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THE BRAIN & BEING HUMAN OCTOBER 4 & 5, 2011 The Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College is the first ongoing educational conference of its kind in the United States.



Understanding what it is to be human means understanding the brain. This intriguing scientific challenge has grabbed the attention of more and more people from all walks of life. You may have noticed how often brain science pops up; breakthroughs are highlighted in the news almost daily and even serve as the basis for TV entertainment in shows like Law and Order or interviews on the Colbert Report. The application of neuroscience has changed the way the NFL manages concussive injuries, led to laws prohibiting the exchange of text messages while driving, and suggested that exercise will not only trim your waistline but also improve your memory. Just three years ago, during Nobel Conference® 44, “Who Were the First Humans?” we learned how human brains have grown larger as our communities have grown. Our hope is that people with a variety of interests and backgrounds and from all corners of campus and the wider community will realize that they can be part of this neuroscience conversation. In 1994, the distinguished speakers who participated in Nobel Conference 30, “Unlocking the Brain,” provided a window for us to see how a set of electrical events traveling around in our head could account for how we move, feel, and learn. In the past two decades, the pace of discovery in neuroscience has been astonishing, and the breadth of the field has expanded dramatically to encompass almost all human activities. It serves as a bridge between different disciplinary perspectives, producing exciting new vantage points in the study of the human experience. Now, in 2011, we make the leap to explore these grand new ideas at Nobel Conference 47. Although we are humbled by the complexity of the undertaking, we are excited to share with you the boundless possibilities of “The Brain and Being Human.” We hope that you can join us.

Michael Ferragamo, Chair Nobel Conference 47

Chuck Niederriter, Director Nobel Conference

GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS COLLEGE AND THE NOBEL CONFERENCE® Established in 1862 by Swedish Lutheran immigrants, Gustavus Adolphus College is a private, liberal arts college that provides an undergraduate education of recognized excellence. The Alfred Nobel Hall of Science at the College was named as a memorial to the great Swedish inventor and philanthropist. Following its dedication in 1963—which was attended by Nobel Foundation officials and 26 Nobel laureates—the College sought endorsement from the Nobel Foundation for an annual science conference. Permission was granted and the conference, now in its sixth decade, continues to set a standard for timeliness, intellectual inquiry, and free debate of contemporary issues related to the natural and social sciences.


The theme of Nobel Conference 47, “The Brain & Being Human,” comes to life through an intricate and detailed illustration created by Leandro Lima, a Brazilian illustrator, designer, and digital artist currently living in Milan, Italy. Lima has done work for numerous clients worldwide, including Microsoft, Sony Ericsson, Vespa, Everlast, and Wired magazine. For this year’s conference, he creatively incorporated aspects of daily human life and the workings of the human brain. Utilizing a highly stylized typographic approach, he has created letterforms and pictures that represent sight, smell, emotion, and decision-making. The design highlights the senses associated with being human: among the images, an ear receiving sound waves produced by strings, representing the effect of music; a tearful eye, representing vision and emotion; a hand using a key, representing “the human possibility” of decisionmaking; and a face reacting with pleasure to the perfume of a flower. The reaching hands recall Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, representing not only the connection between people but also the theological implications of the passage in the book of Genesis that tells of God giving life and conscious thought to Adam, the first human. There is a “discovery” aspect in Lima’s design. It might take the viewer some time to see and appreciate all its aspects, not unlike our attempts to understand the brain. At first blush, our brains look like lumpy grey matter, but studying them from different points of view or with “different” eyes, we begin to appreciate their subtle beauty.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE OF SPEAKERS TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2011 10 a.m. First Lecture: Vilayanur Ramachandran, M.D., Ph.D., center for Brain and Cognition,

All lectures are held in Lund Center Arena. WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2011 10 a.m. Fifth Lecture: John Donoghue, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience and Institute for Brain Science, Brown University, Providence, R.I.

Psychology Department, and Neurosciences Program, University of California, San Diego

1 p.m. Sixth Lecture: Paul W. Glimcher, Ph.D.,

1 p.m. Second Lecture: Larry J. Young, Ph.D.,

Center for Neuroeconomics and Center for Neural Science, New York University

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, and Center for

3 p.m. Seventh Lecture: Martha Farah, Ph.D.,

Behavioral Neuroscience, Atlanta, Ga.

Center for Neuroscience and Society, University of

3 p.m. Third Lecture: Helen Mayberg, M.D., Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, and Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Atlanta, Ga.

Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

8 p.m. Closing Lecture: Nancey Murphy, Ph.D., (banquet) Th.D., School of Theology, Fuller Theological

Seminary, Pasadena, Calif.

6:30 p.m. Fourth Lecture: Aniruddh D. Patel, Ph.D., The Neurosciences Institute, San Diego, Calif.



