College of Visual & Performing Arts
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I was born to Gloria and William Anthony Castello in 1957, in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. Along with my sister Donna we were a typical Italian- American-Catholic family, attending St. Jerome's Parish, going to grandparents for Sunday dinner and occasionally visiting extended family. I am fourth generation Northern Italian on my mother’s side and a second and third generation Southern Italian on my dad’s. Mom’s people are from Padua and Pavia with a bit of a French nuance. My father’s entire family (both sides), come from the small island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples.
I was afflicted with chronic bronchitis when I was a child and spent most of my personal time in front of a T.V. set, reading the encyclopedia and daydreaming. One day I found a box of graphite lead sticks in my father’s toolbox and I really wanted to draw something. Well I did and got really good at it. My first public showing was at age 9 in the East Flatbush Public Library. My grammar school teachers encouraged me further and I became an artist.
I went to Nazareth High School from 1972-1975. I met Maria Loccisano at Bishop Kearney High School in 1974. We are still an item, married in 1980.
I attended St. John's University were I earned a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts. This course of study led me to an internship at the MacNeil/Leher Report on Channel Thirteen and then to a job as an artist in the Associated Press,
The AP was a wonderful window on the world where I learned more about journalism, computers and the entire world than I could have in 20 universities. Early in my 50's I began to long to move on. I earned my Master's of Global Diplomacy, online, from Norwich University in Vermont. I retired early and found myself teaching at my alma mater, St. John's University. There I instruct undergraduates in the skills of professional journalism.
We currently live in the Travis section of Staten Island. I love teaching and creating all sorts of artwork. Maria loves making candy and deserts. We both love to travel and have been fortunate enough to have seen a fair portion of the planet. We became rooted in our community through family, organizations and most of all, a wonderful and continually growing group of friends.
I have an adorable Boston terrier Daisy, who owns our house as well as our hearts...and we are all happy.
DSN 670 ENVIRONMENT & BEHAVIOR
Day One - Oct. 17, 2017
The soft pulsing alarm from Alexa awakens me. The alarm goes off - The “amygdala” registers this fact and sends emergency wake-up signals to other parts of the brain. The neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, is emitted from the brain stem, facilitating the “fight or flight” reactions in the brain- The cerebral cortex is in deep sleep mode and needs to be re-booted - different parts of my brain are booting at different speeds and sending status reports to the cerebral cortex. This is where my “fight or flight” reaction originates. That little burst of adrenaline provides just enough spark to go from a sound sleep state to wakefulness. Dreams fade to dust and a litany of “things to do” begin to present themselves to my secretarial staff otherwise known as my “prefrontal cortex” which has a front seat in my “frontal lobe”. Here is where I parade all of the things that I need to do today, in front of this trio of judges. One decides if the subject is worth paying attention to. The next one is assigning an emotion to accompany each task. Some are anticipated with joy, like the meeting with my old friend, which is planned for lunch today. Some are met with dread, like the anticipated commute to work on that ever jammed highway and trying to find a convenient parking spot on campus. The third member of this trio decides what type of action should be taken to deal with each task and contact. These three parts work in unison to provide a plan for the day. This exercise helps to awaken my senses and I’ve yet to open my eyes.
I need to plan my next five minutes, my next 50 minutes, and my next 5 days. The tasks reviewed in my prefrontal cortex flow to the greater real estate in my frontal lobes. Higher-level thinking is supported by the frontal lobes. Activity in these lobes allows us to reason, make judgments, and make plans for the near and far future, make choices, take action, solve problems and generally control our living environment. Without fully functioning frontal lobes, you may have intelligence, but you wouldn’t be able to put it to use. Now my path is set, my tasks are listed and prioritized and the job of getting started is at hand.
I take account of my physical well being. In short, “what hurts?” The brainstem, thalamus and cerebral cortex are the three structures of the brain that receive and process sensations of pain, according to BrainFacts.org. Different parts of the cerebral cortex are involved with painful sensations originating from specific parts of the body. Pain processing occurs in the sensory cortex. After a brief but necessary systems check, everything seems to be within acceptable parameters. I decide that all is clear to proceed to my daily routine. I take a deep breath and thrust my legs over the side of the bed. The gravity of the situation takes care of the rest. The hindbrain controls the body’s vital functions such as respiration and heart rate. The cerebellum coordinates movement and is involved in learned rote movements. I continue to utilize my hindbrain and cerebellum to proceed to my necessary biological functions….and preparation for the day to come. The hippocampus is in the temporal lobe and filters sensory data to store it in short-term or long-term memory.
