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Institute of Advanced Study

The Well Brain Public Lecture Series

The most exciting frontier for modern biology is to understand how the brain functions. As is often the case in medicine, many of the opportunities to study human biology come via specific diseases and the desire to discover what has gone wrong. Mention the brain, and people often think about Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and depression. This lecture series, however, will give some good press, for a change, about the amazing 100 billion cells and their processes that comprise the brain and perform its normal functions. The selected topics deal with the origins of our brain, our memory, our senses, and the ageing process of the brain. The series will explore how the brain processes, stores and accesses information and how ageing and drugs affect these functions. This series aims to bring to the fore current research activities in these areas of neuroscience; bringing international speakers to the North East to deliver stimulating lectures that will heighten public awareness of the scope and limits of current research on the brain.

For more information please contact Professor Roy Quinlan

2 October 2008, 7.45pm, The Centre for Life, Newcastle

Professor Dan Storm (University of Washington, Seattle)
Retaining Memories: the importance of a good night's sleep

We all know that when it comes to decision making that it is important to "sleep on it" and many contracts have a "cooling-off" period to facilitate just that. Well it would appear that sleeping can not only help us think through a decision, but it is also important in the retention of key events as memories we store in our brain. This lecture will explore recent advances in making sense of how important circadian rhythms are in memory retention.

19 November 2008, 7.00pm, The Centre for Life, Newcastle

Professor Neil Burgess (UCL)
How do we remember places, and what happened there?

Our memories define who we are, and aid most of our daily tasks, and yet how memory works remains a mystery. Neill Burgess will outline some recent work, using video games, neuro-imaging and computer simulations, suggesting how the brain enables you to imagine where things were and what happened there.

9 March 2009, 6.00pm, The Miner's Institute lecture theatre in the Lit & Phil, Newcastle

Professor Colin Blakemore (Universities of Oxford and Warwick)
Vission Impossible
Our capacity to see the world around us is the culmination of more than half a billion years of evolution. But the most important product of that process is not the eye itself, but the gradual discovery by the brain of new ways of interpreting the retinal image. Most of what we do with the gush of information from our eyes - controlling our hands, guiding our posture, deciding what to look at - happens without awareness.  But we also perceive the world consciously, like a finely detailed, ‘real-time', seamless movie. However, science is revealing that visual perception is largely an extraordinary conjuring trick that creates the reassuring sense of reality out of almost nothing. Although vision seems continuous, rich and stable, it is actually a rapid series of snapshots, each one lost as the eyes move on. And during each snapshot, the brain gathers and stores only a tiny amount of information. A deep question emerges: if our conscious awareness if based on such a small fraction of what we see, why do need to be conscious of anything?

Video Recording of Public Lecture along with Question and Answer discussion