Art and Science Healing in Harmony
By Michèle Stanners
What do Julie Andrews and Mozart have in common? And what links Hillary Clinton, Che Guevara, and Cameron Diaz? The former have absolute or perfect pitch; the latter are tone-deaf. How our brains differ to create these disparities was one of the subjects of “Crossing the Corpus Callosum,” a first of its kind symposium held on January 10th at the Merck Research Laboratories-Boston. Over 200 guests from various disciplines in the medical professions gathered to “traverse the pathway that connects the right and left cerebral hemispheres” and explore the interconnected worlds of neuroscience, healing, and the arts. The event was designed and hosted by the Longwood Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra of medical professionals based in Harvard’s Longwood Medical Area.
This unique musical ensemble has bridged concert performance with community service in the
Dr. Tom Sheldon, Chairman of Radiation Oncology at
Dancer and President of the Brooklyn Parkinson Group Olie Westheimer described the similarities between the mechanics of ballet and struggles facing patients with Parkinson disease. Through a strategic collaboration, people living with Parkinson disease in
Certain stroke victims who have difficulty saying their name can still sing “Happy Birthday” perfectly, explained Gottfried Schlaug, M.D. Ph.D, Director of the Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the
Dr. Dennis Spencer, Harvey and Kate Cushing Professor of Neurosurgery at
“We are all ill-equipped for the journey of Alzheimer’s” acknowledged the last presenter, John Zeisel, PhD, President and co-founder of Hearthstone Alzheimer Care. While a string quartet of the LSO joined him onstage to perform carefully selected compositions reflecting the four phases of Alzheimer’s - anxiety, agitation, aggression, and apathy - projected on the screen behind him were paintings by people living with dementias, reminding the crowd of the life and creativity still within them. The process of letting go of a loved one with dementia requires embracing their new way of life and love and expression. “The ultimate gift”, he said simply “is the opportunity to turn life’s tragedy into something beautiful.”
The day’s closing remarks were delivered by Dr. Lisa Wong. She is the President of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra, a violinist, a Clinical Associate in Pediatrics at
For more information on the symposium and presenters, go to www.longwoodsymphony.org.
Michèle Stanners is a Canadian Fellow at the