Rhode Island Medical Series 200th Anniversary Lectures

October 16, 2012

The emerging and dynamic field of neuroscience is a multi-faceted area of study involving medical science, philosophy, economics, and behavioral health.

This major lecture series marking the Rhode Island Medical Society’s 200th Anniversary is being co-sponsored with the Brown Institute for Brain Science and the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute at Rhode Island Hospital.

Leading off the lecture series on Tuesday, October 23 at Friedman Auditorium, Metcalf 101 will be Patricia S. Churchland, a Canadian-American philosopher and author noted for her contributions to neurophilosophy and the philosophy of the mind.  Ms. Churchland is the University of California President’s Professor of Philosophy at the UC San Diego and an Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She is the past Chair of the Philosophy Department at UCSD. Her work has focused on the interface between neuroscience and philosophy, and the realization of philosophers that in order to understand the mind one must understand the brain.

Ms. Churchland is associated with the school of thought called “eliminative materialism", which argues that commonsense, immediately intuitive, or “folk psychological” concepts such as thought, free will and consciousness will likely need to be revised in a physically reductionistic way as neuroscientists discover more about the nature of brain function.  Her lecture is entitled How the Mind Makes Morals.   A book signing will follow the lecture.

Experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist and author, Steven Pinker, PhD, will speak on Tuesday, October 30 at the Salomon Center for Teaching in the DeCiccio Family Auditorium. Dr. Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, where he specializes in visual cognition and psycholinguistics.  Dr. Pinker was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential scientists and thinkers. In addition, in 2010 and 2011 he was named by FOREIGN POLICY magazine to its list of top global thinkers. He is no stranger to controversy; his lecture entitled the The Better Angels of Our Nature is also the title of his latest book.  A book signing will follow the lecture.

On Thursday, November 1, Paul W. Glimcher, PhD, will lecture on Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: Understanding the Neural Circuits for Human Choice at the Friedman Auditorium, Metcalf 101.  Dr. Glimcher is a Professor of Neural Science, Economics, and Psychology at New York University. His work has focused on the identification and characterization of signals that intervene between the neural processes that engage in sensory encoding; and the neural processes that engage in movement generation which must, in principle, underlie decision making.  His studies draw from the fields of neuroscience, economics, and psychology with the goal of describing the neural events that underlie behavioral decision making.

The final lecture in the series, entitled Neurobionics: Restoring and Replacing Lost Brain Functions with Technology, will be given by John P. Donoghue, PhD, on Monday, November 5, at the Warren Alpert Medical School, Lecture Hall 170. Professor Donoghue, also the director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science and recently elected to the National Academies Institute of Medicine, is a leader in the neuroscience of how the brain controls movement and in the restoration of lost function. He is leading an interdisciplinary team in building and implementing implantable brain sensors that enable individuals with paralysis to communicate and interact with their environment. Work published in May 2012 showed the stunning demonstration that a woman who had been paralyzed for 15 years could control a robotic arm and feed herself coffee for the first time since her injury.