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My Love Affair With The Brain
How can you not fall in love with a woman who carries around a human brain inside a giant flowery hatbox? Meet Dr. Marian Diamond, … and prepare to be smitten. Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg’s film follows this remarkable woman over a 5-year period and introduces the viewer to both her many scientific accomplishments and the warm, funny, and thoroughly charming woman herself, who describes her 60-year career researching the human brain as “pure joy.”
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My Love Affair With The Brain

Running Time
57 minutes

My Love Affair With The Brain

Marian Diamond is one of the founders of modern neuroscience. Her pioneering research preceded the very term “neuroscience”.

It is no exaggeration to say that Dr. Diamond changed science and society at large in dramatic ways over the course of her career. Her groundbreaking work is all the more remarkable because it began during an era when so few women entered science at all. Shouted at from the back of the conference hall by noteworthy male academics as she presented her research, and disparaged in the scientific journals of a more conservative era, Dr. Diamond simply did the work and followed where her curiosity led her, bringing about a paradigm shift (or two) in the process. As she points out, in order to get to the answers that matter, you have to start by asking the right questions. And Dr. Diamond had an uncanny ability to find the right questions.

Enrichment and brain plasticity (how the brain changes due to experience and environment) are concepts we now take for granted, but they were a scientific battleground where Dr. Diamond decisively challenged the old view of the brain as fixed and unchangeable. She was the first to find actual evidence of plasticity in a brain, forever changing our understanding of the brain … and ourselves.

She was the first to publish a study of Albert Einstein’s brain – fueling yet another paradigm change, a renewed appreciation of glial cells, the 80% of the brain that, previously, was said ‘to do nothing.’

And her legacy continues to grow. The number of views of her YouTube Anatomy lectures has doubled in the last 6 months, now totaling 4.6 million!

Although Dr. Diamond passed away in July of this year, her desire to bring ever more understanding of the brain to us all seems to be happening!

Filmmaker Notes:

“My Love Affair with the Brain” is our 9th feature documentary and it has been a unique journey full of rewards. We “discovered” Dr. Diamond in 2010. We had completed our previous documentary, “Soldiers of Conscience”, POV 2008, and having been immersed in war for 5 years, we were eager (desperate) to find some good news about the human species and our future.

Because we live in Berkeley CA, we started our research locally. I spent many enriching hours sitting in on lectures, learning about research in a variety of labs, studying professors’ websites. And, I also asked people, students and former students, who they thought were some of the most inspiring thinkers at CAL.

One friend’s list included Dr. Diamond’s name. Typing her name into google quickly brought up her YouTube lectures and a NY Times article about the popularity of her lectures on Youtube, making her the second most popular college professor in the world! So I watched a lecture and then I watched a second. And then I went in to the editing room and said, “I think I’ve found our next project!”

We arranged a meeting with Dr. Diamond to pitch our idea and her response was simple and direct “If it will increase peoples’ knowledge and curiosity about their brains, I’m in.”

What began as a documentarian/subject relationship quickly grew into a teacher/student relationship as Marian had to teach us enough neuroscience for us to tell this story! Her boundless curiosity meant that she also became a real collaborator in the process of filmmaking. Always eager to try something new and to learn, Marian was a willing and good humored subject for the 50+ days we filmed with her.

In the process, our relationship transformed further, into scientific collaborators (on the film itself) and then into very close friends with both Dr. Diamond and her husband, Dr. Arne Scheibel. What an honor to know them so intimately.

Sadly, the very year the film was finished and launched, 2017, proved to be the last year of life for both Dr Diamond and Dr. Scheibel. We saw each other weekly and shared the exciting successes as the film delighted dozens of audiences. “It put the gold into our golden years.” said Arne. He passed away in April. Marian died peacefully in July. As the film continues to build Marian’s legacy and as her ability to inspire reaches ever more audiences and students, we have the joy of knowing this was the only immortality she would have wanted.

Film details
Year(s) screened
  • 2012
  • 2017
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