Photo Post: Chocolatiers in the Making

One of our classes most lively excursions was to the chocolate museum, where we also got to make our own chocolate. The museum started with exhibits about the cocoa itself and its agricultural history. We then learned about its history as a culinary art, from the chemistry involved in cooking the chocolate to the artistry that is involved in the process. After visiting the museum, we made dark chocolate with hazelnut filling. As it turns out there is a bit of a learning curve to chocolate making; you have to be very precise with temperature and timing. Considering it was our first time, the chocolates we made turned out well.

Divy presenting our final product

Photo Post: Oddities at the Musee d’Histoire de la Medicine

At the Musee d’Histoire de la Medicine, we walked through a timeline of medicine, ranging from the ancient Egyptians through the early 1900’s. The museum had antique devices from every field of medicine. The museum’s collection contained everything from medical devices that were used on Louis XIV to a table that was inlayed with human organs that had a foot as a centerpiece. There were several antiques that came from fields related to neuroscience, such as hearing aids, eye, some of the first prosthetics, and an electrostatic machine.

A table with a human foot

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We visited the Le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise May 31, 2018. Here, we got to see the grave of Oscar Wilde, one of the most influential authors/screenplay writers of all time. His grave was enormous and covered in glass for protection. Although not intentionally, Oscar Wilde did make some contributions to neuroscience. One of his most famous pieces, and my favorite, is the Picture of Dorian Grey, about a beautiful young man who sells his soul in order for his picture, not him, to age and record his sins. Because of this story and its fame, the phenomenon characterized by a man’s extreme pride and obsession in his attractiveness and fitness of his physique, along with difficulties accepting aging the Dorian Gray Syndrome (Brosig, 2001). It is because of influences like this that Oscar Wilde finds himself buried in this Cimetière.


Brosig, B., Kupfer, J., Niemeier, V., & Gieler, U. (2001). The” Dorian Gray Syndrome”: psychodynamic need for hair growth restorers and other” fountains of youth.”. International journal of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics39(7), 279-283.

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On June 1, 2018 we had the opportunity of visiting the Palace of Versailles. It was very beautiful and I got to learn a lot about France before the French Revolution. Something I did not know, however, was Louis IV’s love for dance. During the tour, the guide made us do a demonstration of how they danced in the same main hallway we stood in. Louis IV danced ballet his entire life, and as stated by the tour guide: to him ballet was more than an art, it kept his country together. This is important because dance, in general, has an enormous influence on the brain. Studies have found that dancer’s brains have stronger synchronization, stronger emotion and memory processes of self-understanding, better reflexes and more connections in their motor related brain regions (Poikonen, 2018). Without knowing it, Louis IV was influencing its country for the better.


Poikonen, H. (2018). Dance on Cortex-ERPs and Phase Synchrony in Dancers and Musicians during a Contemporary Dance Piece.

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On my own time, I decided to go visit the Artistes and Robots exhibition at the Grand Palais. The exhibition showcased ways that robots are being engineered to create art using artificial intelligence. Not only was it wonderful to see how science and art can come together, but also I found it mesmerizing how these scientists are being able to create such a technology. In the picture above, you can see the creation of an artificial neuron that is able to grasp sensory information from its environment and learn from it. I took this selfie after the technology had perceived that I was right in front of it and created a representation of what he was “looking at.” This idea is a little scary, and it makes me think that those things we think of as science fiction today may not be so far from existing in the near future.

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On June 6, 2018 we visited the Musée des Arts and Métiers, an industrial design museum. Here, I got to see the development of numerous technologies such as the camera, the microscope, and the telephone. During this exhibit I began to wonder about the evolution of communication and how far humans have gotten, we can even communicate with someone in the other side of the world! Through our use of language and our ability to create tools that help us survive and be a better species, we have been able to develop a technology that we cannot live without: the cell phone. This wireless device helps us be in touch with our family and friends, helps us locate ourselves in group situations and save a lot of time: you can just send a text. Indeed, communication has gone very far thanks to the human brain.

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An art piece at the museum

In the third week of the program we visited the Neandertal L’Expo. This museum had very interesting models. There were life-like figures of Neanderthals and realistic figures of brains from all different time periods. Since the beginning of time, our brains have been evolving. Our brains have been getting more specialized with increasing efficiency and ability. It was so interesting to understand how life differed back then and how we evolved from these people. We have learned about the evolution of the brain in many of our classes but it was so cool to actually see how these different brains created this different kind of lifestyle. It was interesting to be able to take a glimpse into what their life might have been like.

Take a deep breath in…exhale out

When meditating, during yoga, and when stressed people always recommend to “take a deep breath in…exhale out.” Similarly, when you smoke you are increasing the amount of air entering and leaving your body. Last Monday, we visited the Musée de Fumeur where we got to see the history of smoking and how even indigenous colonies hundreds of years ago used to practice it. This made me wonder why it is that humans enjoy taking smoke into their bodies, regardless of nicotine or any other addictive elements. There has to be some pleasurable experience in merely inhaling and exhaling smoke.

It is not a mystery that nicotine is the addictive component and the main reason why people smoke tobacco or electronic cigarettes. However, there are numerous smoking products such as MonQ, which contain no or nicotine/tobacco and is advertised as aromatherapy that people still consume. Indeed, there must be something else in the act of smoking that is attractive to humans. Rose et al. (2006) suggested that “non-nicotine effects”, which provide both sensory stimulation and other influences, may directly or indirectly reinforce smoking behavior. Other scientists stated that smoker perceptions of a “lighter” feel and taste of the smoke may also be an important factor (Rees et al. 2012). They also suggested that the “perception of the physical fullness of the smoke in the mouth” was a main contributor to the individual’s enjoyment of the act. Continue reading “Take a deep breath in…exhale out”

Who knew a smoking museum could say so much?

This week, the Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology class visited the Musee de Fumeur in Paris. Hearing about this visit, I grew interested to see what would be inside. In fact, before the visit, our entire class began working on a paper for 402W about how nicotine affects attention. The researchers of the study used mice as the model organism for the experiment. The study analyzes how differences in baseline attention contributed to the motivation to self-administer nicotine.

Reading the paper made me think about how smoking differs amongst populations. Most of the differences are cultural. For example, the French smoke heavily whereas those in the United States stigmatize smoking to an extent. I clearly saw this cultural difference while looking around the smoking museum. For example, as soon as I walked into the museum part behind the French smoke shop, I saw glamorous pictures of people smoking. Yes, there were glamorous pictures of celebrities smoking, but this glamour also manifested itself within the old French smoking advertisements I saw all across the walls of both the museum and the smoke shop! Continue reading “Who knew a smoking museum could say so much?”

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One Friday we woke up early and went to two chateaus in the Loire Valley – Ambroise and Chenonceau. Both of the chateaus were beautiful, but what struck me most were the gardens surrounding the chateau de Chenonceau. There were multiple perfectly kept gardens with tons of flowers, as well as a hedge maze and intricate paths in the forest surrounding the chateau. I have noticed that to all the monuments we visited, like Versailles, there is some elaborate garden or outdoor feature. There are current neuroscience studies showing that being around plants and spending time outside make people feel happier. Perhaps this was understood even back when the chateaus were being made, and that’s why they all have elaborate and beautiful gardens.