Neuroscientist - DBER - Professor - Science Communicator




I am a Philly-based Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Biology at Rutgers University, Camden studying chronic pain and improving research education in biology.


My interests in neuroscience began at Drexel University with Dr. Aleister Saunders where I studied Alzheimer’s Disease; a disorder that’s not only deadly, but also robs you of the essence of who you are – memory. This fascination with the brain brought me to Thomas Jefferson University where I started a PhD in Neuroscience. Here, my interests evolved into sensory systems. If memories represent “who we are”, then our senses are the fundamental neurological conduit to “how we become who we are” since they allow for the interpretation of the world around us.

One of these sensory modalities is pain – a warning system that’s vital to survival, but becomes re-wired in chronic pain patients to the point of no longer being useful. So, I was awarded a fellowship from the NIH-NIAAA to complete a thesis with Drs. Michael Oshinsky and Melanie Elliott on how alcohol affects migraine pain. I was then recruited to the lab of Dr. Wenqin Luo where I was awarded an NIH-IRACDA-NIGMS postdoctoral fellowship to create a new behavioral platform for measuring pain in mice and to learn best practices for developing a productive undergraduate-driven research lab. Now, I’m exploring the intersection of sleep and pain with the hope of identifying new non-addictive ways to treat chronic pain patients.

Coming from a low-income background where my father didn’t complete high school and my mother went to college late in life, I understand the challenges first-generation low-income (FGLI) students face as they navigate the “hidden curriculum” of college. I am committed to helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds make a life in science because we need diverse perspectives to solve the toughest medical challenges (FGLI talk slides) (FGLI research talk slides) (Diversity statement workshop slides). To this end, I’m developing the new Rutgers Camden NIH MARC-U-STAR research training program for underrepresented students as the Assistant Director/Program Coordinator.


I use optogenetics, calcium imaging, animal behavior, and machine learning to study chronic pain and sleep in drosophila and rodents. I’m also a Discipline-Based Education Researcher (DBER) studying ways to help low income students become successful scientists.


I teach courses about neuroscience, the opioid epidemic, and science writing at Rutgers University, Camden where I’m also integrating experiential and CURE-based learning throughout the Biology curriculum.


I write stories for the popular press and trade magazines about the latest in pain research, give public lectures world-wide about the brain, and collaborate with artists to find ways to bring science to the public.

Staining of blood vessels (purple) and pain fibers (red) coursing through the dura (the location where a headache starts).


I am dedicated to finding the best ways to provide undergraduates
with hands-on research experiences that answer the most important questions in pain.

Current Research Interests

I am currently developing an undergraduate-driven summer research lab and year-round CURE-based research experience that will use drosophila to explore the neuroethology behind the intersection of sleep & pain, two fundamental neurological functions that influence one another immensely (i.e., sleep affects pain and pain affect sleep). Because these behaviors are highly conserved among all animals, we can harness the powerful genetic and neurological tool-kits available to fruit flies to study it. To do this, I use modern neuroscience techniques such as optogenetics, calcium imaging, immunohistochemistry, viral tract tracing, and machine learning with deep neural networks to measure animal behavior. Through collaborations at the University of Pennsylvania, we will advance our findings to mice.

Since my research program primarily utilizes undergraduates, I craft “bite-sized research projects” that can contribute to the overall goals of my research and enable students to get their findings out fast in pubmed-indexed micro-publishing journals. This helps my students quickly become competitive when applying to graduate school.

The primary research goals are two-fold.

1. Use deep neural network machine learning and markerless tracking of adult drosophila to identify novel pain behaviors.

2. Characterize the intersection of pain on sleep pain and explore the genetic conservation of these systems.

Other Research Activities:

In addition to this, I am studying the best practices for teaching students biology as a Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) Scholar. To this end, we are integrating experiential learning into all levels of the curriculum because you can’t learn science without DOING science.

Further, I am exploring how chronic pain, specifically the overprescription of opioids, has contributed to the opioid epidemic in the Philadelphia region.