As we unravel the biological complexity of the brain we edge ever closer to a unified explanation of being human. Knowledge from the humanities, social sciences, arts, ethics and religion, and even aspects of daily human life are

THE BRAIN & BEING HUMAN by Michael Ferragamo and Janine Wotton, with Gwendolyn Freed

now incorporated into the scientific arena in a new synthesis to understand the human experience. Nobel Conference® 47 is a recognition that the time has come to bring together the leading minds and to engage them in conversations about where this frontier of science may deliver us.

Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran derives his dazzling insights into the workings of the brain from both the clinic and laboratory. With his uncanny ability to convey his ideas with clarity and humor to the general public, he has become a charismatic diplomat for the field of neuroscience. His work with neurology patients has led him to ask some intriguing questions: How does an amputee feel a limb that no longer exists? How can an epileptic seizure produce a deep religious experience? Why can some individuals taste color? How can someone with damage to the brain be blind and yet still see? In solving these clinical puzzles Ramachandran has challenged our thinking about what “gives rise to our rich conscious experience.”



How the brain directs the interactions humans have with other individuals was once thought to be beyond mechanistic explanation. However, the work of Dr. Larry Young on the physiological underpinnings of social behavior has now made this goal approachable. His clever use of a comparative animal model, the monogamous prairie vole, has revealed the crucial role that specific peptides play in the brain when social bonds are formed and how the environment may shape these processes. Now, armed with this knowledge, we can turn our attention to developing novel strategies for treating social deficits such as autism, schizophrenia, and depression. At the heart of the conference is the recognition of the importance of emotion to the well-being of individuals. How and where are emotions experienced in the brain? How do the brains of patients with mood disorders differ from the brains of others? Dr. Helen Mayberg’s pioneering work on brain imaging of patients with depressive disorders has revealed not only the circuitry involved in depression and mood but has also led to the design of new and exciting treatment options. The ability to identify which treatments are best suited to the individual has revolutionized the medical care of depressive disorders and has led to a greater understanding of emotion in both healthy and disordered brains. Over the past 20 years we have witnessed enormous advances in the field of brain-machine interfaces, such as devices that enable a deaf child to listen to a teacher explain algebra or participate in a sing-along. One of the most significant breakthroughs in what could be called the history of human cyborgs occurred about five years ago, when Dr. John Donoghue and his team awed the world by restoring the ability of a quadriplegic patient to operate computer cursors and robotic arms by simply imagining the movement. The inspiration of these highly innovative approaches has restored hope to individuals suffering from all forms of paralysis and along the way extended what we know about how the brain coordinates movement. The revelation of the essence of what makes us human will likely emanate from people who, like Dr. Aniruddh Patel, study the cognitive and neural links between what may be considered our two most definitive traits— language and music. In recognizing how vital music is to the richness of the human experience, Patel borrows


from the tool kit of both evolutionary biology and neuroscience to give us a better handle on why music appeals to us, moves us in dance, draws us together in rituals, and in many circumstances may even be more effective than language as a mode of expression. We all make choices every day but what guides us to choose one course of action over another? Why do some people gamble everything on a risky stock but others play it safe and put their money in the bank? Dr. Paul Glimcher is one of the founders of a new field called neuroeconomics, which seeks to understand what happens in the brain when people are faced with choices. His work reveals how the patterns of activity among a population of brain cells can embody the logic, the emotion, and the life experiences that influence what goes into making a decision. Once we understand how the human brain makes decisions, perhaps it will no longer be beyond imagination to directly manipulate how one votes or what one buys. Dr. Martha Farah will help lead the discussion of the ethical issues generated by the research described by other conference lecturers. Questions will undoubtedly arise about what the impact of neuroscience will be for individuals and for humanity. Farah, a prominent neuroscientist who is a founder of an emerging field called neuroethics, is uniquely qualified to address these concerns. In 2009 she co-authored a letter, “Neuroscience and the Soul,” in the journal Science with Dr. Nancey Murphy, who has been invited to share the perspective of a philosopher on the neurobiology of moral responsibility and free will. Discoveries in contemporary neuroscience have led Murphy to evaluate the complementary roles of religion and science in our explanations of being human. The biologist E. O. Wilson famously used the term consilience to describe a phenomenon in which different types of human endeavor following varied paths of inquiry end up identifying common truths. In pursuit of their mutual quest to make positive contributions through greater understanding of the brain and the human experience, this year’s Nobel Conference speakers will offer a variety of perspectives that both converge on and diverge from ideas and findings in other fields. Michael Ferragamo, associate professor of biology and director of the Neuroscience Program at Gustavus Adolphus College, is the chair of Nobel Conference 47, “The Brain and Being Human.” He was assisted in the development of this essay by Janine Wotton, associate professor of psychology and associate in the Neuroscience Program. Gwendolyn Freed, former vice president for marketing and communication, also contributed to the article.



