Ever since learning French in high school, I have dreamed of visiting Paris. Over the years, I found myself collecting miniature Eiffel Towers with the hopes of visiting the real one one day. Finally, 7 years later, I was able to make that dream come true and not only admire the monument from afar but also climb upon it. My favorite view was at night when the lights illuminated the tower. An interesting fact that I learned from the tour guide was that from all the suggestions that Gustave Eiffel received when making the design, one of the only ones he decided to incorporate was the suggestion to add scientists’ names to the side of the structure. I was very surprised to learn that Marie François Xavier Bichat, who did research on neuroscience, made the exclusive list! Whenever I think of the Eiffel tower now, I will always connect it to neuroscience, both because of Marie François and because of the amazing experience I had in the city of love!
After our last day of class, Lauren, Cynthia, and I visited Disneyland Paris! We enjoyed a day filled with thrilling roller coasters, that felt faster than those in Disney World in the U.S.. We then questioned the possibility of differences in regulations and engineering. To end the day, we watched a spectacular sunset behind the castle! Unfortunately, these colorful sunsets are due to the contribution of air pollution which increases the quantity of particles that results in this scattering of light. Upon this realization, the “deteriorated air quality” I have seen on my weather app all week made sense as I finally understood this was a noticeable effect. Lastly, Disneyland performed their signature firework show along with a special light show where images were projected on the castle. These shows were a combination of fireworks, light projections, music, fountains, and most surprisingly, dozens of synchronized drones with colored lights.
Last week, we traveled as a class to the Loire Valley. After nearly 3 hours on the bus, we finally arrived in the beautiful region of central France. Despite the heat that day, we all had a lovely time exploring the town. The Loire is the longest river in Europe, and it flows past over 20 castles. I was surprised to learn how large of a role Amboise played in the late life of Leonardo da Vinci. He spent the last three years of his life at the Château du Clos Lucé. At the château, models of his many invention ideas were on display. We have much to thank da Vinci for his contributions to our understanding of cranial anatomy, and so it was impressive to see the space in which he developed such ideas and discoveries. The gardens of the Château d’Amboise, pictured behind me are a worthy burial site for the scientific pioneer.
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
This is a photo of me and my friends in the Loire Valley at the house of Leonardo Da Vinci. While Da Vinci has long been one of my favorite scientists and historical figures, seeing his work and life up close was inspiring. Especially with the knowledge that Da Vinci was a pioneering neuroanatomist, I was inspired by his work and even the slight opportunity to see into his mind. I have studied (in this program and outside of it) neuroanatomy that was first understood by Da Vinci, which was an incredible realization to have when standing in his workshop. I could tell just from looking at his sketches and models that he was on a higher level of creativity, invention, and innovation, and as an aspiring scientist, it was incredible to see.
This is a photo of me and a friend at the Gardens of Versailles (coincidentally, we went on the hottest day of the year, so please excuse any visible sweating). Typically, I associate Versailles, and most palaces, with art, history, and soft science. Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned that Louis XVI was actually quite dedicated to scientific pursuit and immersed himself in studies of physics and chemistry in his private libraries at Versailles! While I found no mention of neuroscience in my research on French royals and science, I can only imagine that the same basic types of discovery I engage in every day in my NBB classes were alive and well even in the days of Marie Antoinette.
This is the bakery I go to every morning before hopping on the Metro 1 line to go to school. The people here know me now, and they grab a pain au chocolat from the case right when I walk in. In a way, I would say that croissants (specifically ones from this bakery) have become my Paris comfort food. This feels funny to me, as the paper I presented in our NBB402W class was all about comfort food; having that context as I saw myself learning to reach for a pain au chocolate during every paper-writing session made me realize just how much I’ll miss my emotional support snacks when I go back home to the states. And I can tell you for a fact that understanding the neuroscience behind comfort and reward from food doesn’t make it any less effective!
This is a photo of me at the Eiffel Tower early in the program. We had gone to a farmers’ market by the Seine, and accidentally stumbled on this little street leading right up to the base of the tower. Something I never knew before this trip is that there are names of 72 scientists on the Eiffel Tower. This tribute to some of the most important scientific minds of France was incredible to see up close, and made the famous monument feel only that much more impactful. While I couldn’t find a neuroscientist specifically, it was incredible to see such a clear ode to scientific success. My one thought was that I didn’t notice any names of women in science, so I hope to see a monument with these names and figures in the future.