This past Saturday, Khushi, Jewel, Sharay, and I visited the Palace and Gardens of Versaille. I had been waiting to visit the well-known and highly trafficked gardens since we first arrived in Paris. After finding out that they have a special firework night show during the weekends of the month of June, we got our tickets for June 18th and prepared for our trip. As we arrived, I marveled at the immensity and grandeur of the gardens, which included various fountains that each had unique architecture. While walking around, I felt so happy to be there and could only imagine what factors led Louis the XIV to build these beautiful gardens. I was reminded of the Blue Mind Theory, which believes that water positively affects your brain and induces a mildly meditative state that people find themselves in when near water. Perhaps Louis XIV subscribed to this theory.
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.
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!
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.
Last Friday, we ventured out of Paris to Loire Valley in Amboise, a quaint town with a gorgeous chateau. In fact, the chateau was the final resting place of Leonardo da Vinci. Although da Vinci is well known for his contributions to science, technology, and art, he also made significant strides in the field of neuroscience. Before his time in Loire Valley, he created anatomical drawings of the skull, brain, and cerebral ventricles. He also used hot wax to create a cast of the ventricles and further advanced our understanding of cranial nerves, specifically identifying the olfactory nerve as a cranial nerve. His integration of art and science drove the era of modern science forward (Pevsner, 2019).
Reference: Pevsner J. (2019). Leonardo da Vinci’s studies of the brain. Lancet (London, England), 393(10179), 1465–1472. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(19)30302-2
(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 studiesshowed 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.
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.