Fred Kavli Keynote Address
Thursday, May 21
Ways to Think About the Brain
New York University, School of Medicine
For György Buzsáki, the Biggs Professor of Neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine, truly understanding the brain requires going beyond the neural vocabulary of the brain and examining the syntax, or how the structured rhythms of neuronal activity organize and regulate the network-level interactions that ultimately give rise to brain functions. Sleeping and coordinated motor actions such as walking and breathing demonstrate the fundamental importance of brainwaves for basic tasks, but Buzsáki believes that they are equally vital for higher order functions such as cognition, a groundbreaking concept that he elucidated in his seminal 2011 book, Rhythms of the Brain.
He has claimed many breakthrough “firsts” in both his findings and his methodologies. His most influential work, the two-stage model of memory trace consolidation, revealed precisely how new information is reinforced while we sleep – a task accomplished, remarkably, by cell assemblies that self-organize without any external cues.
Buzsáki’s groundbreaking findings have earned him a host of honors, including the prestigious Brain Prize in 2011, and his more than 300 articles have been so influential that he is among the top 1% most-cited neuroscientists. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Academiae Europaeae.
Friday, May 22
Lisa Feldman Barrett (Chair)
The classical view on emotions asserts that they are fixed and innate, with each linked to a distinct area of the brain; experiencing the feeling of fear after hearing a loud noise is as involuntary and immediate as flinching and occurs by activating a specific fear-related network in the brain. The proximity of this theory to common sense only strengthens its appeal, but APS President Lisa Feldman Barrett shifted the paradigm when she found evidence supporting a different theory: that emotions are constructed, in the moment, from a combination of environmental context, bodily sensory information, and our past experiences, through which we create and refine the concepts that shape our sensory perceptions into a distinct emotional experience.
A University Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University, Barrett has received numerous recognitions and honors for her revolutionary research and leadership. She is a recipient of the APS Mentor Award. She received the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award in 2007, and in 2019 she was honored with the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. Barrett has been elected to the Royal Society of Canada, the country’s highest scholarly honor, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has published more than 200 articles and 50 book chapters, appeared on numerous television shows and radio programs, given a highly popular TED talk, and even testified before Congress.
The symposium will feature talks by:
Sinan K. Aral, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Eran Halperin, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Eran Halperin, a professor of psychology, investigates inter-group conflict and violence, with an emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His work shines a light on how “bottom-up” processes such as emotion regulation can shift public opinion toward peace and equality, while simultaneously aiming to increase psychological science’s understanding of the conditions that contribute to intolerance, exclusion, prejudice, and hatred. He aspires to uncover ways to inspire social change while overcoming the emotional barriers to conflict resolution. Halperin directs the Emotion in Conflict Lab at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, which strives to understand the role of emotion in inter-group relations, democracy, and peace.
Manos Tsakiris, Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom
Manos Tsakiris studies how and why our bodily states are tied to our sense of self. His research applies an interdisciplinary approach combining neuroscientific, psychological, and neurophilosophical perspectives to the question of how the sensory and motor signals that accompany bodily activity become “mine.” Tsakiris aims to empirically identify the neurocognitive principles governing the sense of body-ownership that accompanies events such as touch, as well as the sense of agency characterizing actions generated by our bodies. Tsakiris is an APS Fellow and leads the Body & Image in Arts & Science (BIAS) project at the University of London.
Discussion will be facilitated by:
Hanna Rosin, NPR
Hanna Rosin (@HannaRosin) is the co-host of NPR’s Invisibilia. Before radio she was a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she wrote many cover stories about American culture. She is also the author of the End of Men. Rosin has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, and New York magazine. In 2010, she headlined the first TED women’s conference and won a National Magazine Award as part of a package of stories in New York magazine about circumcision.
Alix Spiegel, NPR
Alix Spiegel (@aspiegelnpr) co-hosts NPR’s Invisibilia, a podcast from NPR about the unseen forces that control human behavior – our ideas, beliefs, assumptions and thoughts. Invisibilia interweaves personal stories with fascinating psychological and brain science, in a way that ultimately makes you see your own life differently. Before launching Invisibilia with NPR Science Reporter Lulu Miller in 2015, Alix worked on NPR’s Science Desk for 10 years covering psychology and human behavior. She began her career in radio in 1995 as one of the founding producers of This American Life. Over the course of her career, Alix has won many awards including a George Foster Peabody Award, a Livingston Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, a Scripps Howard National Journalism Award, and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Alix graduated from Oberlin College. Her work on human behavior has also appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times.
Bring the Family Address
Saturday, May 23
Sandra R. Waxman
APS Fellow Sandra Waxman explores how we form some of our most profoundly fundamental concepts, such as what it means to be alive. As director of Northwestern University’s Infant and Child Development Center, she focuses on how and when language and cognition develop in the first years of life and how these developmental trajectories interact with each other. She is especially interested in how experience – including experience with language – shapes and refines infants’ cognitive capacities that are present from birth, and her cross-cultural studies examine how cultural context influences the way young children conceptualize the natural world. Waxman is also a Faculty Fellow at the university’s Institute for Policy Research, where she brings her research findings to bear on larger issues affecting young children and their families in order to create the best conditions for them to thrive.
Waxman received the renowned Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Cognitive Science Society.
Saturday Keynote Address
Saturday, May 23
Jennifer L. Eberhardt
APS Fellow Jennifer Eberhardt, a professor of psychology and public policy at Stanford University, examines racial bias and its consequences, particularly the ways in which bias expresses itself outside of our conscious awareness. Through a variety of experimental setups both in the lab and in the field, Eberhardt’s work has revealed the true depths not just of racial biases in our culture but of the heavy influence of these biases on perceptions, behavior, and, ultimately, criminal-justice outcomes for people of color. Beyond elucidating the problems of bias through her research, Eberhardt actively seeks to remediate them: She has worked directly with law enforcement agencies to offer strategies aimed at reducing the influence of implicit racial biases on officers’ actions and enabling them to build trust with their communities. As a co-director of Stanford SPARQ, a self-described “do tank” that leverages scientific insights to effect real-world change, Eberhardt helps advise policymakers, educators, and practitioners apply evidence-based solutions to the most urgent social problems facing society today.
This important and influential work has brought Eberhardt wide recognition and acclaim: In 2014 she received the illustrious MacArthur Fellowship – often referred to as the “Genius Grant” – and she has been named one of Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers. She has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.