Trinity distinguished science lecture series continues

On October 1, Trinity University hosted neuroscientist David Eagleman as part of the Distinguished Scientists Lecture series presented by KLRN Public Television and The Mind Science Foundation. The lecture previewed Eagleman’s PBS series, “The Brain with David Eagleman.”

According to his website, Eagleman “is a neuroscientist and a New York Times bestselling author. He directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action at the Baylor College of Medicine, where he also directs the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He is best known for his work on time perception, synesthesia and neurolaw.”

The PBS series will consist of six one-hour episodes that will discuss how the brain works and why people think the things they think. The show will begin on October 14.

According to the PBS website, “the series, hosted by Dr. David Eagleman, neuroscientist, New York Times best-selling author and a Guggenheim Fellow, will reveal the human story by blending scientific truth with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories. With barely a brain scanner or a white coat in sight, The Brain focuses on understanding the fundamental truths of what it means to be human now and in the coming centuries, while communicating these elegant and simple ideas as they apply to us and our experiences.”

The program began with introductions by members of the Trinity community, KLRN Public Television and the Mind Science Foundation. The audience then watched a preview for the series. The video began with the lines, “this is the story of how your life shapes your brain and how your brain shapes your life.”

The preview continued by providing an outline of what the series will cover in its six episodes and on the significance of the brain.

“Imagine taking your laptop and tearing out half the motherboard and expecting it to still function. It would never work with a computer but it can work with a young brain,” Eagleman  said in the video.

After the preview Eagleman himself came and discussed the project to an audience of faculty, students as well as members of the San Antonio community.

“I’ve been working on this project for about two years now and this is really my first chance to share this with an audience,” Eagleman said.

After a brief introduction of himself and the work he does, Eagleman discussed his passion for understanding the brain.

“If you want to know thyself the brain is a really good place to start. Now that’s always been a big drive of mine, this issue of how do we understand the blueprints of our existence,” Eagleman said.

He then discussed the influence Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” had on him growing up. What he wanted to do with “The Brain with David Eagleman” was to attempt to communicate the brain the way Sagan communicated the cosmos. In the series, Eagleman addresses six broad topics: “What is reality?” “What makes me, me?” “Who’s in control?” “How do I decide?” “Do I need you?” and “Who will we be?”

“I wanted to address the big questions, the questions that brought me into the field,” Eagleman said.

With these six episodes, Eagleman’s main goal is to teach viewers about the brain and to give people deeper insight into what the brain is and how it interacts with who we are.

“My hope with the series is that you will be able to learn about the brain and you will be able to squint and discern something that you might not have expected to see in these three pounds of wet, biological, gushy stuff, which is yourself,” Eagleman said.

The audience was then able to preview clips from the actual episodes. The episodes covered the six topics Eagleman identified through interviews, experiments and other visual representations.

The final episode, titled “Who will we be?” addressed the post-humanism stage and asks where our brains will take us. The final line of the series states, “Who we become is up to us.” The audience was then allowed to have a question-and-answer session with David Eagleman.

“The Brain with David Eagleman” premiers October 14 at 9 p.m. on KLRN.