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Awe

Awe

 

Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey has proposed that our ability to awe was biologically selected for by evolution because it imbues our lives with sense of cosmic significance that has resulted in a species that works harder not just to survive but to flourish and thrive. 

Mary Lou Jepsen: Could future devices read images from our brains?

Mary Lou Jepsen: Could future devices read images from our brains?

 

As an expert on cutting-edge digital displays, Mary Lou Jepsen studies how to show our most creative ideas on screens. And as a brain surgery patient herself, she is driven to know more about the neural activity that underlies invention, creativity, thought. She meshes these two passions in a rather mind-blowing talk on two cutting-edge brain studies that might point to a new frontier in understanding how (and what) we think.

Why you should listen

 

Mary Lou Jepsen is the head of the Display Division at Google [x].  Previously she has founded or co-founded 4 different startups and served as the CTO or CEO at all of them. In 2005, with Nicholas Negroponte, she co-founded One Laptop per Child (OLPC) to build affordable computers for the world’s poorest children. As CTO she invented, architected and delivered to high-volume production a machine that the titans of technology believed was impossible to make.  Dr. Jepsen then founded Pixel Qi Corp. in 2008 in an attempt to transform a broken display component industry into an innovation engine. In the past she has been a professor at MIT, the CTO of Intel’s Display Division and a globe-trotting high-tech media artist. She has been ranked in the top 50 female computer scientists of all time, and Time Magazine inducted her into its “Time 100″ as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

 

What others say

 

Jepsen is known among her friends as the “light lady” for her work with computer imaging. But the kind of light she’s shedding goes far beyond the screen. Time, April 30, 2009

 

Siddharthan Chandran: Can the damaged brain repair itself?

Siddharthan Chandran: Can the damaged brain repair itself?

siddharthan chandran

After a traumatic brain injury, it sometimes happens that the brain can repair itself, building new brain cells to replace damaged ones. But the repair doesn’t happen quickly enough to allow recovery from degenerative conditions like motor neuron disease (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS). Siddharthan Chandran walks through some new techniques using special stem cells that could allow the damaged brain to rebuild faster. 

Rewiring Your Brain: Michael Weisend

Rewiring Your Brain: Michael Weisend

 

A neuroscientist at the Wright State Research Institute, Michael Weisend is an expert in neuroimaging with magnetoencephalography (MEG) and electroencephalography (EEG) both in a clinical setting and for research into the mechanisms of learning, memory and epilepsy. In recent years, he has used this expertise to develop neuroimaging-guided, non-invasive brain stimulation strategies to enhance memory and other aspects of human performance.  

Alex Wissner-Gross: A new equation for intelligence

Alex Wissner-Gross: A new equation for intelligence

Is there an equation for intelligence? Yes. It’s F = T ∇ Sτ. In a fascinating and informative talk, physicist and computer scientist Alex Wissner-Gross explains what in the world that means. (Filmed at TEDxBeaconStreet.)

Alex Wissner-Gross applies science and engineering principles to big (and diverse) questions, like: “What is the equation for intelligence?” and “What’s the best way to raise awareness about climate change?”

WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HIM?

Alex Wissner-Gross is a serial big-picture thinker. He applies physics and computer science principles to a wide variety of topics, like human intelligence, climate change and financial trading.

Lately Wissner-Gross started wondering: Why have we searched for so long to understand intelligence? Can it really be this elusive? His latest work posits that intelligence can indeed be defined physically, as a dynamic force, rather than a static property. He explains intelligence in terms of causal entropic forces, ultimately defining it as “a force to maximize future freedom of action.”

Wissner-Gross is a fellow at the Harvard Institute for Applied Computational Science and a research affiliate at the MIT Media Lab. He has a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard and bachelor’s degrees in physics, electrical science and engineering, and mathematics from MIT.

Striving for Complexity: Werner Doyle

Striving for Complexity: Werner Doyle

 

werner doyle

 

What happens when our brain loses its innate complexity? Neurosurgeon and Professor of Neurosurgery at NYU, Werner Doyle, knows that seizures happen from a loss of complexity in the brain. Driven to develop processes to promote and sustain complexity, Dr. Doyle addresses the value of complexity and how we may self-generate it.

