Ending January 2
Artist M. C. Escher famously created “impossible” visual illusions, such as never-ending staircases, perpetually flowing streams and off-kilter perspectives. Such illusions help to reveal how the brain creates its own reality. At the Boston Museum of Science’s Inside the Mind of M. C. Escher, visitors can explore these optical phenomena and even try their hand at re-creating an Escher.
15 In 2007 John Cacioppo, a social neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, and his colleagues tried to explain why feeling lonely can make you physically sick—chronic loneliness can trigger changes in the activity of genes linked to diseases, such as cancer and heart disease [see “So Lonely It Hurts,” Head Lines; Scientific American Mind, June/July 2008]. At the three-day First International Society for Social Neuroscience Symposium, Cacioppo and his fellow researchers from around the world will present their most recent insights on the neuroscience of emotions, decision making and learning.
26 Most of us know that what we eat changes our bodies, but it is easy to forget that food also shapes our minds, influencing our moods, thoughts and behaviors. For instance, the caffeine in tea and soda makes us alert, the molecule phenylethylamine in chocolate helps to elevate our mood, and the chemical myristicin in nutmeg can induce hallucinations at high doses. At the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series, science historian Steven Shapin will explore modern nutrition science in his talk You Are What You Eat, delving into the surprising effects foods have on our mind and body.
New York City
12 Until the 1970s neuroscientists believed that the human brain stopped developing after a certain age. In the past 40 years, however, researchers discredited this theory, revealing instead how malleable, or “plastic,” the brain is throughout our lives. At the week-long Winter Conference on Neural Plasticity, attendees will discuss how our brains change with age and life experience, how learning and remembering result in more neural connections, and how neurological diseases damage these connections.
French Polynesia, South Pacific
Discover how a bat uses its built-in radar to locate its next meal and peer through the eyes of a model bee head to experience how a bee’s vision allows it to see ultraviolet light reflected off flowers. At California Science Center’s World of Life exhibit, you can explore how these animals survive using their instincts.
ROUNDUP: NOISES ON!
Learn how the brain processes sound in an exhibit, a lecture and a gallery.
Ending January 23
No matter the style of instrument or the sound it creates, all humans process music in the same way. Music simultaneously activates many brain regions, including areas dedicated to movement, touch and vision. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Sounding the Pacific is the first art exhibit to exclusively showcase a variety of instruments from Oceania nations such as Australia and the Pacific Islands, including stringed instruments with sounding chambers woven from palm leaves.
New York City
We are wired to remember music. That is what musician and McGill University cognitive scientist Daniel Levitin describes during a lecture series hosted by the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Levitin will explain how we can store specific details about melodies long after we hear them. He will also discuss how people acquire musical expertise and why we perceive emotion in music.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
We depend on covert conversations to tell true friends from potential betrayers. The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry has designed “whispering arches” from a giant metal ellipsoid structure called the Whispering Gallery. If you whisper into one of the gallery’s two dishes, the structure conveys your secret across the room, to where a friend awaits.