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH (University of Pennsylvania)

100 million Americans suffer from Chronic Pain. My postdoctoral research with Dr. Wenqin Luo explored how pain neurons and the brain change when someone develops chronic pain. One project studied the molecular mechanism behind how skin cells interact with pain neurons to unravel the therapeutic mechanisms behind yoga, acupuncture, and massage. Another project explored the emotional circuitry behind chronic pain in the context of aggression. We all know chronic pain can make you irritable, but identifying the circuitry behind that can help us understand the emotional aspects of pain – something we still know very little about. The last major project I worked on was to find a new way to assess pain in mice because the first step to finding new pain treatments is to test them in rodents. A huge problem, however, is that a VAST majority of drugs we think are working in mice end up not working in humans, suggesting we might not be assessing pain in mice correctly. So, we combined slow-motion videography, statistical modeling, and machine learning to more accurately measure mouse pain.

GRADUATE RESEARCH (Thomas Jefferson University)

Migraine is the 3rd most prevalent neurological disorder on the planet. Under the mentorship of Dr. Michael Oshinsky, Dr. Melanie Elliott, and the Jefferson Headache Center, I worked on several projects that used a rat model of head pain with migraine-like features. A key strategy to identify why some people get migraine is to study how migraine triggers, things that “trigger” a headache, work in these rats. If we identify the mechanisms behind the trigger, we can home in on these molecular pathways for treatment. Although it sounds odd, my research focused on how alcohol initiates head pain (aka the hangover headache). We found a critical neurotransmitter system that has been overlooked in migraine and how mitochondrial/blood-brain barrier dysfunction promotes this neurotransmitter’s effect on pain.


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) steals not just your health, but also your memories, which are arguably the essence of who you are. It’s expected to afflict 14 million people and cost $1.1 trillion by 2050. My work with Dr. Saunders investigated how a group of proteins called histone deacetylases (HDACs) affect the production of Abeta, a protein thought to cause AD. We performed an RNA-inhibitor screening of HDACs in a novel APP-Gal4-SY5Y plate-based cellular luminescence assay and found a handful of HDACs that modulate Abeta levels and thus, could serve as therapeutic targets.

2021 Summer Research Team

Each summer, I recruit the very best undergraduates at Rutgers Camden to help me conduct my research studies.


Akshay Shah

Biochemistry - 2024

My goal is to get a PhD in biochemistry and help make a more affective therapeutic for Schizophrenia. When I am outside of school, I like to play tennis, bike, watch streaming services, and spending quality time with my siblings.

New Project (4)

Ajay Shah

Health Sciences - 2024

Bio TBA!

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Christina Suoto

Biology - 2024

My goal is to be able to obtain a MD and one day open my own practice! Usually when I’m not too busy studying you can find me nerding out with my friends and family, playing the piano, and gaming.

image (2)

Kinjal Mody

Biology - 2024

In the future, I hope to become a pain management physician and run my own clinic. In my spare time, I love to read novels, explore cities, and watch anime and k-dramas.

image (3)

John Crespo

Biology - 2024

My goal is to obtain a PhD in Biology and become a medical scientist to improve cancer therapeutics to no longer rely on chemotherapy. I like to socialize with my family, friends, and play games whenever I have the chance.

2020 Summer Research Team


Brittany Ruiz

Biology - 2021

I spend my days under the sun with my dogs, eating vegan food and reading a good book. I love to garden and advocating for the environment, animals, and our health. I am very passionate about biological sciences and aspire to get my PhD to study nutrition’s role in brain function.


Kiyoshi Woods

Biology - 2023

My goal one day is to obtain my MD and become a Trauma Surgeon in the future, specializing in Neurosurgery. Outside of the realm of science, I love making playlists, watching way too many movies, and eating an unhealthy amount of ramen.


Sarah D’Angelo

Biology - 2022

From a young age I knew that I wanted to be a scientist. When I’m not studying to reach my ultimate goal of attaining a Ph.D in neuroscience I enjoy creating art, reading, gaming, and spending time with my pets and loved ones.


Gilharia Delva

Health Sciences - 2021

My goal is to become a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. I enjoy reading novels and watching documentaries. I’m also a first generation Haitian-American and hope to one day become a role model and mentor for other minority students pursuing science and medicine.

