9 On this day in 1934, Canadian scientist Herbert Jasper of Brown University made the first electrical tracing from a human brain. Jasper, considered to be one of the founders of modern neuroscience, pioneered the use of the electroencephalogram (EEG) to study electrical activity associated with fundamental brain functions such as consciousness and learning. He and his collaborator, neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield, also elucidated the mechanism underlying epilepsy and invented a highly successful procedure to treat seizures. Their work has contributed largely to our understanding of functional anatomy and lateralization of the human brain.
10 Pop song spoof artist “Weird Al” Yankovic lends his goofy talent to science education as a virtual guide in the Brainitorium. At the Orange County Fair, through August 9, he will host a 3-D animated tour of the human brain. The film’s finale is a Brainitorium exclusive—Weird Al’s first computer-generated music video for a new tune he calls “The Brain Song.”
Costa Mesa, Calif.
17 Alternative therapies are increasingly used alongside and in conjunction with conventional medicine. Health care professionals will share their expertise in mind-body medicine at the AlterMed Research Foundation’s Colorado Integrative Medicine Conference. Presentations will address how techniques such as mindfulness, biofeedback and meditation can manage stress and complement traditional treatments.
Estes Park, Colo.
6 Advances in genetic research are arguably redefining the field of psychology. In his keynote address at the 117th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Francis Collins, former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, will discuss the implications of genetics for behavioral science. Conference participants will discuss new research on timely issues ranging from the war on terror and the current economic crisis to happiness in turbulent times and anger disorders.
6 The practice of art therapy, often used to aid recovery from trauma and emotional distress, has been strongly influenced by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s belief that visual imagery provides a powerful window into the human experience. Jung emphasized that the psyche could best be understood by exploring not only art but also mythology, dreams and religion. Talks at the Eighth Annual Conference of the Jungian Society for Scholarly Studies will cleave closely to Jung’s teachings: they will draw on the roles of nature, politics and archetypal images as each intersects with the mind.
27 Leon Festinger’s A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance was published on this day in 1957. Cognitive dissonance, one of the most influential and well-studied theories in social psychology, refers to the uncomfortable feeling a person has when he or she holds two contradictory ideas or behaviors at the same time; a classic example involves a smoker who knows the health risks of smoking. The theory asserts that people experience a motivational drive to reduce the dissonance, often not by stopping a behavior but by rationalizing it—using the argument, for instance, that smoking keeps my weight down and that obesity is even worse.
Let Wallace & Gromit, the animated duo responsible for kooky contraptions and oddball business schemes, guide your family through A World of Cracking Ideas, an exhibition at London’s Science Museum designed to inspire a new generation of innovative minds. Kids can fuel their creative streaks by interacting with real devices that have transformed our daily lives. The exhibit runs through November 1, but youngsters can visit www.crackingideas.com all year-round to enter contests with their own inventions.
Are you a good multitasker? Can you read a poker face? Find out at Mind, a permanent exhibit at the Exploratorium. A product of four years of collaboration with world-renowned cognitive scientists, this collection of more than 40 interactive stations guarantees you’ll learn something new about your mind. If you can’t visit in person, the Web site lets you try many of the activities remotely.