Tag Archives: sara lazar

Finish Lines, Flying Sheep, Frantic Knives

There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down,
the other is pulling up.
— Booker T. Washington

The Finishing Line of Summer Research

This past week was my last of research and finally got to play with the brain-analysis program. Dream come true? What was very cool was that even though I had the smallest sample size ever ( N = 9), the figural creativity scores correlated with increased thickness in the brain regions that I wanted, particularly the TPJ! The TPJ is known as the temporal parietal junction, and that’s where the temporal and parietal lobes intersect. This area is a hotbed for connection, and is also implicated in Theory of Mind (understanding the concept of a mind, that other people have minds – people with autism have deficits).

The brain doesn’t quite look like a brain in the initial analysis because it’s inflated so you can see between the gyri. But down below is what the brain actually looks like (See how hard it is to figure it out):

Final memorable moments:

1) Hilarious phone calls to Dr. Lazar – someone apparently called and said they had a spontaneous awakening and wanted their brain scanned. They also claimed to be an advanced meditator because their “nose itched”. My nose itches right now too, does that mean I’m enlightened?

2) The Biggest Loser – STRESS EDITION – Dr. Britta Holzel, Sara’s fellow researcher who ahs also worked on many papers with her, was asked by a German production company from her native homeland to star in The Biggest Loser. The twist is that rather than losing weight, it’s the contestant who loses the most stress. So Britta’s role is to be the “meditator guru”, while other people will go through things like exercise, martial arts, counting sheep… to be honest I really have no idea where this idea is going. Again, evidence we’re a little too hyped up about “wellness” sometimes. I guess it’s better than more trashy episodes of the Kardashians (no hating) and shows an interest by the “public” in mental health.

Scents and Scentsability

So, hi, guess what? I’ve decided I want to do a [mini] documentary on the sense of smell and human conscience. How did my fascination begin?

Yoga-y: I’ve been told I have root chakra issues and root chakra (muladhara) is related to smell. Something about the psychology of groundedness and being in your body is related to this underappreciated sense.

Neurosciencey: Well, our other senses (and by that I mean the common five, not the extra ones) go through our sensory neurons, to the thalamus, then to its respective part in the cortex. BUT the olfactory system, considered to be part of our more primitive brain, engages in its own direct route. The neurons go straight to the olfactory bulb, which is seated next to the more primitive, emotional centers of our brain too, thus the deep connections of memory and emotions.

Food: Well it’s no secret I love food. But you seriously can’t taste without smell. I’ve started to do this new thing which all my friends make fun of me for – take a deep breath with your mouth, plug up your nose, and then eat something. The only things you can bring your attention to is the sensations created on your tongue and mouth…that’s real taste! It’s texture and sensations! You relearn what salty, umami, bitter, sweet, and sour really mean. You relearn how your mouth feels after certain food.

And then…keep playing and unplug your nose halfway through. WOOM you get a huge attack of flavor, and you can usually identify what you’re actually eating! Most fun with spices 🙂 Try cinnamon on your friends.

Currently reading “Season to Taste” by Molly Birnbaum, an incredible book with delightful descriptions of taste and smell, as well as a juicy handful of scientific knowledge (making the science nerd in me very, very happy). The book recounts her experiences as a chef who loses her sense of smell (anosmia) after getting in a car accident and damaging her brain. While deferring her space at a culinary institute, she falls into the world of journalism and slowly relearns to smell (first thing she detects is rosemary! Then chocolate woo). Can’t wait to meet and discuss with her next week at her book reading – going to ask her for tips on documentaries and also her thoughts on smell.