2019 Summer Research Team


Jenny Pan

Biology - 2021


Robert Hughes

Health Sciences - 2021


Ubaidah Khan

Biology - 2021


Meghan Wachira

Biology - 2020


Shariq Khan

Biology - 2021


Avinash Shende

High School - 2021


Opioids have been used for centuries to treat pain because simply put, they work. However, they come with life-threatening side-effects. The over-reliance on opioids to treat pain has led, in part, to the opioid epidemic. I hope to find safer therapeutic strategies for pain patients.


Million Chronic Pain Patients


Billion annual cost


Americans die each day from opioid overdose


of overdoses involve a prescription opioid



Toussaint A, Foster W, Jones JM, Kaufmann S, Wachira M, Hughes R, Bongiovanni AR, Famularo ST, Dunham BP, Schwark R, Fried NT, Wimmer M, Abdus-Saboor I. “Chronic paternal morphine exposure increases sensitivity to morphine-derived antinociception.” (In submission. Available at bioRxiv).

Fried NT, Maxwell CR, Hoek JB, Elliott, MB, Oshinsky ML. “Adenosine modulates extracellular glutamate levels via adenosine A2A receptors in the delayed-ethanol induced headache.” (In submission. Available at bioRxiv).

Burdge J, Fried NT, Abdus-Saboor I. “Flying in the Face of Adversity: a Drosophila-Based Virtual CURE (Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience) Provides a Semester-Long Authentic Research Opportunity to the Flipped Classroom.” Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education 0, e00173-21 (2021).

Burdge J, Fried NT, Abdus-Saboor I. “Using High-Speed Videography to Construct a Mouse Pain Scale.” STAR Protocols 2, 100322 (2021).

Fried, N.T., Chamessian, A., Zylka, M.J., and Abdus-Saboor, I. (2020). “Improving pain assessment in mice and rats with advanced videography and computational approaches.” Pain, 2020 161, 1420–1424.

Abdus-Saboor I*, Fried NT*, Lay M, Burdge J, Swanson K, Fischer R, Jones J, Dong P, Cai W, Guo X, Tao YX, Bethea J, Ma M, Dong X, Ding L, Luo W.” Development of a Mouse Pain Scale Using Sub-second Behavioral Mapping and Statistical Modeling.” Cell Reports, 2019; 28 (6): 1623 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.07.017 (*co-first authors). Infographic at Piktochart

Fried NT, Elliot MB, Oshinsky ML. “The Role of Adenosine Signaling in Headache: a Review.” Brain Sci. The Pathogenesis and Treatment of Headache Disorders special issue 2017, 7(3), 30

Fried NT, Maxwell CR, Elliot MB, Oshinsky ML. “Region-specific disruption of the blood-brain barrier following repeated inflammatory dural stimulation in a rat model of chronic trigeminal allodynia.” Cephalalgia 2017

Fried NT, Moffat C, Seifert EL, Oshinsky ML. “Functional Mitochondrial Analysis in Acute Brain Sections from Adult Rats Reveals Mitochondrial Dysfunction in a Rat Model of Migraine.” Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 2014, 307(11):C1017-30.

Talati PG, Hoang DT, Fried NT, Magee MS, Fineberg JD. “A Perspective on PhD Career Outlook: Training, Mentoring and Utilizing a New Generation of STEM Doctoral Degrees.” Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship 2014, 1(2):138-143.

Hirata H, Fried NT, Oshinsky ML. “Quantitative characterization reveals three types of dry-sensitive corneal afferents: pattern of discharge, receptive field, thermal and chemical sensitivity.” Journal of Neurophysiology 2012, 108(9):2481-93.


DeFeo JA and Myers WJ.”Burned and unburned oil-contaminated media impede lateral growth of Neurospora crassa regardless of hydrophobin expression.” Journal of Biological Science. 2019.

Khaira H, Trinidad T, Luu J, Khan S, Crockenberg N.”Measuring the effects of larval life stress on adult anxiety behavior in Drosophila melanogaster.” Journal of Biological Science. 2019.

Le J, Shehata M, Slack I.”The effects of ethanol on Drosophila melanogaster mechanical nociception.” Journal of Biological Science. 2019.

