I Louvre Paris (Photo Post)

On June 4th, 2022, Sam and I went to the Louvre, an experience I was looking forward to since we arrived in Paris. We were able to explore the beautiful building and appreciate various works of art, including the Mona Lisa (after her birthday cake scare). As a child, I took art classes at the Philadelphia Museum of Art every Saturday and in high school I worked at a pottery studio, causing me to become interested in the idea of art therapy, which I reflected upon during my visit to the Louvre. Art therapy is when a therapist uses art materials and directives to activate sensory responses and generate imagery that is directly connected to emotions, allowing their patient to re-experience emotions in a way that allows them to organize their feelings and form a narrative around an overwhelming experience. Studies have shown that art therapy measurably changes the body and brain.

Food + Art

Claude Monet’s kitchen at his home in Giverny. Designed in 1883, the blue tile as a backdrop for the copper pots and pans is a timeless combination. It is not surprising that the artist had such a beautiful kitchen, because cooking and art have a lot in common. In addition to encouraging creativity and having aesthetic components, they both have been shown to have a positive effect on mental health. Cooking in particular forces people to take a break from a busy day and just focus on one recipe. Cooking for others also helps foster connection between people, and sharing a meal with friends and family is an important aspect of French culture for this reason.

Never skip dessert!

Hot chocolate with whipped cream from Café de Flore, one of the oldest coffee houses in Paris. It opened in the 1880s and was frequented by many famous writers and artists, including Pablo Picasso. Café de Flore has now become more of a tourist attraction, but for good reason due to its rich history and hot chocolate. As we learned on our class visit to the Musée du Chocolat, chocolate can have mood-boosting effects on the brain. For example, chocolate contains tryptophan, an amino acid that is used to increase serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has widespread effects on the brain, one of which being modulating mood.

Secrets of the Eiffel Tower

A close-up view of the Grenelle side of the Eiffel Tower, where the names of several famous French scientists are written. There are 72 names in total on the tower. This was Gustave Eiffel’s way of paying homage to these trailblazers at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. Of these names, one that stuck out to me right away was Broca (second to the left of the tree) because I have learned about him to some capacity in every NBB class I’ve ever taken. Paul Broca was a French physician most widely known for research on a part of the frontal lobe we now refer to as Broca’s area. This area of the brain is involved in speech production. In patients with Broca’s aphasia, damage to Broca’s area causes fragmented speech patterns even though understanding of speech remains largely intact.

Spot the Difference

Models of several animal brain hemispheres (from top: lion, cat, dog) at the Musée Fragonard d’Alfort. The colors in the models on the left hand side of the image denote areas of the brain that these animals have in common. For the veterinary students who visit this museum, it is important to identify differences in brains across species in order to properly treat the needs of different animals. For us as neuroscience students, we have also learned a lot about anatomical similarities and differences across species to better understand evolutionary brain development. For example, while a cat has more developed somatosensory areas responsible for integrating sensory information from whiskers, all vertebrates have some form of a hippocampal memory system. This demonstrates the advantage of whiskers that is specific to animals like cats versus the ability to make memories that is advantageous to a wider range of animals, including humans.

Our journey through Musee de l’Homme

By Ally Grubman

This is an image taken from the Musée de l’Homme that we visited last week. All through the museum, we learned about the evolution of man. My favorite part was seeing the different brain sizes. It brought together a lot of what we’ve learned so far through our NBB classes so far. This includes how our brains differ from that of other animals, and what makes us human. 

Musee History Medicine

The photo represents some of the ancient tools that were used for neurosurgery. This particular tool is used for making burr holes for neurosurgery.

On June 10, we visited the museum of the history of medicine to see the evolution of medical and health tools used for medical practice over the years. As seen above, one of the tools for neurosurgery used is a drill for creating holes- burr holes- in the skull as part of the initial process of neurosurgery. The name contains “Trépan” which translates to “drill” and the previous part means head. Today, after years of tool development we have electric drills to make burr holes making it much easier and safer because of stainless steel, high precision, and lesser chance of infection.

Baguettes, Wine, Cheese, and the Eiffel Tower (Photo Post)

When I think of Paris, the first thing that comes to mind is the Eiffel Tower. This photo shows me and Rachel on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower while we had a picnic and photoshoot with some of our classmates, sharing a baguette, cheese, and wine to celebrate our budding friendship. Although I was not sure how much I enjoyed the architecture at first, spending time in the city has allowed the tower to grow on me. The Eiffel Tower was built by Gustave Eiffel for the Paris World Fair in 1889 and features featuring the names of 72 scientists on the borders of the sides of the tower as a homage to the men of science. Despite its fame, the Parisians have not always been thrilled by its appearance, regarding the tower as an eyesore and calling for its removal until the addition of a radio tower at the top in 1909.

NBB 201 as a Museum: Visiting Musee de l’Homme

Skulls of a Homo erectus and Homo ergaster.

On Monday, June 13th, the class took a visit to Musee de l’Homme, an anthropology museum. This museum focused on what makes humans unique from other species and how we evolved. There was a display showing brains of different species emphasizing the size differences. One of the brains on display was rhesus macaques, the type of monkey I work with in my lab. Even though I have worked with the monkeys and seen how small their heads are, I didn’t realize how small their brains are because on my computer they look so big! Something else I really enjoyed about the museum is how much of hominin evolution was familiar to me from NBB 201. For example, pictured in this post are skulls of a Homo erectus and Homo ergaster, both species I learned about. It was really nice to actually see what I have learned.

Ancient Burr Hole Equipment

Last week, we visited the Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine at Université Paris Cité. The museum was very beautiful with lots of wood paneling and skylights. There were also quite a few paintings that depicted how medicine was conducted in the earlier centuries. The main part of the museum, however, was the medical equipment. A case of tools used for drilling burr holes in the skull can be seen in the picture above. Burr holes have been used for centuries to treat intracranial diseases and release pressure. In the past, it was believed that burr holes could rid people of evil spirits. Today, drilling burr holes is much more precise and requires MRI and CT imaging to ensure it is being done in the correct place. The technology is also much more advanced, so the drills only cut through bone and spare the brain tissue.