11 May Weekly Brain Food – May 8, 2016
A selection of stories shaping our brains this week
The Depressing Science of What Living in a City Does to Your Brain
Urban brains and rural brains are different. Neural plasticity and the natural human process of adapting to environments means that brains are in part formed by the surroundings in which they develop. If that surrounding is a bustling urban centre, human brains are shaped by the stimulation (honking horns and revving engines bouncing off concrete, glass and steel) and the social stresses (interacting with so many more people each day, whether desired or not). The antidote? What rural brains enjoy more of: green and blue space.
Full story here
Radiohead – Burn The Witch
English glum-rockers Radiohead released their latest album in a most peculiar way, first erasing all social media presence of the band, and then posting a modern-day Wicker Man-inspired animated music video for Burn the Witch, the first song off the album. It’s the latest promotional masterstroke for the band, which has a history of effectively leveraging technology and social trends to maximize marketing reach: Kid A was seeded to Napster before its release; In Rainbows was ‘pay what you want’; and King of Limbs was handed to a handful of DJs – including Caribou, Four Tet and Jamie XX – to remix and mash up before its release, effectively using Radiohead’s music as a platform on which to innovate. It’s perhaps this acute sense of the cultural zeitgeist that has Radiohead in a league of its own. As The Guardian reviewed:
“Artistically at least, these are supposed to be thin times for rock music, particularly rock of the stadium-filling variety. The really important, epochal, provocative stuff – the music that, to use a ghastly phrase, carries the conversation – is clearly happening in hip hop and R&B. With one exception: alone among their commercial peers, Radiohead are held to not just release albums but make grand artistic statements worth dissecting and poring over in the same way as the output of Kendrick Lamar or Beyonce.”
Album review here
‘Burn the Witch’ Video here
The Role Of Virtual Reality And Technology in the Future of Museums
While many publishers and content curators are plunging headlong into virtual reality, one segment of the cultural sector remains tentative: museums. But if Alex Benay has his way, this will change soon. The CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation sees the technology as a means to extend access to museum experiences and drive engagement, saying “if you get to live the experience, that’s a better emotional home run for a visitor”.
Not everyone sees the same potential. Some argue, for example, that the museum’s fundamental role in education, as well as providing a place of escape and calm away from their (mostly) bustling urban environs, is at odds with the distracting, over-stimulation of consumer technology, and particularly VR. The success of VR in museums may hinge on whether this cultural divide can be bridged. But you have to admit, the thought of experiencing Michaelangelo’s David or the Sistine Chapel from afar is incredibly compelling, no?
Full story here
Biotech Company Granted Ethical Permission to Attempt to Use Stem Cells to Reactivate the Brains of the Dead
Critics are calling it the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. Game of Thrones fans, on the other hand, may be enthused to hear that resurrections may soon be more than the realm of fiction. Whatever your position, Bioquark’s approval by the Institutional Review Board in the US and India to stimulate nervous systems of 20 brain-dead patients in order to restart their brains is bound to be met by parts interest and horror. A range of techniques will be trialed, and the intention of the research itself seems admirable. According to Ira Pastor, CEO of Bioquark, “it is a long-term vision of [the company’s] that a full recovery in such patients is a possibility”.
I suppose it depends on whether it’s Jon Snow or Gregor Clegane that’s brought back to life*.
Full story here
Image cred: Citylab.com
*For the uninitiated, that’s a Game of Thrones reference.