Delivering a talk on what the fruit fly can tell us about chronic pain at the 2018 Taste of Science Festival


At Jefferson, I was a Math Instructor and Physics TA as part of their Postbaccalaureate program. At Penn, I was recruited into the IRACDA program, called Penn-PORT, which combines a traditional postdoctoral research experience with the development of teaching skills that focus on increasing diversity in the biomedical sciences. I was then recruited to Rutgers Camden where I’m teaching and integrating research experiences into the biology curriculum as the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Research and Education.

Courses Taught

Rutgers University - Camden

Pathophysiology (300-level – 3cr)
Current Topics in Biology (400-level – 3cr)
Exploring Careers in Biology (100-level – 1cr)
Statistics in Biological Research (Flipped-Classroom – 200-level – 3cr)
Principles and Practices of Biological Research (CURE course – 300 level – 4cr)

Delaware County Community College

Anatomy & Physiology I Lab & Lecture (200 level – 4cr)

Courses Designed and Taught

Rutgers University - Camden

The Neuroscience of the Opioid Epidemic (300-level & graduate – 3cr)
Neurobiology of behavior (300-level – 3cr)
Neurobiology I (Converted course to Open-Text) (300-level & graduate – 3cr)
Neurobiology II (300-level & graduate – 3cr)
Communicating Biomedical Science (300-level & graduate – PBL – 3cr)

Delivering a talk about synesthesia and chronic pain at the 2017 Philadelphia Science Festival


Too often, the public is mistrusting of science and that can drive poor policy-making. I try to break down the doors of the ivory towers by writing for the popular press and trade magazines on the most recent discoveries in pain, giving public lectures world-wide, and working with artists to find unique ways to engage and teach the public.

Science Journalism

I have written for the Pain Research Forum, RELIEF, AACR, and the NINDS.

Click here to view my science journalism clippings

Fried NT “A basic science perspective on pain research and the opioid epidemic” | An opioid epidemic driven by a lack of pain management options | | Neurodiem 18Feb2020.

Fried NTDoing a Flip From Aversion to Reward” | Melanocortin 4 receptors in the striatum control whether mice assign positive or negative valence to harmful stimuli, including pain. | Pain Research Forum 10Sep2018.

Fried NT “Studying Low Back Pain in Animals—and Treating It Too” | Researchers use a new “biomaterial” to ease intervertebral disc pain in rats. | RELIEF 16Aug2018.

Fried NT “Stopping a Pain Memory Before It Forms: A SPOT-ON Approach” | A new drug halts the creation of proteins that set pain in motion, according to a new study in mice. | RELIEF 2May2018.

Fried NT “Making a Safer Opioid: How Biased Are You?” | Researchers are redesigning opioids to relieve pain without effects on breathing. | RELIEF 28Feb2018.

Fried NT “When the Immune System Attacks Its Own Proteins, Pain Can Emerge” | Patients with autoantibodies against the protein CASPR2 have hyperexcitable nerve cells. | RELIEF 7Jun2018.

Fried NT “Modeling Discogenic Low Back Pain in the Tails of Rats—And Treating It, Too” | Hyaluronic acid hydrogel biomaterial prevents pain caused by intervertebral disc injury at the base of the tail. | Pain Research Forum 18Jun2018.

Fried NT “A Pathogenic Autoantibody Causes Pain by Releasing the Brakes on Sensory Neurons” | Patient-derived CASPR2 autoantibodies decrease potassium channel expression in mouse sensory neurons. | Pain Research Forum 2Apr2018.

Fried NT “Lost in Translation: Without New Proteins, Chronic Pain Cannot Take Off” | A first-in-class RNA decoy blocks PABP from attaching to messenger RNA, preventing translation and pain sensitization. | Pain Research Forum 21Feb2018.

Fried NT “Migraine, Pain, and What the Government Is Doing to Help: A Conversation with Michael Oshinsky” | Michael Oshinsky discusses migraine, pain, and NIH’s efforts to help scientists find new treatments for these disorders. | RELIEF 28Jan2018.

Fried NT “Designing Safer Opioids: How Biased Are You?” | A systematic analysis of multiple mu opioid receptor agonists reveals that bias factor correlates with therapeutic window | Pain Research Forum 11Jan2018.

Fried NT “OUCH! Quit Pulling My Hair!” | Scientists discover pain neurons in mice that are activated in response to painful pulling of even a single hair | RELIEF 20Nov2017.