I am very hungry and craving breakfast. The hunger is so pronounced that it distracts me from all else. The increased release of serotonin in my brain makes me keenly aware of my current state. I seek fulfill my needs. The insula, which is located on either side of the brain, helps to control your social emotions by interpreting what physical state you are in. The caudate nucleus, which is in the striatum in the center of the brain, helps to control the body's dopamine reward system. Dopamine, a feel-good hormone, also is produced during gambling, sex and drug activity. The dopamine stimulation and chemical reward we get from fulfilling food cravings has been likened to drug addiction because the behaviors follow similar neural pathways.
The reward and pleasure is simply a milder version than the high experienced by drug addicts. Almost everything you choose to consume will directly or indirectly affect your brain. Obviously, some things we consume affect us more than others. I'm going to assume that spices, plants, animal parts, drugs of any kind, coffee, tea, nicotine and chocolate are all just food and define food as anything we take into our bodies whether it's nutritious or not.
Before I leave the house today, I sit down and check my email, a function I perform some four to five time daily. My hands start up the active screen on my desktop computer. The television, turned to the morning news, is five feet in front of me, combining pictures, sounds, and words into information. Some of the material catches my attention and earns my immediate concentration. Other segments, like commercials, only earn my partial attention. As I read the digital screens. “Photons are bouncing off these black squiggles and lines — the letters in this sentence — and colliding with a thin wall of flesh at the back of your eyeball. The photons contain just enough energy to activate sensory neurons, each of which is responsible for a particular plot of visual space on the page. The end result is that, as you stare at the letters, they become more than mere marks on a page. You’ve begun to read.
Seeing the letters, of course, is just the start of the reading process. As the neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene reveals in his fascinating new book, Reading in the Brain, the real wonder is what happens next. Although our eyes are focused on the letters, we quickly learn to ignore them. Instead, we perceive whole words, chunks of meaning. (The irregularities of English require such flexibility. As George Bernard Shaw once pointed out, the word “fish” could also be spelled ghoti, assuming that we used the gh from “enough,” the o from “women,” and the ti from “lotion.”) In fact, once we become proficient at reading, the precise shape of the letters — not to mention the arbitrariness of the spelling — doesn’t even matter, which is why we read word, WORD, and WoRd the same way.” The Cerebral cortex, the wrinkled outer part of the brain is the largest part of the brain, is where we do all our thinking. It is used to read this story and also to do math and any homework you might get from your teacher. This part of the brain also controls your voluntary muscles. file://localhost/(http/::scienceblogs.com:cortex:2009:11:20:thereading-brain-1:
Brain imaging has shown three areas are involved in reading. Groca’s area is active when you vocalize words in your mind. The middle “temporal-parietal” area decodes the sounds of letters and words and is much less active in people with dyslexia; the rearmost area contains the memories of whole words. The better someone reads, the more active it becomes.
It’s time to get to work. As I warm up the car, I warm up my brain to engage in this complex manipulation of steel, plastic, rubber, combustible fluids and glass. To operate this complex machine, I must navigate my vehicle through hundreds of others, like myself, in similar vehicles. This requires the precise interaction of several parts of my brain. Driving requires a person to integrate information from multiple visual and auditory sources. Visual information that needs to be processed includes activity on the road, your mirrors and the instrument display. Similarly, auditory information includes sounds made by your car, other cars and pedestrians. The driver also needs to get information about the stability of the vehicle on the road and combine numerous motor activities such as steering, braking and acceleration. With the brain focusing on all those tasks at once, it comes as no wonder that several areas of the brain are involved in this process.
