Melding the Mind & Math: Brain Science, Past and Future

Today I had the opportunity to attend the Mind/Brain Lecture with Alan Alda, Eric Kandel and Jim Simons. It was such a treat to hear the conversation between Dr. Simon’s mathematical perspective on the brain and Dr. Kandel’s perspective from neuropsychiatry moderated through Alan Alda, who has done so much work towards communicating complicated scientific ideas through journalism.

Dr. Simons and Dr. Kandel spoke deeply about memory storage and recall and emerging research about how the brain ties physical space to memory creation. Dr. Kandel talked about how, as we move through space, different cells in our hippocampi fire and as we move back through the same spaces, those same cells fire again. There are many applications for teachers and learners and also for how we design learning spaces.

For instance, it makes me wonder if diversity from library to library and classroom to classroom actually has a detrimental effect on learning. It could be that the visual cues of a space (the card catalog that looks the same everywhere, the institutional desk, the overhead projector, the stacks of books) help researchers and learners tie memories to spaces and access them more freely later. It also might imply that we could cue different feelings, memories, and attitudes by plugging in to the visual prompts of other spaces. These are just musings, but there is a lot that can be learned from observing patrons interacting and learning in new and old library spaces.