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Showing blog posts tagged with "Brain"


Brain Beat: Meditation and the Brain

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The goal of meditation — the act of consciously directing one’s attention to alter one’s state of being — is to take control of the mind so that it becomes peaceful, focused, and more aware. Going beyond the mental and emotional benefits, a new field of study known as contemplative neuroscience is revealing the real, physical effects of meditation on the brain. Using modern neuroimaging and electrophysiological methods, scientists can measure how the brain changes in response to contemplative practices.

This week, neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson,director of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University Wisconsin-Madison, will join other experts for a panel discussion about Tibetan Meditation, Brain, and the Arts (Thursday, January 27) and speak about how to Change Your Brain by Transforming Your Mind (Saturday, January 29). Visitors can also take part in Tibetan meditation at the Museum at one of many free meditation sessions led by Khen Rinpoche Geshe Kachen Lobzang Tsetan, abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in India. The Museum is celebrating Tibetan culture throughout the week, as part of the six-day Global Weekends: Brain and the Tibetan Creative Mind program, presented in conjunction with the exhibition Brain: The Inside Story.

In the meantime, check out a couple of recent articles on meditation and the brain:

Can meditation change your brain? Contemplative neuroscientists believe it can,” a post on the CNN Belief blog, explores recent studies on the effects of meditation on the brain, including those conducted by Davidson, that have found that committed meditators experienced long-term changes in brain function. Research has shown that regions of the brain associated with positive emotions indicated an increase in activity — even in novice meditators.

new study led by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers indicates that mindfulness meditation training can change the brain’s structure in just eight weeks. Participants who meditated for about 27 minutes per day showed increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, the region of the brain important for memory and learning. Decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, the region of the brain that plays a role in anxiety and stress, was also apparent.

Tags: Brain


Decision Making and the Brain

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On Thursday, January 20, neuroscientist Paul Glimcher of New York University and Rob DeSalle, curator of Brain: The Inside Story, will discuss the interdisciplinary field of neuroeconomics and how the brain enables humans to evaluate decisions, categorize risks and rewards, and interact with each other. Glimcher, whose books include Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain and Foundations of Neuroeconomic Analysis, recently answered a few questions about the discipline.

What is neuroeconomics?

Neuroeconomics is a highly synthetic and interdisciplinary effort to understand how both humans and animals make decisions.

What role does neuroeconomics play in our daily lives?

Decisions — the events that neuroeconomists seek to understand and predict — are embedded every aspect of our lives: what to have for breakfast, who to marry, or where to invest our retirement accounts. We make these choices effortlessly, but how? Over the last decade the basic outlines of the answer to that question have begun to become clear and the answers are surprising, exciting, and at times even troubling. It now seems clear that every day, at every action, our brains unconsciously compute and store the values of every event that befalls us. So I would have to say: neuroeconomics is our daily lives.

Tags: Brain


Brain Tweetup Roundup

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“Tweeting is a lot like the nervous system,” Curator Rob DeSalle told the crowd that gathered on Wednesday, January 12 for the first-ever Tweetup at the American Museum of Natural History—a comparison all the more appropriate coming from DeSalle, who curated the Museum’s interactive exhibition Brain: The Inside Story.

The evening kicked off with an after-hours tour of the exhibition, where Tweeters got a look inside a dancer’s brain, tried connecting neurons, and attempted to speak foreign languages. There was also time to talk with DeSalle and co-curator Joy Hirsch.

After refreshments, tweeters headed behind the scenes to learn about the brains of other creatures from Museum scientists and to get a peek at Museum collections. Christine Johnson, a curatorial associate in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology, discussed group decision-making and chemical triggers in ants. Ronald Clouse, a post-doctoral researcher, presented specimens of crustaceans and a few echinoderms while discussing how some of these simple organisms make sophisticated decisions.

To see all the tweets about the event, look for the hashtag #AMNHTweetup or check out the photos on Flickr-and stay tuned for information about upcoming Tweetups at the American Museum of Natural History.

Tags: Brain


Podcast: Brain Master Class

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The human brain is sometimes described as the world’s most complex structure. Today, advances in biochemistry and new technologies that allow us to watch the brain in action are revealing more than ever before.

In this podcast, the scientists behind the special exhibition, Brain: The Inside Story, present a master class on all things brain. Join the discussion on topics ranging from neural evolution to the latest in brain-imaging technology.

Speakers, in order of appearance, include neuroscientist psychoanalyst Maggie Zellner of The Rockefeller University; Rob DeSalle, curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History; and Joy Hirsch, director of the Program for Imaging & Cognitive Sciences at Columbia University.

Recorded at the Museum on December 16, 2010.

Podcast: Download | RSS | iTunes (2 hours, 4 mins, 149 MB)

Tags: Brain


Brain Beat: Animal Brains

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By examining the neural wiring and structure of animal brains, researchers can gain insight into the workings of the human brain, sometimes described as the world’s most complex structure. (The 100,000 neurons of a fly’s brain are easier to track and catalog than the human brain’s one hundred billion.) In the Museum’s current exhibition Brain: The Inside Story, visitors can learn more about the difference — and similarities — between human and animal brains.

Visitors will have also have the chance to view and compare the brains of different animals on Saturday, January 15, at the family-friendly program BRAINFest! The Museum’s Sackler Lab will offer kids and families the chance to learn about how genes work in the brain and look at neurons under a microscope.

In the meantime, check out these recent stories on animal brain research that also provides insight into the human brain.

Tags: Brain


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