The topic of a recent Brainwave event called “I Was a Child” is one that we rely on every single day: the function of memory. Bruce Eric Kaplan (also known as BEK) has been a cartoonist for The New Yorker for more than twenty years, as well as a writer for shows including “Seinfeld” and HBO’s “Girls.” Joining him on stage was Therapeutic Cognitive Neuroscience Professor Barry Gordon, M.D., to discuss the role memory plays in keeping us bound to the past.
Attachment is the theme of the Rubin Museum of Art’s 2015’s Brainwave series—what does it really mean to attach? Yes, we become attached to a large range of “things,” including our smartphones, our daily routines, and even our feelings of success and happiness. The greatest and most powerful attachments we form, however, are to people. I may fear losing my iPhone or breaking my favorite mug, but the loss of a loved one would be exceedingly more devastating.
In a poignant and honest talk between professor of clinical psychology and researcher George A. Bonanno and economist Sonali Deraniyagala, author of Wave, a book about the loss of her immediate family—her two sons, husband, and parents—to the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, she eloquently discussed her personal experience with grief.
Despite enormous strides in our understanding of the brain over the last few decades, lectures and panel discussions featuring neuroscientists regularly conclude with the following admission: the more we learn, the more we realize how far we are from definitive answers. In a Brainwave discussion between actor Jake Gyllenhaal and neuroscientist Moran Cerf on the impact of dreams, that often-repeated refrain was reaffirmed as the duo waxed philosophical and queried each other on various aspects of what Freud called “the road to the unconscious mind.”
Do you have trouble concentrating on the task at hand? Be honest, how many new tabs have you opened between clicking on this blog and actually reading it. Personally, I opened two new tabs on my browser and started an e-mail just between writing the first and second sentence of this blog! With the constant buzzing of our smartphones and infinite distractions of the Internet, who can focus on just one thing? Well, by practicing mindfulness and meditation, neuroscientists are finding we may be able to do just that.
In 2011, photojournalist Lynsey Addario was covering the civil war in Libya when her team was “ripped out” of their jeep by Moammar Gadhafi’s troops. After enduring one week of being bound up, tortured, and continually threatened with execution, Addario and her teammates were released. Despite being kidnapped twice (once in Libya, once in Iraq), caught in an ambush in Afghanistan, and witnessing the destitution of famine and war, Addario exhibits not a single trace of trauma. What is it that makes some of us more resilient than others in times of extreme panic or fear?