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What’s in Store For Your 21st Century Brain?

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Mechanical devices now connect to the brain to restore lost senses like hearing and sight. What if similar technologies could end addiction, improve memory, cure a headache, or lift one’s mood? These and other amazing facets of current brain research are explored in the Museum exhibition Brain: The Inside Story in a section called Your 21st Century Brain.

Here, visitors can see a video in which researchers try to decode language directly within the brain through a brain-computer interface that has the potential for manipulating a keyboard to communicate or powering artificial limbs. Another treatment on the horizon uses non-invasive magnetic waves to theoretically treat for everything from schizophrenia to obesity.

In the video below, exhibition co-curator Rob DeSalle discusses these and other cutting-edge developments ahead for our 21st century brains. Brain: The Inside Story is open now through Sunday, August 14.


Tags: Brain

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Wasp Nest Project Weathers Storm

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A brief, blustery storm blew across the Museum’s Arthur Ross Terrace Wednesday evening, taking with it most of the scalloped cardboard structure of a human-sized wasp nest under construction there since Monday. Three British TV hosts are to be filmed living in the nest this weekend as part of a new Nat Geo WILD series called “Live Like an Animal.”

The unexpected need to rebuild the nest or “envelope” provided an object lesson in actual wasp behavior.

“It is a fact that wasps repair the envelope if the damage to the nest is not too great, where ‘too great’ means something like the nest falls down,” says James M. Carpenter, entomologist and curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, who is working in consultation with the television crew. “I’ve done experiments in envelope removal in the field myself and seen it.”

Tags: Invertebrates

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From the Field: Fossil Leaves and Mammals

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Blogging from west Kenya, William Harcourt-Smith, a research associate in the Division of Paleontology, is directing a 20-million-year-old paleontological site on two islands in Lake Victoria. One of these islands, Rusinga, is best known as the site of the discovery of the first fossils of Proconsul, an early ape. Harcourt-Smith’s multidisciplinary team includes physical anthropologists and geologists, and in addition to collecting fossils, researchers are trying to learn more about the evolutionary events and environmental conditions that may have influenced the emergence of Proconsul and other early ape lineages.

Tags: From the Field

Human-Sized Wasp Nest Has Ross Terrace Abuzz

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Anyone dropping by the Ross Terrace during the day this week can witness the spectacle of three British TV hosts building and then living in a human-sized replica of a wasp’s nest. The feat will be filmed as part of a new series called “Live Like an Animal.”

Consulting with Nat Geo WILD crew is James M. Carpenter, entomologist and curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology.  In this video, Dr. Carpenter takes you behind the scenes of the Museum’s Hymenoptera collection which includes the world’s largest collection of wasp nests with more than 1,000 specimens as well as the 7.5 million-specimen gall wasp collection donated to the Museum in 1958 by the widow of Alfred C. Kinsey:


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Brain Games: Teaching Tools Get Second Life

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“It was an exciting opportunity to modify these for educational purposes,” says Samara Rubinstein, manager of the Sackler Educational Laboratory and the coordinator of five part-time science educators who staff the Brain Bench. Included in the offerings, which are recommended for visitors ages 8 and up, are the popular “build-a-brain” puzzle, which piece by piece conveys the evolutionary path from the reptilian brain to the neocortex unique to humans; artist Devorah Sperber’s clever installation on the mechanics of sight in which a famous painting is rendered—and disguised by—colorful spools of thread; a pyramid stacking station that looks like child’s play but requires sophisticated planning; and a variety of computer games designed to sharpen basic brain functions like focus and memory.

Tags: Brain

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