Neuroscientist Dr. Carl Schoonover speaks at USF

schoonoverNeuroscience expert Carl Schoonover reminded listeners at University of St. Francis (USF) that there’s more going on in our bodies and minds than meets the eye.

“When eyes aren’t enough,” proposed Schoonover, “what else can you do?”

His lecture on Feb. 20, “Visualizing the Mind,” focused on tools that are used to look more closely at brain structure. He talked about early and modern use of artistic concepts and neuroimaging tools including microscopes, dyes, stains, and light to identify, isolate and study complex brain systems.

Returning back to the days of Leonardo da Vinci, who used his drawing and sculpting skills to attempt to explain scientific principles and the human body, Schoonover talked about how artists were some of the first to make significant developments in science for studying the brain and the way it works. The invention of the Golgi Method, a nervous tissue staining technique, by Italian scientist Camillo Golgi was key to future experimentation.

The Golgi Method was used faithfully by Santiago Ramόn y Cajal, the pioneer and founder of modern neuroscience. Ramόn y Cajal was an artist and “had an extraordinary eye for seeing things that nobody else could see,” said Schoonover. He used the Golgi method to make discoveries about the organization of the nervous system and later developed his own adaptation of the method which is still used by scientists today. Schoonover showed slides of Ramόn y Cajal’s early experiments and compared them to what has been made possible today because of them.

Said USF Provost Frank Pascoe, “This lecture was the first in our Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Seminar Series. Disciplines such as economics, psychology, marketing, languages, art, music, philosophy and many others are just beginning to explore what light the neurosciences might shed on their fields.”

At the lecture’s end, USF biology major Laura Munoz (Simpsonville, S.C.)asked Schoonover, “What happens when you’re in love?”

With a disarming smile, the neuroscientist answered, “Even if I could explain the science behind it, do you really want to know? Love is an experience.””

Munoz laughed and the audience seemed to relax a bit, knowing there are still mysteries yet to be solved in the human experience.

Schoonover resides in New York City and studies the sense of touch in the Bruno Laboratory at Columbia University Medical Center. He is a former NSF Graduate Research Fellow and a 2012 TED Fellow. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University the day before his USF address. He authored “Portraits of the Mind” and has written for The New York Times, Le Figaro, and Scientific American. He is a cofounder of NeuWrite, a collaborative working group for scientists, writers, and those in between, and hosts a radio show on WKCR 89.9FM, which focuses on opera, classical music, and their relationship to the brain. For more on Schoonover, visit www.carlschoonover.com.

The University of St. Francis in Joliet serves 3,400 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in arts and science, business, education, nursing and health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit www.stfrancis.edu.