So basically –  philosophers loved to rave about vision, especially because it distinguishes humans, but why not study the sense that connects us more deeply to other more ancient creatures? I’m starting to read articles which I will update here, but to begin my exploration I watched a BBC documentary – things I learned:

  • many animals are super picky like the koala that will only eat 30 types of eucalyptus, sharks only eat fish (they tried giving them steak, chicken, lamb and swam off), carnivores on land hate sweet things, hummingbirds eat the equivalent of a human eating 1000 chocolate bars a day
  • humans, on the other hand, first like sweet and salty, then learn to develop a palate – “aquiring a taste” is so unique to humans, and may have been one of our many evolutionary advantages
  • I mean, take the crazy example of feeding stilton blue cheese (molded, fermented milk) to Asians, and feeding 100 year old eggs to Westerners. Each group finds it disgusting to eat the others’ delicacy
  • As humans, we’re much more sensitive to bad smells than good…rotting meat for example – sulphurs, small, fast moving molecules
  • Buteric Acid is the culprit for making cheese and vomit taste similar!
  • A lot of smells we’re averse to (excrements) are learned as we become older – initially as babies we don’t think they’re bad at all! (refer again to parmesan cheese and vomit similarities above)

CLOVER UPDATES

I got to attend knife skills 101 with Chef Rolando!! I’ll update under cooking some of the knife skills I learned (by creating my own videos). Unfortunately, I didn’t pass my first time (a minute too slow), but hopefully with some practice I’ll get better.

Ayr had me go on a run around to Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, Starbucks, and Crema Cafe (a local Cambridge coffee shop) to check out their basic black coffees. Conversations that I will always remember forever and ever and ever (thanks Ayr!). No, not really.

DD:

Me: “Where is this coffee from?” Her: “I have noooooooo idea. Look online.”

McD: 

Me: “Where is this coffee from?” NiceIrishLad: “I have noooooooo idea. Oh wait. It says by Newman. Ummm Bolivia?”

Starbucks:

Me: “Where is this coffee from?” 2 people: “Uhhhhhhh NO idea.” 1 awesome person: “It’s from somewhere in South America. Specifically, I don’t know. But I do know it’s a combination of farmers we rotate through to manage a flavor profile. And I swear it’s according to a bunch of sustainable codes, you can check online.”

Crema:

Me: “Where is your coffee from?” Her: “Uhhhhhh you can ask George Howell, he makes our coffee. So go online.”

Conclusion after tasting? Somehow, Starbucks tastes way worse than McDonalds or Dunkin. Disturbing.

Also, I am so jealous of these kids who get fields trip to Clover!! I want one!

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Filed under adventures, Clover, creativity, food, meditation, science, smell

Herbing Out P3 & Loving Linux

 SHARK FINNING IS BANNED IN TAIWAN. Sweet yo. Check out more info on it at VegNews or whatever news thing your heart desires. Taiwan is the 4th largest shark-meat industry in the world after Spain (??!!! what do they eat it in? Update: okay I just checked it out, and a lot of sources are saying over 90% of Spaniards don’t realize traditional dishes have shark meet? That’s impossible. I’m not sure how much to believe but check it out here), India, and Indonesia.

Note that the fishing of sharks still happens, but the cutting of fins and throwing the bodies back into the ocean is banned. The key issue with Taiwan is whether or not bribes, weak government enforcement, or loopholes will still allow fishermen to make as much profit as possible. This is something that has always bothered me back at home (Hong Kong). Hopefully HK will learn to get rid of this stuff from Disneyland and other restaurants. I mean, chicken soup tastes the same.

Day One of Summer Lab: I love my PI (“Principal Investigator”) Sara Lazar. She made an analogy with brain scanning analysis and food today, so I automatically fell in love.

“Brains. Brains, brains, brains. Hmm where do I even begin? Gah. Well I love analogies. So yeah, brains are like cooking. We have to start with chopping the stuff up, then digest the recipe, then putting it together, then adjusting, then running it through heat, and then finally arrive with some final products.”

So that’s what I did today. I learned to pick ingredients. And by that I mean UNIX. Or even more specifically, LINUX.

This is something I never thought I would touch. Alas, the day found me.

All this computer jargon where “lp” apparently stands for print and “rm” is remove (okay, a tad more intuitive) and “mv” is replace (or delete if you’re not careful. Results in –> #)@(#$*#@)%&(#@*$ ). I sat stretching on PI’s office floor (classy lady, yes) while reading 125 pages of this book:

Afterwards, I stared stone-faced at a screen trying to figure out terminal code. I give myself a B- on how successful I was. For some reason I still couldn’t handle files when using the path name (i.e. home/kelly/creativity/research/omgaflyingalpacawantsalmondbutter)

THINGS YOU FIND @ HERBSTALK [PART THREE]

