some of these included Jean Pierre Flourens, a pioneer in psychology and neuroscience. One of his major contributions was within the sphere of cerebral localizations and brain functionality (Pearce, 2009). Mainly, he was known for the development and use of ablation methods to see if the different parts of the brain had different functions. Ablation is a technique done by burning, freezing, or removing tissue (in Flourens’s case, removing) in order to kill or get rid of it. He used this to investigate previous assertions from Franz Gall. Gall concluded through his research that the brain had distinct and specific functions. Flourens, however, found that this was not the case, and instead perceived that the brain worked as a whole, coining the term “cerebral equipotentiality” (Pearce, 2009).

This was novel at the time (the early to mid-1800s) and helped lay the groundwork for future neuroscientists. Being where he was buried and learning about his life helped put into perspective how far we have come since then. His discoveries were groundbreaking at the time and impressive, even today. 

Since his research, the neuroscience community has come a long way, but even so, there is still a lot about the brain structure-function relationship that is unknown to us. Both our 402W and neuroethics classes give us an understanding and inside look into the quickly-developing field of neuroscience. In the classes, we discuss new research being presented and upcoming and previous ethical questions asked. This relates directly to the life and career of Jean Piette Flourens as a psychologist and neuroscientist. He made strides in his area, despite being ridiculed for it, and made advancements that seemed impossible at the time. This is something that continues to happen today with new research and medical breakthroughs always around the corner. His research was highly criticized at first, which it seems all of the new research has (something that we have learned so far in neuroethics). Having the chance to see his burial site and learn about his life was an amazing and eye-opening opportunity!

Rachel and I discussing the intricate mausoleums as we walked through the cemetery.


Pearce, J. M. S. (2009, March 17). Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens (1794–1867) and cortical localization. European Neurology, 311-314.

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: