Brainstorms: Looking into the Brain

Sponsored by Continuing Studies


Tuesday, April 29, 2008
7:30 pm –
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William R. Hewlett Teaching Center

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Brainstorms is a quarterly series highlighting research by Stanford faculty in the new frontiers of science and technology. It is hosted by the associate deans in the schools of Engineering, Medicine, and Humanities and Sciences, and is co-sponsored by Stanford Continuing Studies and Stanford's Office of Science Outreach.

Understanding how thought and emotion are realized in the human brain is a remarkable enterprise. How a mere three-pound collection of nerve cells gives rise to human art, wisdom, and passion is one of the central mysteries of our existence. Research in this field promises to enrich our conception of human nature, answering questions that have perplexed humanity for millennia— such as why do I always misplace my reading glasses? To understand the human brain, we need ways to measure its parts in action, figure out what they do, and fix them when they break. Many new tools for measuring the brain have been developed within just the last decade; we are only just beginning to see how to weave these measurements together to explain brain function and human behavior. These preliminary measurements offer many important new insights about how we see, how children's brains develop, what happens when we make a purchasing decision, or what causes depression. Scientists are developing new ideas for helping people who cannot see, do not learn efficiently, or suffer from depression. Understanding the biological basis of the human mind will enable the development of unprecedented tools for improving human health.

Join Brian Wandell for a lively explanation of how scientists are trying to measure and understand the human brain. No scientific knowledge is necessary— just bring a brain of your own. We'll put stuff in it.


Stein Family Professor; Chair of Psychology

Brian A. Wandell is the first Isaac and Madeline Stein Family Professor. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1979, where he is Chair of Psychology and a member, by courtesy, of Electrical Engineering and Radiology. His research projects center on how we see—spanning topics from visual disorders and reading development in children, to digital imaging devices and algorithms. At Stanford, he is the co-chair of the Initiative on Human Health, an ambitious plan to transform the science and practice of improving human health. Among his various awards and prizes, Wandell was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2003.

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