And Then It Happened

Today was the greatest day ever. Abigail planned on having the group do a talent show at 8 and we ended up actually going through with it and letting Jessica attend the event (Jessica is the IRCS activities coordinator). But first…

Cognitive Control, conceptual retrieval, and creativity
Sharon Thompson-Schill
The front brain controls goal-directed behavior. The back brain processes stimulus-driven behavior. <- Very simplified. 
The frontal lobe acts as a filter for incompatible stimuli according to the goal. Ambiguity in language processing is an example of this kind of filtering. Broca’s area has been linked to this process of weeing out unimportant information. Unlike what was previously thought, Broca’s area is not all-important for language production. Upper posterior area of Broca’s area is very active in referential ambiguity. What Dr. Thompson-Schill has found is that decreasing the functioning of the prefrontal cortex makes it easier for people to come up with creative ways to use ordinary objects. Evidently, the PFC is what blocks creativity by filtering out information that isn’t relevant, so you perceive less about things when you’re an adult and you’ve learned the correct associations to make. As expected, children are better at coming up with creative uses for things than adults are. 
Motor Control in Brain-Computer Interface
Timothy H Lucas, M.D., PhD
Previously it was thought that certain areas in the brain were very specific to their function, and that similar functions were grouped together in the cerebral tissue. This is not the case. Motor functions show up all over the place in the brain, not just the primary motor cortex. By injecting stains into the brain (specific areas) you can see after a couple months where that stain has traveled to learn the associations that area has with parts of the spinal cord and other parts of the brain. They do this in macaques and then sever their spinal cords and take out their brains and slice them up (muahahahaha!) to study them. By doing this, they can find out where the motor control neurons are for whatever part of the body they’re interested in. Then, they implant electrodes in living monkeys’ brains, find out where their control centers are by restricting their arm movements to 2 dimensions, and measuring neuron activity during various movement the monkey is trained to make. Then, the chip learns how to interpret those signals. The researchers then paralyze the monkey’s arm and connect a robotic arm to the chip, and the monkey uses his normal brain powers to reach the robotic arm to a piece of marshmallow and brings it to its mouth. It’s pretty cool. Oh, the things we do for science.

After the lectures, I was determined for my scavenger hunting team to win, and we were still missing a few pictures from the list. While everyone was going out to the farmer’s market, I decided to take a small detour to take pictures of everything I could find before meeting up with them. I got google map directions to a few things and set out to find them. But I didn’t find any, because I’m directionally challenged, and I can’t find my way anywhere even after being in a city for two weeks. So, I ended up somehow in the middle of the city next to that fountain everyone takes pictures with.

Being the loner that I am, I didn’t get to take the pic with anyone. But it was still beautiful scenery, so whatevs. I’ll have to come back here at some point with Kev and we can act like super tourists together. After hitting the fountain on accident I decided to go meet up with the group at the farmer’s market, where I bought a giant thing of gouda cheese (gouda is good-a) and a massive heart attack cookie of epic deliciousness. 

WHAT IS THIS IT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE

After hitting the huge market we went further downtown to East Philly to see the Liberty Bell. On the way there we perpetually complained about how we didn’t have enough time together and about how sad we were we only had a day left to hang out. Anyway, the Liberty Bell was pretty cool, but we got there five minutes after the exhibit closed, so we had to look at it through a glass window. Not cool.

Finally, Rachel, Tatiana, and I broke off from the rest of the group to visit the Boathouse Row, one of the items on our scavenger hunt. We were on a tight schedule or we would have waited to see it at night, when they light it up and it shines out over the water. That would have been something to see! But alas, we had to leave to go and meet everyone for dinner and then get ready for the talent show.

Unfortunately I forgot to bring my iPod to the talent show, but the videos are being uploaded to YouTube as I type by Jessica, who got video for everyone. We had a lot of performances, and only 2 people in the whole group decided not to do anything for the show. On of my favorite performances was Matt’s, who wrote a poem that was several pages long and recited it for us out of his journal. He also promised he was writing a poem about everyone at the IRCS summer workshop, so I look forward to reporting about it! There was lots of music, singing, dancing, some handstands, eyebrow choreography (it happened), zumba, and we learned how to count to a hundred in Japanese from Louis. 
After all the skits, something amazing happened. Abigail told me to start playing “I’m Yours” on my ukulele, and *everyone* joined in and started dancing, and somehow, harmonizing. Usually when you play music in groups of non-musicians you get a couple people singing, and maybe one person that can harmonize. No. We had a whole group of people in three-part perfect harmony singing and dancing to the same song. It was like we finally crossed over the threshold of sort-of-not-being-good-friends to holy-crap-we’re-all-in-love-with-each-other and it was amazing. The rest of the night was a blur of singing and piano playing and music and awesome. I’m going to miss these people soooo much when I leave. 
I’ll have links to the videos as soon as they’re up. 

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