Have you ever driven on “autopilot” or without any memory of the trip itself? If so, you have lots of experience driving, you really do not need to use your frontal lobe all that much for driving. The frontal lobe is activated whenever potential danger lurks and analyzes the best response to the situation. It helps in areas such as planning routes and controlling memorized body movement. The dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, a part of the frontal cortex, plays an important part in judgments and decision-making. Dr. Gian Beeli showed in a study published in Behavioral Brain Functions in August 2008 that this area reaches its full maturity when a person is about 20 years old. This slow maturity rate might explain some of the needless risks teenagers take while driving. The parietal lobe works hard while you drive, because it is responsible for integrating information from all the senses. This area knows how to manipulate objects and is responsible for visuo-spatial perception.
The parietal lobe is activated when a person switches his attention from one location to another. Dr. Marcel A. Just and colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University showed in a study published in the February 1998 edition of the journal Brain Research that just listening to someone talking reduces the activity of the parietal lobe associated with spatial processing by 37 percent as well as dropping their driving performance. That means even if you do not hold a phone while driving, you are still at an increased risk of a collision.
The occipital lobe is the home of a visual cortex. Naturally, this area is crucial for driving. It is responsible for interpreting the visual information that the driver receives. The auditory cortex is in the temporal lobe. This area interprets sounds heard by the driver, and, together with the frontal lobe, makes decisions about the significance of those sounds. The cerebellum has many important tasks during driving. It coordinates voluntary muscle movements and maintains balance. It activates when the driver prepares to do something, or makes rapid decisions. With so many parts of my brain engaged, I can think of little else in the moment. The faster I drive my vehicle, the more I need to engage my mind to the task. Things happen so quickly and randomly that it poses a constant challenge to my concentration. I cannot afford to be distracted. It is pretty easy to talk as long as I keep my eyes and ears on the road. I listen to music to dull the stress of driving. Anything that would take my eyes off the road or hands off the wheel would be far to distracting and may lead to an accident. I always make it a point not to drink or take any medication that would act to dull any part of my brain before driving.
I arrive at work and now I need to initiate my “work” routine. The primary motor cortex, or M1, is one of the principal brain areas involved in motor function. M1 is located in the frontal lobe of the brain. The role of the primary motor cortex is to generate neural impulses that control the execution of movement. Signals from M1 cross the body’s midline to activate skeletal muscles on the opposite side of the body, meaning that the left hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body. Every part of the body is represented in the primary motor cortex, and these representations are arranged somatotopically — the foot is next to the leg, which is next to the trunk, which is next to the arm and the hand. The amount of brain matter devoted to any particular body part represents the amount of control that the primary motor cortex has over that body part. Other regions of the cortex involved in motor function are called the secondary motor cortices. These regions include the posterior parietal cortex, the premotor cortex, and the supplementary motor area (SMA). The posterior parietal cortex is involved in transforming visual information into motor commands. For example, the posterior parietal cortex would be involved in determining how to steer the arm to a glass of water based on where the glass is located in space. I walk from the car to my office, check my mailbox, make a few copies and proceed to class.
My first class is about to begin. I wall into the classroom and plan my presentation. I go over the lesson in my mind. Did they have any homework? Did I plan to bring up a new topic? The walnut-sized area, nestled within the frontal cortex, is called the lateral frontal pole. It’s responsible for planning and decision-making and, according to the new findings, has no equivalent in the monkey brain. Researchers thus believe this brain region might be responsible for humans’ upper hand in tasks that require strategic planning, decision-making and multitasking. What will I say? I place my notes on the podium, find my glasses, and take off my jacket. Now I will just wait.
It’s Showtime!!! In walk the student and take their place. I make ready to engage yet another segment of my living computer. Generally, the left hemisphere of the brain controls writing, the Mayfield Clinic explains. It also controls speech, comprehension and arithmetic. Moreover, it is dominant in language and hand use in around 92 percent of people. The cerebral hemispheres are composed of distinct fissures, which divide the brain into lobes. Both the left and right hemispheres have four lobes: the frontal, temporal, occipital and parietal lobe. The lobes are further divided into regions that serve particular functions. They have complex relationships, and they do not function alone. The frontal lobe is responsible for controlling speech, which involves writing and speaking. It also controls personality, behavior and emotions; problem solving, judgment and planning; intelligence, self-awareness and concentration, and body movement. The brain’s left hemisphere is referred to as the "dominant" hemisphere. On the other hand, the right hemisphere plays an important role in spatial processing and interpreting visual information.
