Discussing the Mystery of Consciousness

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What is consciousness? How can we use language to define it? Is there a way to measure it scientifically? Is it something only humans have, or do animals and plants have consciousness too? Does it require awareness of the self? What does it mean to have consciousness?

These questions inspired “The Mystery of Consciousness,” a recent discussion between neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, M.D., Ph.D., and philosopher David Chalmers, Ph.D., at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. The conversation was the first public event hosted by the newly formed Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement (ICE) at Dartmouth University, an organization that seeks to create dialogue between the sciences and humanities.

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Genius: Mind, Brain, and Molecules at the 92nd Street Y

What makes someone a genius? According to Nobel Laureate Eric R. Kandel, M.D., it is a person who is a “game-changer” and who “through their work, permanently changed the way we perceive the world.” It is less about IQ and more about “drive, persistence, and creativity.” At the 92nd Street Y’s third annual 7 Days of Genius in Manhattan, four eminent scientists, arguably geniuses themselves, discussed historical geniuses of the mind, brain, and molecules. The three speakers included two members of the Dana Alliance, Larry W. Swanson, Ph.D., and Thomas M. Jessell, Ph.D., as well as Robert Michels, M.D. Kandel, also a Dana Alliance member, moderated the event.

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Kandel and Wiesel Talk Memory

Last Sunday, two Nobel Laureates, Eric Kandel and Elie Wiesel, oscillated brilliantly between emotion and reason while discussing memory at the 92nd Street Y.

In neuroscience circles, Kandel, a Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member, gained acclaim in 1965 for his groundbreaking work with the California Sea Slug Aplysia by showing how the classical conditioning of an organism leads to the intercellular rearrangement of its neurons. As a pioneering researcher committed to discerning the intercellular basis of learning and memory, he was a perfect complement to Wiesel’s humanistic perspective on memory.

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NY Neuroscience Events Round-up

Do you enjoy attending talks and
lectures about the brain? If you do, then check out our list of upcoming
neuroscience events on the Dana
homepage
. The list is updated regularly, and is focused on New York
City-based programs.

On tap for the fall are events that
focus on consciousness, Parkinson’s disease, memory, and happiness, which will
be hosted by the New York Academy of Sciences, the 92nd Street Y,
and the Rubin Museum. A few of our Dana
Alliance for Brain Initiatives
members are lined up as speakers,
including Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel, who is speaking with author and fellow
Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel at the Y about “the biological and emotional aspects of the human memory.”

–Ann L. Whitman

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