Fried NT “Newly Identified Nociceptors Transmit Pain From Hair Follicles” | A-delta nociceptor population responds to pulling of even a single hair in a mouse study | Pain Research Forum 10Oct2017.

Fried NT “Phosphorylation Outside the Cell: A New Factor in Chronic Pain?” | Extracellular phosphorylation of a single tyrosine in EphB2 on spinal cord neurons increases NMDAR activity and pain | Pain Research Forum 15Sep2017.

Fried NT “Outside or Inside? If at First You Don’t Succeed (with a New Pain Drug), Try, Try Again” | A new discovery suggests researchers could again set their sights on substance P, a molecule with a known role in pain. | RELIEF 24Aug2017.

Fried NT “A New Way To Measure Pain in Infants” | A simple electroencephalogram recording provides an objective measure of pain in infants. | RELIEF 1Aug2017.

Fried NT “Consider the Endosome: New Life for Neurokinin 1 Receptor Antagonists?” | Blocking substance P activation of NK1R in endosomes is more effective at relieving pain than cell surface inhibition, but questions remain | Pain Research Forum 18Jul2017.

Fried NT “Uncovering the Genetic Links Between Pain and Depression” | A recent study lays the groundwork to understand the genetic basis for the pain-depression connection. | RELIEF 5Jul2017.

Fried NT “Redesigning an Old Opioid to Make a Safer Drug” | Computer simulation aids redesign of fentanyl so it works only in injured areas, avoiding unwanted side effects. | RELIEF 17Jun2017.

Fried NT “A New Brain Measure of Nociception in Infants” | EEG recordings reveal noxious-evoked brain activity that can serve as an objective measure of pain and analgesic efficacy | Pain Research Forum 12Jun2017.

Fried NT “Can Old Drugs Be Repurposed to Prevent Morphine Withdrawal? ” | Findings in rodents suggest a path to helping patients. | RELIEF 23May2017.

Fried NT “Long-Term Neuropathic Pain Leads to Changes in Gene Expression in Brain Areas Associated With Depression” | RNA sequencing in multiple connected brain regions identifies large number of genes underlying pain-depression connection; new study will serve as resource for future work | Pain Research Forum 19Apr2017.

Fried NT “A New Opioid Targets Active Sites of Inflammation to Relieve Pain.” | NFEPP binds and activates mu-opioid receptors only at low pH, soothing pain in rats without typical side effects| Pain Research Forum 23Mar2017.

Fried NT “Inhibition of Pannexin-1 Channels on Microglia Reduces Morphine Withdrawal in Rodents” | Findings point the way toward a clinical strategy to mitigate an adverse effect of opioids | Pain Research Forum 21Feb2017.

Fried NT “An Autism Gene Regulates Pain Too” | The autism gene, called SHANK3, affects a well-known protein that transmits pain signals. | RELIEF 14Feb2017.

Fried NT “Can Pain Be Transferred Through Scent?” | Findings in mice provide a new explanation for the “social transfer” of pain. | RELIEF 1Feb2017.

Fried NT “Autism Gene Modulates Thermal Pain” | SHANK3, a gene closely associated with autism spectrum disorders, regulates TRPV1 function, possibly contributing to changes in pain sensitivity seen in autism | Pain Research Forum 4Jan2017.

Fried NT “Olfactory Cues Facilitate the Social Transfer of Pain in Mice ” | Control animals housed in same room but different cage as experimental animals experience pain hypersensitivity | Pain Research Forum 9Nov2016.

Fried NT “Is It Time to Deprioritize Preclinical Pain Research?” | At the North American Pain School, trainees debated the pros and cons of the issue | Pain Research Forum 13Sep2016.

Fried NT “From Wishful Marine Biologist to Pain Neurobiologist: A Conversation With Robert Gereau” | Pain Research Forum 6Sep2016.

Public Lectures

I give entertaining and educational public lectures world-wide with the audience in mind (i.e., no single-unit recordings for those pub talks).

Click here to view my public talks

“The future therapeutic potential of optogenetics.” Philadelphia Science Center Venture Café, Philadelphia, 2020.

Obstacles for first-generation low-income students and institutional strategies to improve their success and retention.” NIH IRACDA Annual Teaching & Research Conference, Atlanta, 2018.

