BAMPFA to screen new documentary about Berkeley brain scientist Marian Diamond

ATTENTION: Reporters covering science, film and arts

WHAT: Free sneak preview of My Love Affair with the Brain: the Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond, a documentary about the personal, scientific and teaching career of the 89-year-old UC Berkeley neuroscientist who changed the way we think about the brain and eventually became a YouTube celebrity and role model for women.

WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016

Trailer for My Love Affair with the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond, a new documentary by Luna Productions.

WHERE: The recently opened Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, BAMPFA, located at Center and Oxford streets in Berkeley. While public seats in the BAMPFA theater are already reserved, an overflow room in UC Berkeley’s Valley Life Sciences Building (room 2050) can accommodate more members of the public.

WHO: Three brain researchers will join the documentary’s producers after the screening to discuss the film, which is currently being prepared for airing on PBS.

  • Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg, directors and producers at Luna Productions in Berkeley
  • Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist at New York University and author of the 2015 boo Healthy Brain, Happy Life: A Personal Program to Activate Your Brain and Do Everything Better
  • Daniela Kaufer, a UC Berkeley associate professor of integrative biology who studies the effects of stress on the brain
  • Robert Knight, M.D., a UC Berkeley professor of psychology who studies how the prefrontal cortex controls human behavior

DETAILS: For nearly 55 years, until her retirement in 2014, Marian Diamond would often be seen walking through campus to her anatomy class carrying a flowered hat box, within which nestled a real, pickled human brain. Gently lifting it from its wrapping, she would display it to classes and express her awe that such a small, 3-pound mass of protoplasm was the most complex structure known to humankind.

Diamond, whose research demonstrated that an enriched environment builds better brains, helped establish the now accepted idea that the brain changes throughout our lifetimes and that we need to continually “use it or lose it.”

Her lectures, which often ended in applause, earned her many teaching awards, while her research on the brain inspired many others to take up brain research, pursue science or just nurture their curiosity about nature. One of these was Wendy Suzuki, who said in a 2011 TEDx talk that the day she first saw Diamond unveil the brain was “the day I wanted to become a neuroscientist.”

Diamond’s teaching style, preserved on YouTube videos that are among the most popular courses on the internet worldwide, motivated Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg, her husband and partner at Luna Productions, to approach Diamond in 2010 and propose a video about her life and work.

“I was absolutely mesmerized by her teaching, she was so energizing,” Ryan said. “Gary and I were totally intrigued by the power of this woman to tell the story of the human body and to inspire people to study the human body.”

After six years of filming, Ryan and Weimberg are screening their 60-minute documentary thanks to BAMPFA, the California Alumni Association and UC Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, Lawrence Hall of Science, Department of Psychology, Division of Biological Sciences, Department of Integrative Biology, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Center for Research and Education on Aging.

NOTE: A limited number of seats have been reserved at BAMPFA for reporters; please contact Robert Sanders, rlsanders@berkeley.edu, to secure a spot.