Specializing in epilepsy surgery while collaborating with neuroscientists at NYU studying brain mechanisms, he is also quite the Renaissance man what with his interest in contemplative neuroscience, building Buckminster Fuller geodesic domes, and 3-D printing. 

The Brain is Wired for Unity: Zoran Josipovic

zoran josipovic

Zoran Josipovic, PhD, is a Research Associate and Adjunct faculty at the Psychology Department and Center for Neural Science, New York University. He is Director of Contemplative Science Lab at NYU, the founding director of the Nonduality Institute, and the founding member of MARGAM — metro-area research group on awareness and meditation. Zoran is a long-term practitioner of meditation in the nondual traditions of Dzogchen, Mahamudra and Advaita Vedanta. In his previous life he worked as a clinical psychotherapist, a bodyworker and has taught meditation seminars at Esalen.  

Sandra Aamodt: Why dieting doesn’t usually work

Sandra Aamodt: Why dieting doesn’t usually work

 

why dieting doesn t usually work

 

In the US, 80% of girls have been on a diet by the time they’re 10 years old. In this honest, raw talk, neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt uses her personal story to frame an important lesson about how our brains manage our bodies, as she explores the science behind why dieting not only doesn’t work, but is likely to do more harm than good. She suggests ideas for how to live a less diet-obsessed life, intuitively.

Sandra Aamodt explores the neuroscience of everyday life, examining new research and its impact on our understanding of ourselves.

 

WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HER?

 

Sandra Aamodt is a neuroscientist and science writer, who takes the complexities of neuroscience research and whips them into fun reads that give people a better understanding of their minds and behavior. Her books Welcome to Your Brain and Welcome to Your Child’s Brain (both written with Sam Wang) are designed to bring neuroscience to a general audience, and they’ve both been widely translated. Aamodt’s science writing has also appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostEl Mundo and the Times of London.

 

From 2003 to 2008, Aamodt was the editor-in-chief of Nature Neuroscience, a leading scientific journal in the field of brain research. She brings a significant scientific background to the task of explaining new research without creating neurobunk. During her career, she has read over five thousand neuroscience papers, and written many editorials on science policy.

 

“If the human brain came with an owner’s manual, it might well look like this.” Dan Gilbert, reviewing “Welcome to Your Brain” 

Peter Doolittle: How your “working memory” makes sense of the world

Peter Doolittle: How your “working memory” makes sense of the world

 

“Life comes at us very quickly, and what we need to do is take that amorphous flow of experience and somehow extract meaning from it.” In this funny, enlightening talk, educational psychologist Peter Doolittle details the importance — and limitations — of your “working memory,” that part of the brain that allows us to make sense of what’s happening right now.

Peter Doolittle is striving to understand the processes of human learning.

 

WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HIM?

 

Peter Doolittle is a professor of educational psychology in the School of Education at Virginia Tech, where he is also the executive director of the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research. He teaches classes such as Cognition and Instruction, Constructivism and Education, Multimedia Cognition and College Teaching, but his research mainly focuses on learning in multimedia environments and the role of “working memory.”

 

Doolittle has taught educational psychology around the world. He is the executive editor of the International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and the co-executive editor of the International Journal of ePortfolio.

 

Suzana Herculano-Houzel: What is so special about the human brain?

Suzana Herculano-Houzel: What is so special about the human brain?

The human brain is puzzling — it is curiously large given the size of our bodies, uses a tremendous amount of energy for its weight and has a bizarrely dense cerebral cortex. But: why? Neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel puts on her detective’s cap and leads us through this mystery. By making “brain soup,” she arrives at a startling conclusion.

Suzana Herculano-Houzel shrunk the human brain by 14 billion neurons — by developing a new way to count them.

 

WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HER?

 

How many neurons make a human brain? For years, the answer has been (give or take) 100 billion. But neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel decided to count them herself. Her research approach involved dissolving four human brains (donated to science) into a homogeneous mixture — in her lab at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences in Rio de Janeiro, they call it “brain soup.” She then took a sample of the mix, counted the number of cell nuclei belonging to neurons, and scaled that up. Result: the human brain has about 86 billion neurons, 14 billion fewer than assumed — but intriguingly, far more than other animals, relative to brain size.

 

She suggests that it was the invention of cooking by our ancestors — which makes food yield much more metabolic energy — that allowed humans to develop the largest primate brain. She’s now working on elephant and whale brains to test her hypothesis.