If you are reading this at breakfast then we urge you to put this column aside for a little while until your Weet-Bix has, as mother of my generation of children used to say to us at the table, ''gone around the corner''. See you in 10 minutes.
Welcome back, digesting readers, as we launch into the news that there is a Sydney Brain Bank that has more than 800 donated brains. Yes, we knew that mental picture might disturb a few breakfasts.
But we mention that bank's grey and glistening reserves because the bank belongs to the Sydney-based Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), one of the nation's leading medical research institutes, and because the Canberra Bridge Club is about to hold an event to raise money to support NeuRA's work.
In particular the bridge players will be thinking of NeuRA researchers' work on improving early diagnosis of dementia and developing treatments to prevent the disease altogether.
Bridge, NeuRA's Olivier Piquet explains to us, is one of those activities that gives the ageing brain a kind of gymnasium in which to work out so as to remain more lithe and supple. He has seen that it is a card game in which you can't just swashbuckle through but is instead a brainy game in which ''you have to plan ahead, to retrieve memories of what cards have previously been played''. ''You have to be able to modify strategies … you need to think hard.''
He says that until only about a dozen years ago we used to believe that the brain we were born with was the immutable object we'd die with, the number of brain cells being fixed and unchanging. But now we know that the brain is ''plastic'' and changes shape all the time.
So, for example, in a scholarly experiment the subjects were taught to juggle and within six weeks the jugglers' brains had grown new connections. It seems to be a good thing, the professor says, to give the brain some new challenges.
Alas, the professor stresses, we cannot say that giving the brain lots of exercise will ever be any kind of a cure for dementias. Work in search of a cure goes on but research seems to show that the processes that result in dementia get under way in our middle years so it is unlikely that in later life even superhuman feats of bridge-playing, juggling or crossword-doing will reverse what has got under way. Those feats will, though, probably give us extended and improved mental nimbleness.
Another great virtue of bridge, the professor says, is that it is a social activity too (even when playing it, let alone when mingling with fellow bridge zealots before and after, you need to sit at a table with three others) and all research shows that being a social animal is terrific for helping to knead the plastic, playdough brain into good shapes.
On May 7 there will be 56 bridge players from the Canberra Bridge Club in Deakin taking part in the national Bridge for Brain Research Challenge. Money raised will go to NeuRA (its motto is ''Discover. Conquer. Cure.'')
This is the challenge's 10th year. Last year's national event raised almost $46,000 for research into Alzheimer's and other dementias and the total raised since 2004 is over $261,000.
Sculptor relishes distorting the truth
Painter and sculptor Louis Pratt went to school in Canberra and to the ANU's School of Art (and is giving a talk there on Wednesday) and has just won the Mount Buller Sculpture Award and Prize ($100,000) with his statue Voyeur.
We will bring you a picture of Voyeur as soon as we can get a better one than we have.
It is to be installed on a Victorian mountain top but is not properly installed yet and hasn't been well photographed, Pratt says.
Meanwhile to give you a glimpse of how singular Pratt's work is, here's a recent work, Kangaroo - After D.H. Lawrence.
Pratt explains to us that for works such as Voyeur and Kangaroo he uses scans of real people and then using his 3D printers (they print objects) and a sine waves discipline he makes strangely distorted figures of them.
When you stand directly in front of Voyeur and Kangaroo they look upright and relatively orthodox but when you move around them the figures are revealed to be crouched, sinuous, serpentine and wavy.
For Kangaroo - After D.H. Lawrence Pratt has had in mind not only that Lawrence the English novelist wrote the novel Kangaroo but also that for Pratt the lean writer had a vaguely kangarooish shape.
Pratt has incorporated Lawrence's actual looks so that his half kangaroo/half man hybrid is half kangaroo/half the author of Lady Chatterley's Lover.
Seeing double - well, almost - at dawn
Thirty-five thousand? Sensible Australians can temporarily become quite emotionally muddle-headed about everything to do with Anzac Day. We see this every year in, for example, breathtaking overestimates of the size of the congregations at Canberra's Anzac Day dawn service.
The Australian War Memorial has always done this with the dawn service and the obliging media, swapping their usual cynicism for sentimentality in Anzac Day's special case, have always reported the memorial's patriotic guesstimates as gospel.
This year, the memorial's authorities and the media imagined there were 35,000 present at dawn. This columnist, passionate about the service but dispassionate when it comes to doing arithmetic, suspects perhaps 20,000 of us.
Given that the worth of this sacred event does not depend on how many attend it, one wonders what would be lost by doing more sober sums. The emotionally muddle-headed way we are going, the 2015 dawn service (the centenary of Gallipoli) may attract, in the feverish imagination of memorial director Brendan Nelson, 60,000 souls, of whom 25,000 will be imaginary.
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