According to the College of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Florida, the cerebral hemispheres work together to store memories, make judgments, form thoughts and learn new information. The parietal lobes also play a key role in language and speech, including writing, reading, calculating numbers and doing learned skilled actions. Neurons in the brain are responsible for storing and processing information. With most of the brain full engaged, I guide my esteemed students to a brighter future. A swirling transfer of learned information turned into speech, written down and handed out, note taken by the students, all transpire in a room filled with many minds fully engaged in disseminating and collecting the legacy of knowledge.
Lunchtime! With a degree of caution and a growling belly, I head for the cafeteria. All I can think about is the grayish meatloaf and side gravy. I crave the meatloaf and gravy. As I move politely into a line of frat boys, fellow teachers and even some of my own students I struggle to suppress my maddening desire for the only thing on earth that can satiate it, the grey, greasy, warm meatloaf with the gravy on the side. This is not the time for chit-chat or small talk. It is time to eat. My brain is in full craving mode. The MRIs, completed during the induced cravings, showed that the parts of the brain involved in food cravings—the hippocampus, caudate and insula—are identical to those involved in drug addiction. The hippocampus is important for memory, which helps reinforce the reward-seeking behavior that causes us to crave. The caudate also plays a role in these reward mechanisms, and it helps us to form habits, including food related ones. The insula contributes to the emotional connection between food and cravings. The pons and the medulla, along with the midbrain, are often called the brainstem. The brainstem takes in, sends out, and coordinates all of the brain's messages. It also controls many of the body's automatic functions, like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, swallowing, digestion, and blinking. Actually the digestive system runs almost on autopilot. Between the layers of the walls of the gut lies two nerve plexuses, the submucosal and the myenteric. Together these are called the enteric brain and these function to provide all the movements of the gut without using any brain to do so. The rate of digestion is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic increases the rate and the sympathetic decreases the rate. In addition to the enteric brain, the gut motility, acid secretion, control of the gallbladder is largely controlled by local hormones. Hormones like secretin, cholecystokinin, gastrin and others. Bon appetit. Later that day…..
I am home, shoes off, body tired, mind overworked and exhausted. All I want to do is rest. By rest I mean to disengage, put my body in a position that alleviates some of the aches and pains and disperse the stress and problems of the day. Once in my easy chair I say, “Alexa, stream ‘Pink Martini’”, immediately, my digital servant serves up some of the most sumptuous sounds of pure musical pleasure from my own perspective, Waves of soft relaxation wash over me, cleansing me of the day. Music is unique among human activities not only for its ubiquity, but also for its antiquity: music has been a part of every known human culture in all of recorded history. Nearly 40,000 years ago, early humans carved bones and stretched animal skins over hollow tree stumps to make rudimentary musical instruments. It seems that our deep-rooted appreciation for music is innate; human infants react and respond to music even before they have learned to talk. (Music in the Brain: The Mysterious Power of Music: Posted by Deborah Johnson ‘10 / In Fall 2009 / November 21, 2009, Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science)
When you listen to music, much more is happening in your body than simple auditory processing. Music triggers activity in the nucleus accumbens, a part of your brain that releases the feelgood chemical dopamine and is involved in forming expectations. At the same time, the amygdala, which is involved in processing emotion, and the prefrontal cortex, which makes possible abstract decision-making, are also activated, according to new research published in the journal Science.1 Based on the brain activity in certain regions, especially the nucleus accumbens, captured by an fMRI imager while participants listened to music, the researchers could predict how much money the listeners were willing to spend on previously unheard music. As you might suspect, songs that triggered activity in the emotional and intellectual areas of the brain demanded a higher price. The primary auditory cortex is the part of the temporal lobe that processes auditory information in humans and other vertebrates. It is a part of the auditory system, performing basic and higher functions in hearing. In total, I relish in the well-trained brain that now drifts to sleep, bathed in the glow of the music that I love so well. And for now….
ADDITIONAL SAMPLES OF BILL'S STUDENT WORK