Networks: from cyber to transport to neural.” Cafe Scientifique in Woking, United Kingdom at the LightBox art gallery, 2018.

We don’t have an opioid epidemic; we have a chronic pain management epidemic.” Taste of Science Festival, Philadelphia, 2018.

Sharing your science on social media.” Communicating Your Science Conference at Drexel University, Philadelphia, 2017.

“How the brain perceives time.” TimeCamp001 science fiction conference hosted by Afrofuturist Affair, Philadelphia, 2017.

“Synesthesia, LSD, and the rewiring of our senses.” Philadelphia Science Festival’s Sensory Overload at Yard’s Brewery, Philadelphia, 2017.

“Alcohol, the Brain, and Migraines.” Washington Township High School, 2017.

The integration of art and science

Art is a powerful conduit to engaging the public with science. If you’re an artist and interested in collaborating, feel free to reach out to me.

Click here to view my art projects

Nathan Fried neuroscience of self-preservation

Invited monologist at “Without Order” performance designed, performed, and curated by Colleen O’Brien, local Philadelphia Dancer. The piece integrated dance, story-telling, and science education in a piece called, “The Neuroscience of Self-Preservation”. Iron Factory in Kesington. 2018

ChR2 expression in fibroblasts of the skin to control their activity in an effort to identify the mechanism of acupuncture to relieve pain.


Lab in a box at RU-Camden upping the learning experience during COVID-19“| NJ 101.5 28Nov2020.

Homes Become Research Labs for Students” | Rutgers Today Now 17Nov2020.

Homes Become Research Labs for Students Studying Opioid Addiction and Pain” | Rutgers Camden News Now 10Oct2020.

Summer Virtual Research Opportunities for Undergraduate and Camden High School Students During Coronavirus Pandemic” | Rutgers Camden News Now 1Aug2020.

Visiting Neuroscientists Challenge WTHS Students with Question: Why not science?” | The Washington Township Sun 20Jan2020.

The Mouse Pain Scale: A More Reliable and Unbiased Way to Assess Animal Behavior in Pain Research” | Pain Research Forum 24Sep2019.

A new tool puts a number on mouse pain” | Nature Lab Animal Research Highlight 16Sep2019.

New Undergraduate Fellowship at Rutgers–Camden Increases Access for Students Pursuing Biomedical Research Careers” | Rutgers Camden News 7Aug2019.

Research Introduces a More Accurate Way to Gauge Pain in Mice, Yielding Potential to Help Chronic Pain Patients” | Rutgers Camden News 1Aug2019.

Learning from The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain” | Society of Scholarly Publishing 7May2019.

Drexel 40 under 40” | Drexel Magazine Spring2019.

The Aha! Effect, the Brain and What is Pain?” | The Eureka Effect Podcast 20Jan2019.

Rutgers‒Camden Professor Aims to Help Find Alternatives to Opioids for Pain Relief” | Rutgers Camden News Now 2Jan2019.

This is your brain on Pain: Nate Fried on Pain and Alzheimer’s” | Real Scientists curator of the week 19Aug2018. Check out the week’s twitter moment.

Visting neuroscientists take brains of WTHS psychology students to another level” | Washington Township High School 1Feb2018.

What’s Behind the Spatial Acuity for Pain?” | Pain Research Forum 14Dec2017.

” Crane Arts exhibit explores ‘time and temporality’.” | The Temple News 4Oct2017.

How Drexel Scientists are Communicating their Research.” | Drexel News Blog 19Apr2017.

Penn Medicine Poised for Strong Showing at 7th Philly Science Festival.” | Penn Medicine News 5Apr2017.

WTHS AP psychology students learn about brain pain.” |, True NJ 7Feb2017.

Visiting Neuroscientists Challenge WTHS Students with Question: Why not science?.” | Rutgers Camden News Now 11Aug2020.

In Search of a Cure for the Dreaded Hangover.” | Scientific American 17Mar2014.

Hangover Headache.” | The Scientist 1May2011.

Science Has Found the Best Way to Cure Your Hangover.” | GAWKER 18Jan2011.



Reach out if you have a research question, are interested in me speaking at an event, are a student in need of guidance, or an artist looking for a neuroscientist’s perspective.