Monday, February 13, 2012

Growing a brain

It was exciting to read this story in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning, about scientists who can convince cast-off skin cells to turn into brain cells. I'm not exactly clear on whether they have grown actual human neurons in the lab from this process, or just the progenitor cells that might turn into neurons later, but the overall positive message seems to be that it may, in future, be possible to transplant stem cells from the patients own tissue into failing brains and thus counteract the degenerative processes of Alzheimer's and age. The full paper is published in Nature Neuroscience, although you need a subscription to read more than the précis.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Neuroscience of art appreciation

It's an old question: What is art? What is "good" art? Do you love the art because it appeals to you or just because it's in an art gallery? It's not just about beauty, because some of the world's most famous artworks are quite ugly or horrific.

There's also the question of "real" art versus "fakes". Is the art of any less value if the brush was wielded by one of Rembrandt's students rather than the master himself? Does knowing whether a work is authentic add to your appreciation?

The new ABC Radio National show, Books & Arts Daily, recently ran an interview with Professor Martin Kemp about his research with neuroscientists into how the brain responds to "authentic" and "fake" art. Listen here. Fascinating!