Views & Reviews Review

Mysteries of the brain

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 23 February 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d84
  1. Janice Hopkins Tanne, medical journalist, New York
  1. Janice{at}

There’s still plenty that we don’t understand about our brains and neurological disease. Janice Hopkins Tanne enjoyed an exhibition that describes what we know and what the future might hold

You enter a dark thicket. Delicate, flickering lights race to send electrochemical signals to connect with each other. This forest of neurones, says Rob DeSalle, lead curator of this exhibition devoted to the brain, is intended to evoke the controlled chaos of our nervous system.

Short videos and hands-on exhibits illustrate how the brain senses the world. Different parts of the brain unite input from the senses. Listen: is that sound falling rain or frying bacon? They really do sound the same. In the rare condition synaesthesia events that stimulate one sensory system also trigger another. Some people see letters and numbers in different colours and hear music in colours. The Russian composer and pianist Alexander Scriabin said that music in the key of C was red, D was yellow, and F sharp was violet or blue. No one knows the causes …

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