Anthropology Hype

This is a collection of brains in the context of anthropology. (c.f. the reflections 🙂

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.




Water’s Good for the Soul (Photo Post)

Attached above is a picture I took of the sunset while enjoying a picnic with some French friends on the river Seine. I remember thinking when I first got to Paris, that I wasn’t sure I could live somewhere so devoid of natural spaces to enjoy. Yes, there are ample parks, but surely it couldn’t compare to my home in Virginia. However, to my surprise, it was the Seine that provided me comfort and soothed some intermittent waves of homesickness – now it’s no Potomac, but it’ll do. I’ve always known green space to put me at ease, so this preference for the river over parks was unexpected. But nevertheless, it was my near daily walks on the Seine that brought me peace this summer. I found a study that looked into the effects of the visibility of “green space” versus “blue space” on psychological distress in Wellington, New Zealand. The results of the study corroborate my individual experience, as they found that residential exposure to visible “blue space” was associated with lower levels of psychological distress.

Nutsford, D., Pearson, A. L., Kingham, S., & Reitsma, F. (2016). Residential exposure to visible blue space (but not green space) associated with lower psychological distress in a capital city. Health and Place, 39.

Does size really matter? (Photo Post)

This past Monday, the class got to visit the Musee de l’Homme right outside the Trocadero metro stop – Paris’ 20th century anthropology museum. It includes a unique collection of artifacts which are organized to represent human evolution and cultural variation. The nature of the museum is such that it takes on not only an anthropological approach, but also biological and ethnographical ones.  Included above is a picture of Robina and I standing in front of a display case showing the brains of various different animals. I was very surprised to see some tiny brains, like an alligator’s brain which is about the size of three grapes. I was equally surprised to see some very large brains, larger than ours. This took me back to NBB201 and got me thinking about how the objective size of a brain is not what’s important to determining intelligence, rather it is the brain to body weight ratio. 

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 MusĂ©e 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.