Moving Mind Bridges Art and Science

At the opening of “The Moving Mind: A Dialogue Between the Arts and Sciences” symposium Thursday night, world-renowned neuroscientist, author, and professor Dr. V.S. Ramachandran delivered the keynote address on “What Neurology Can Reveal about the Human Mind” at Bridges Auditorium. Brought together by the dance and neuroscience departments at Pomona College, the symposium began because of student interest in the intersections between the sciences and the study of movement.

Dr. Ramachandran charmed the audience from the opening of his talk with his witty humor and knowledge. Dr. Ramachandran described phenomena found in neurology with elaborate examples, while providing thorough technical and structural explanations of the brain. He began with an anecdote of an unusual case where his patient felt the vivid presence of phantom hands and fingers—limbs that had been amputated—when Dr. Ramachandran touched his face with a Q-tip. He then went on to elaborate about how to treat phantom limb pains, which are common in amputee patients, by letting the patient use a mirror to visualize the absent limb. He also discussed the neurological structures responsible for the mapping of bodily senses. 

“[I think he] is an ideal person to lead the way into this symposium because he, as a scientist, approaches his work with a sense of adventure and play, as well as discipline. In that sense, he has much in common with artists and with any of us in the liberal arts who use creative thinking and imagination to solve problems and enter new territory,” said Laurie Cameron, Associate Professor of Dance at Pomona College.

“Students of all disciplines—arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences—are making connections between their interests and the study of the human body,” said Cameron. “Since each one of us has the instrument of movement, the human body, we can all engage in dialogue, though exploration and discussion, about what this fabulous instrument—body and brain working together—can do.”

“[I am] a performer, choreographer, and movement analyst.  I am continually fascinated by movement in concert dance, on the street, in sports, and in all aspects of everyday life,” Cameron said. “We all have bodies, so we’re all players. We hope that this symposium will be a dialogue across all disciplines,” Cameron said, “the heart of which is the moving mind.”

The keynote talk on Thursday night was only a prelude to the symposium, which is a full weekend of events. 

“In particular we are having a series of talks, workshops, discussions, performances, and exhibits that explore aspects of dance, movement, the body, the mind, and the brain. We will have experts in each field presenting,” said Jonathan King, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Pomona College.

“Students can look forward to the studio workshops, which involve yoga, Alexander Technique, and theater techniques, as well as to presentations such as ‘Understanding the Behavior of World Leaders through Movement Analysis,’” Cameron added.

The workshops will open at Pendleton Upper Studio on Friday at 10 a.m with “Embodying the Heart—Part I,” an exploration of the anatomy and consciousness of the heart and how it supports movement. The dance workshop will be lead by movement artist, researcher, and Body-Mind Centering developer Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, who has been a pioneer of body-psychotherapy and youth education for over 50 years. “Embodying the Heart—Part II” will follow on Saturday at the same time and location.

Later on Friday,Dr. Emily Cross PO ‘01 will hold a discussion called “So You Think You Can Dance” about the overlap of dance and neuroscience at the Rose Hills Theatre. Cross, who teaches at Bangor University in Wales and Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands, will reveal to the audience the brain activity that happens when the audience observes others dancing. 

Between workshops, performances will be held in open air for the passersby. For example, theatrical scientist and Enlightenment activist Yozmit will hold two showcases of “Time Travel” on Stover Walk. 

Mitra Manesh, a mindfulness educator who has extensive meditation technique and traveling experiences, will lead the “Contemplative Art Viewing” workshop at Pomona College Museum of Art, and Gail Abram, Professor of Dance at Scripps College, will lead the “Somatic of Yoga” workshop. 

The day will close with a showing of Whole, a documentary by Melody Gilbert about identity disorder problems and body integrity issues.

On Saturday, Pomona College Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience Rachel Levin will hold a discussion on non-conforming identities. Specifically, her talk will focus on self-awareness, identity, and other body-mind inconsistencies.  Her presentation will also explore and criticize transidentity and its impact on individual experience. 

“Queer Art,” a hands-on workshop about queer performance, bodily presentation and perception, will follow at Pendleton Upper Studio. Hosted by Joss Greene SC ’11, this event will highlight the impact of LGBT artistic expression.

The symposium will close with a panel discussion led by Dr. Ramachandran, Bainbridge Cohen, and Dr. Cross.

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