6. Ghee! Glee? Ghee!

Huh what? Murr? That’s Ghee, which is fortified butter and is infamous in the yoga world. I had always wanted to try it. The short ghee prep download is to melt the butter, get rid of the fats (the residue solids), and take what’s left behind (and run like the wind). When cooled, the filtered ghee becomes solid and fragrant. It can be used just like butter, but it’s seen as a purifying/clearifying agent and is used in detoxes. One version would be to have a week where before any food is consumed, a tablespoon of ghee is consumed and fully digested first (then increase by one spoon each day). I don’t think I’d do it anytime soon, but apparently ghee helps increase secretion of biliary lipids which reduces LDL cholesterol? Not sure how legit the studies are. 

7. Meet Awesome Superfood Chefs

Well harro. This is Frank. He owns Frank’s Finesta herb/spice company. That bowl you see a person reaching into is spirulina popcorn.

I love, love, loved talking to him and hearing about his experiences as a chef who turned into a vegan, super-food chef. He’s stopped working at restaurants and now does private cooking or focuses on promoting his spices while writing weekly recipes. Basically, his life is still consumed by food. I got to hear about how he went to Cambridge Culinary School for the basics, and then his experiences working in the kitchen. I asked him how long I should stage (work for free) in a specific kitchen (“3 months. Don’t give up too quickly.”) and also how to best make use of my time in there.

“Ask high mileage questions.” adored that response because it’s applicable to everything, really. It was what I learned in my yoga training to – to always questions your sources and ask “Why am I doing this? How does this serve my class? How was this study conducted?” In food and in the kitchen, he was referring to asking the chef: “Why are you putting the salt and pepper in first? How does dicing the onions this way make a difference? Why do you work with the dough this way?”

I bought the Spirulina Gomasio (Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts, Incan Spirulina^, Himalayan Crystal Salt*, Onion Granules^), BBQ Spice Blend (Paprika^, Himalayan Crystal Salt*, Onion^, Garlic^, Thyme^, Long Pepper^, Sassafras^, Chipotle Powder^, Bay Leaf^), and Spicy Chocolate Mix (okay yes, I live up to being a chocolate addict. What’s new?)

My favorite part at the bottom: *Wildcrafted, ^Certified Organic.

Hah, yesss.

[[[still to be continued. Sorry folks]] 

DAILY NUTRITION FACTS

Made myself a beautiful Golden Beet Salad with Blackberry-Mint Dressing

CLICK HERE FOR NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION ON BEETS. OMNOMNOM

Ingredients: 4 medium sized golden beets, half a small box of blackberries, about 10-15 mint leaves, olive oil, basalmic vinegar

0) [Taken from How to Break an Egg. I am not this experienced. Bow down to me anyways?] Buy beets with smooth skins and tails that aren’t too shaggy. If they’re too light for their size, they probably weren’t stored properly. If they still have their greens, trim them off before storing and don’t was them, since moisture = 😦

1) I was personally worried that the beets would go bad (actually they last up to 12 days!), but apparently just cutting off the awkward sprouts solved the deal. So I threw these kids into a pot of boiling water and lowered the heat down to a simmer and waited about an hour and a half. The skins slipped off nice and sleak. It’s hard to overcook beets apparently.

2) Then you go chop-chop-chop. I made mine look like little sunrises. Sun salutations anyone?

3) Cut up the berries and tear up the mint. Place gracefully into a blender if possible. Then add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a few dashes of balsamic vinaigrette. Or you can change the ratio however you want. Blend it up.

4) Stir together, create weird mosaic designs, or just throw it into a bowl, and enjoy!

YOGA BY THE RIVER:

At 7:30 – 8:30 AM Thursday: moderate intensity Vinyasa flow

RESOURCE UPDATES:

Food – linked more recipes from my old blog

Yoga – added some acupressure and mudra resources, as well as resources for people who are prone to “shin splints” (HAH ME!)

Creativity – started linking blogposts on Shelley Carson’s 7 Neuromodes of Creativity, added a few AWESOME TedTalks, and added Roy Horan’s “Neuropsychological Connection Between Creativity and Meditation”

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Filed under adventures, blog, food, ingredients, neuronerd adventuretime, recipes, science, Uncategorized