CLOSE

Lectures for a New Year: The Brain, Art, and Neurology

V.S. Ramachandran is a neuroscientist of the peculiar. Rama investigates unusual cases, and through his research he often helps people tremendously -- for example, he invented the mirror box, which is used to treat phantom limb pain in amputees. He also actively studies and seeks to understand topics like synesthesia, rather than simply dismissing them as odd or quirky phenomena.

In this riveting lecture, Rama walks through a variety of curious neurological topics, building a case for how the brain perceives everything -- and ultimately how it perceives art. While this lecture has more to do with neurology than art, it's still of interest to those who dig art, and there is indeed a lot of discussion in the latter half of what art might be, whether art can be considered universal, and how art might function in the brain.

Topics: Capgras Delusion (aka "my mother is an imposter!"), synesthesia (aka "C Major is green!"), what a metaphor really is (schizophrenics don't understand metaphor!), "bite you!", a series of interesting visual illusions, how the brain responds to art, bird beaks, art, art, and artists.

For: fans of science, anyone who's curious how the brain really works, fans of art, and anyone who loves a good lecture (can you imagine having this man as your professor? Fantastic!).

Viewing note: Skip to 3:13 to get to the lecture; the intro isn't necessary.

Further Reading

Rama's book Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind is a classic, though a tad out of date. His latest is The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human. You might also enjoy his lecture Synesthesia in Mystical Traditions.

Transcript

I haven't been able to find a transcript of this talk. The only option I've found is to enable YouTube's automated captioning system, which doesn't work at all well with the technical terms in this lecture.

Suggest a Lecture

Got a favorite lecture? Is it online in some video format? Leave a comment and we’ll check it out!

Original image
iStock
arrow
Health
Growing Up With Headphones May Not Damage Kids’ Hearing
Original image
iStock

A study published in the American Medical Association's JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery finds no increase in child and adolescent hearing loss despite a rise in headphone and earbud use.

"Hearing impairment in children is a major public health burden given its impact on early speech and language development, and subsequently on academic and workforce performance later in life," the authors write. "Even mild levels of hearing loss have been found to negatively affect educational outcomes and social functioning."

As portable music players continue to grow in popularity, parents, doctors, and researchers have begun to worry that all the music pouring directly into kids' ears could be damaging their health. It seems a reasonable enough concern, and some studies on American kids' hearing have identified more hearing loss.

To take a closer look, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), collected from 1988 to 2010. They reviewed records from 7036 kids and teens between the ages of 12 and 19, checking each participant's hearing tests against their exposure to noise.

As expected, the authors write, they did find a gradual increase in headphone use and other "recreational noise exposure." And they did see an uptick in hearing loss from 1988 to 2008 from 17 percent to 22.5 percent. But after that, the trend seemed to reverse, sinking all the way down to 15.2 percent—lower than 1988 levels. They also found no significant relationship between noise exposure and hearing loss.

The results were not uniform; some groups of kids were worse off than others. Participants who identified as nonwhite, and those of lower socioeconomic status, were more likely to have hearing problems, but the researchers can't say for sure why that is. "Ongoing monitoring of hearing loss in this population is necessary," they write, "to elucidate long-term trends and identify targets for intervention."

Before you go wild blasting music, we should mention that this study has some major limitations. Hearing loss and other data points were not measured the same way through the entire data collection period. Participants had to self-report things like hearing loss and health care use—elements that are routinely under-reported in surveys. As with just about any health research, more studies are still needed to confirm these findings.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Weather Watch
NASA Figures Out Why When It Rains, It (Sometimes) Drizzles
Original image
iStock

What’s the difference between drizzle and rain? It has to do with updrafts, according to new research by NASA scientists into the previously unexplained phenomenon of why drizzle occurs where it does.

The answer, published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, could help improve how weather and climate models treat rainfall, making predictions more accurate.

Previously, climate researchers thought that drizzle could be explained by the presence of aerosols in the atmosphere. The microscopic particles are present in greater quantities over land than over the ocean, and by that logic, there should be more drizzle over land than over the ocean. But that's not the case, as Hanii Takahashi and her colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory found. Instead, whether or not rain becomes full droplets or stays as a fine drizzle depends on updrafts—a warm current of air that rises from the ground.

Stronger updrafts keep drizzle droplets (which are four times smaller than a raindrop) floating inside a cloud longer, allowing them to grow into full-sized rain drops that fall to the ground in the splatters we all know and love. In weaker updrafts, though, the precipitation falls before the drops form, as that light drizzle. That explains why it drizzles more over the ocean than over land—because updrafts are weaker over the ocean. A low-lying cloud over the ocean is more likely to produce drizzle than a low-lying cloud over land, which will probably produce rain.

This could have an impact on climate modeling as well as short-term weather forecasts. Current models make it difficult to model future surface temperatures of the Earth while still maintaining accurate projections about the amount of precipitation. Right now, most models that project realistic surface temperatures predict an unrealistic amount of drizzle in the future, according to a NASA statement. This finding could bring those predictions back down to a more realistic level.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios