Our Visit to the Dermatology museum on June 7th was very surprising. I went in expecting to not feel nauseated, but after the visit I did. We weren’t allowed to take pictures because all the molds were made from real-life patients, and taking pictures would be unethical. This visit connected to both our neuroscience classes, since we were able to connect our paper about syphilis and how a nervous system disease can also manifest onto the skin. We were able to connect our neuroscience knowledge about the neurological and ocular changes over various stages of syphilis and apply them while seeing the molds that represented the various stages of the disease on the skin.
I was also able to connect to my neuroethics research when we were informed about the reason we weren’t allowed to take pictures. It was refreshing to see how museums also require ethical guidelines when displaying structures taken from real-life patients.
On Saturday, June 4th, myself and some other students visited the Louvre. Before coming to Paris, there were a few places I heard of or was told I had to see. The Louvre was one of them. Knowing that I was going to be able to see very few exhibits in my few hours there, the Mona Lisa was a must-see for me.
There is quite a bit of literature explaining that art has positive impacts on mental health. While I can definitely see how this would be true, I found the museum overwhelming and anxiety-inducing due to the crowds. Maybe the word has gotten out about the neurological benefits of art and people can’t wait to go! Or maybe it was just a busy Saturday. I’ll let you decide which explanation to believe.
As we toured the seemingly endless halls of Chateau Fontainebleu, I thought about how distinct each room in the manor appeared. There were countless styles to admire from the gorgeous Gobelin tapestries to the baroque frescos to Marie Antoinette’s lavish furniture possession; I was overwhelmed and overstimulated. I was trying hard to connect the dots, to make sense of the rise and fall of these great epochs in French history. I felt that each corridor was a synapse between the many neuron chambers–each complete with a world of organelles from lost ages. I couldn’t make sense of it by the units, but the Chateau made sense as a composite. Perhaps this is how we must view our brains. Consciousness isn’t something so much to be understood as it is to be experienced. As we navigate our memories that construct the rooms within our minds, it should not be so much of a priority to rationalize which doors lead where (for surely, you will get lost), but rather, an exercise to clean and maintain what parts of yourself to which you are still able to access.
This is the grave of Marcel Proust from our class visit to the Père Lachaise Cemetery. I first discovered who he was from a reference to his work, “In Search of Lost Time.” I have not directly read his work yet, but I read Alain de Botton’s ‘self-help’ book titled, “How Proust Can Change Your Life” where I was encouraged to question many of the social norms and ways of life that most of us find ourselves stuck in. In relation to the class, many have said that Proust was actually a pioneer in neuroscience as a theorist, and modern work simply builds upon the artists of past generations. Proust shined a light upon the nature of the mind and on consciousness.
On Monday, June 6th, the day before our third paper was due, I went to the Luxembourg Gardens to finish up my paper. This was my first time in the gardens and wow was it beautiful! Before coming to Paris, I knew France had a lot of castles but I didn’t expect them to be in the heart of the city. It was amazing to be able to take the metro a few stops away from accent and be at a castle with gorgeous gardens. While sitting there writing my paper surrounded by the greenery, hearing the calming sound of the fountain, and feeling the beams of the sun on my face, I felt a sense of relief from the anxiety I had surrounding this paper. It was very cool to feel the first-hand impacts that nature has on stress relief (Tyrväinen et al., 2014).
Tyrväinen, L., Ojala, A., Korpela, K., Lanki, T., Tsunetsugu, Y., & Kagawa, T. (2014). The influence of urban green environments on stress relief measures: A field experiment. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 38, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.12.005
On Friday, we ventured to Stade de France to enjoy a friendly game of rugby between France and Denmark. Although I did not purchase the fun rooster hat, France’s team mascot, I enjoyed trying it on and giving my peers a good laugh. We found our seats and immediately joined in on the cheering. We were tasked with counting the number of head impacts a specific rugby player endured during the match, as we had just learned about white matter abnormalities in rugby players due to head impacts. However, the game started, and we soon realized it was a soccer match between two of the best soccer teams in the world! Now, instead of counting head impacts, we counted headbutts. It was difficult to track a singular player, but as a team, France had over 10 headbutts! That is a lot of potential for mild traumatic brain injury!