During this trip, my roommate and I have been blessed to have the Luxembourg Garden only a five-minute walk away. After waking up early one morning and getting breakfast to go, I decided to explore the park a little more. It was nice to see people on their morning walks or runs. As I wandered, I came upon the miniature version of the Statue of Liberty in New York and the beautiful fountain next to it. In a study conducted by Ward Thompson et al. (2012), they found that parks help with stress reduction and mental health overall. With this in mind, I am very excited to enjoy all that the gardens have to offer while I am here.
Ward Thompson, C., Roe, J., Aspinall, P., Mitchell, R., Clow, A., & Miller, D. (2012). More green space is linked to less stress in deprived communities: Evidence from salivary cortisol patterns. Landscape and Urban Planning, 105(3), 221–229. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2011.12.015
This past Friday, we all made the transition from obnoxious American sports fanatics to obnoxious European sports fanatics! Adorning French face paint, we headed up to the top of the stadium to rugby, I mean, football, which was surprisingly brutal physically for the players. I counted 6 potential head injuries for my chosen player, #7. Luckily, it seems that there actually has been extensive research into both the implications of soccer-related head injuries and how they can be prevented as early as youth soccer leagues. In fact, one study looked at implicating behavioral skills training, or BST, into youth soccer programs to demonstrate and enforce a safer means of “heading” the ball that leads to less physical duress. These researchers found that there was vast improvement amongst the players after BST as opposed to players without BST, so perhaps this practice should be implemented in more youth sports programs.
Quintero, L. M., Moore, J. W., Yeager, M. G., Rowsey, K., Olmi, D. J., Britton‐Slater, J., Harper, M. L., & Zezenski, L. E. (2019). Reducing risk of head injury in youth soccer: An extension of behavioral skills training for heading. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. https://doi.org/10.1002/jaba.557
This was a picture I took on the way to the dermatology museum on the Saint-Louis Hospital campus in Paris. While we didn’t get to actually visit the museum on this trip, the hallway outside of it had many pictures and portraits of patients with dermatological illnesses. These illnesses were interesting to look at and related to the paper we were talking about in class at the time. Mainly, some of the portraits of the patients had chancres, the main symptom of early syphilis, which is what our last paper was about. This helped me visualize the illness we had just been talking about and put it all into perspective. Can’t wait to go back and actually see the museum next time!
This past Friday night, June 3rd, we all headed towards the Stade de France to watch what I thought would be my first Rugby match. Much to all our surprise, at the start of the game, we realized our mistake– we were watching a Nations League football match (France vs Denmark). The crowd was full of contagious excitement and I couldn’t believe our luck. I was very happy to be able to witness a football game in person, especially in the Stade de France. I saw the players pass the ball from person to person and even use their heads to block it from going to the other team’s goal. This reminded me of all the times we have learned of the risk of head trauma, concussions, and TBIs in sports. In a study by Rodrigues, Lasmar, & Caramelli (2016) they found that “heading the ball accounted for 30.5% of concussions”. When you think of how many people all around the world participate in this sport, that number becomes very scary.
Rodrigues, A. C., Lasmar, R. P., & Caramelli, P. (2016). Effects of Soccer Heading on Brain Structure and Function. Frontiers in Neurology, 7(38). https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2016.00038
On May 30th, our class took a trip to Choco-Story where we had a mini-workshop on how to coat and decorate various foods in delicious melted chocolate. We were each given marshmallows, chocolate fudge squares, and candied orange strips to dip into our preferred melted chocolate– milk or dark chocolate. In addition to this, we were also able to fill chocolate bar molds and create–or attempt to create– intricate designs.
In our neuroethics class, we recently discussed cognitive enhancers and their implications. For our reflection, Dr. Rommelfanger asked us the following question: Does coffee count as a cognitive enhancer? Initially, I said that no, coffee is not a cognitive enhancer because it only has short-term effects and its consumption can result in an increased state of anxiousness– an opposite effect. However, I left the discussion with a change of heart. Both coffee and chocolate contain caffeine, which has a tendency to improve alertness and attention which are qualities of a cognitive enhancer.
This morning, we made our way to the basilique Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre. We started our journey off by having a nice lunch at one of the local restaurants paired with some Lebanese-style ice cream. Loaded with energy, we tackled the seemingly never-ending stairs. However, the reward of the view was absolutely breathtaking. The beauty extended into the inside, where I was met with stained-glass windows and awe-inspiring images of saints and Jesus Christ.
As I sat alone in the pews, waiting to go light a candle at the altar, I felt such a strong wave of sereneness and a sense of belonging. In an effort to connect this to neuroscience, I thought back to the relationship between religion and mental health. Personally, I was taught that in moments of stress and confusion, I should pray and find comfort in God. In recent studies, it is suggested that practicing religion has a “protective” effect on our mental health.
Early in our trip, we visited Fromagerie, a cheese shop, in Paris. I have never been a huge fan of cheese; however, being able to experience the unique tastes of various cheeses native to France was memorable. In class, we discussed a paper on how cheese palatability could provide some stress relief (Fourman et al., 2021). Although cheese may not be my preferred comfort food of choice, it was nonetheless eye-opening to learn about the various cheese making techniques implemented in all parts of Europe.
This picture was taken when our class went to a Nations League game (soccer) played between the French and Denmark national teams. The game took place at the Stade de France, undoubtedly the biggest sports stadium I had ever been to. The crowd erupted with every French possession and goal. This experience related to our NBB 402W class as we discussed how white matter tracts and brain structural changes take place with repeated blows to the head. Studies have shown that as many as 22% of soccer injuries are concussions, thus increasing the chances of neurocognitive complications for players in the future (Levy et al., 2012).
On Wednesday, May 25th we visited a Fromagerie for a cheese tasting in Paris! It was a very different experience for me since I am not a fan of cheese. Personally, I like to avoid cheese in all I eat if possible, but I am glad I got to try different kinds of cheese because it was a great experience. We played lots of games and tried 5 different kinds of cheese. We tried the camembert, goat’s cheese, and other cheese made from goat’s milk, cow’s milk, and sheep’s milk.
Connecting it back to the NBB class, we did learn that cheese has an attenuating effect on the stress response, although I found a different article that talks about the response of the brain to cheese. The article talks about how cheese like many other dairy products contains casein, and sometimes casomorphins. These substances trigger the same pathways as opiate drugs do. This is very interesting and may shed more light on the addictive properties of cheese and the obesity risk due to highly salted cheese. This can be also linked to neuroethics and discussion of how companies use this knowledge to sell cheese “that you can’t stop eating”.
On May 21st, Rachel, Sam, and I visited the Arc de Triomphe, accompanied by my dad who was in town for a business trip. The monument was built after the famous battle of Austerlitz in 1805, which Napoléon considered his military masterpiece. The monument aimed to commemorate the victories of the French army. Despite starting construction in 1806, the monument was finished in 1836 (Emory’s founding year!), taking a total of 30 years to complete.
This relates to our class content because in neuroethics we discussed the ethical use of brain-to-brain interfaces. One example that stood out to me was the use of this technology during wartime. While I originally thought this would be the most ethical solution, my peers brought up the issue of hacking and worsening the deindividualization experienced by soldiers.