VILAYANUR RAMACHANDRAN, M.D. Ph.D. Phantom limb pain occurs in at least 90 percent of limb amputees and has been known about for hundreds of years, yet only recently has neuroscience begun to understand the condition and its relationship to empathy, and perhaps to the next great leap forward in human evolution. Some neurons, which normally fire when you poke a patient with a needle, also fire when the patient watches another patient being poked. Vilayanur Ramachandran exploited this property, of so-called mirror neurons, and developed therapies for phantom limb pain and related disorders with a trick box that provides false visual information about the limb to counteract the phantom signals. These mirror neurons seem to dissolve the barrier between self and other. Rama, as his friends and colleagues refer to him, calls them “empathy neurons” or “Dalai Lama neurons.” He says, “Dissolving this barrier is the basis of many ethical systems, and may imply that mirror neurons can provide rational grounds for ethics.” The son of an Indian diplomat, Ramachandran spent much of his youth moving among several different posts in India and other parts of Asia. He had many scientific interests as a youth but eventually focused on medicine. After receiving his medical training in India, he pursued his interest in the field of neurology. He says, “How could you not be interested in understanding the brain?” At Trinity College, Cambridge, he studied vision and learned about mapping vision to different locations in the brain.


Returning to his first love, neurology, he began to try to understand how the brain fills in blind spots. He was able to apply what he learned to missing limbs and quickly made many discoveries about phantom limbs. Ramachandran says, “Any field is exciting in its early stages. There are many opportunities for fools’ experiments. Faraday did many of these in the beginning stages of our understanding of magnetism. Neurology is still at the Faraday stage. Yet it is of vital importance. Why do you laugh and cry? How do you remember? We know so very little and there are lots of very elementary questions yet to be answered.” Ramachandran studies neurology for two reasons, clinical and scientific. Understanding the plasticity of the brain, its ability to change with time, could very well help patients deal with pain and recover from many disorders. But understanding how the brain works is a first step in our drive to understand ourselves as humans, something that could enrich our understanding of our relationships and our place in the world. Imagine we know everything there is to know about the intricate circuitry and functioning of the human brain. Scientists could create a “Matrix” scenario, where thousands of electrodes and patterns of electrical stimulation would make your brain think and feel that it’s experiencing actual life events, and the simulation could include a perfect sense of past, present, and future. Your brain wouldn’t know that its experiences, its entire life, are not real. And a philosopher would ask, what is real anyway? One should not be surprised what Rama does for fun. In addition to walking and running, he studies archeology, paleontology, and cosmology. He says that he is a bit of a bookworm.


LARRY J. YOUNG, Ph.D. Most people probably don’t know that prairie voles are monogamous and meadow voles are promiscuous. One might even wonder why anyone would care. But Larry Young’s work in understanding the very slight differences in the brains of voles is already leading to development of novel treatments for autism spectrum disorders. It turns out that the molecules regulating behavior in voles have similar effects in humans, providing Young and his colleagues a way to study the complex interpersonal relationships of our species.

lizards, different species of voles engage in different behaviors. Prairie voles are monogamous and form lifelong social attachments, while montane and meadow voles are promiscuous breeders and do not form social attachments at all.

Growing up in rural south Georgia meant not having easy access to college prep schools and classes. But childhood on a farm provided Larry Young with a view of the diversity of nature that a city kid would never know. He was fascinated by the differences between the animals he saw on the farm and in nature in general, and was determined to understand them. He says that if you are persistent, you can make your dream reality. And persistent he was, earning a degree in biochemistry from the University of Georgia in 1989 and going on to get his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in neuroendocrinology in 1994. During his undergraduate education, he says, he became fascinated with the idea that well-defined biochemical processes control complex biological phenomena, and that many of these processes are determined by an organism’s genes. As a graduate student, he compared the behavior of two different species of lizards and their underlying molecular differences. It was as a postdoc at Emory University that he began investigating the molecular mechanisms affecting social attachment in prairie voles. Like the

For example, studies have shown that women who were abused and neglected early in life have lower levels of the hormone oxytocin later in life. Oxytocin is the chemical that promotes social behavior in voles, and apparently in humans. It is also the active ingredient in a product called Liquid Trust, which is being marketed for use in a variety of social situations from dating to company management. “In the long run,” Young says, “we need to understand how the human brain works in order to understand human behavior and to treat neurological disorders. And we need to learn from the differences we observe in nature.”


Although the vole studies have shown some promise, Young says, “The real progress in understanding the relationships between genes, social experiences, neurological chemicals, and behavior will be made when we translate the vole work into primate studies. We need to go beyond prairie voles and study how brain chemistry affects monkeys, chimps, and humans. And we need to understand the effects that early life experiences have on brain chemistry.”

Larry Young enjoys spending time with his family, watching his children’s soccer games, and taking care of his pets. He says that he has a house full of animals, from parrots and parakeets to aquaria full of fish. Visiting his house must be something like visiting a zoo.



HELEN MAYBERG, M.D. Helen Mayberg grew up in a medical family. Her father practiced family medicine in Orange County, California, after considering training in neurosurgery. She spent time in her uncle’s nuclear medicine lab at UC Irvine, learning how radiotracers could be used to map physiological functions in the body. While she helped with small tasks in the lab, she and her uncle would talk about the potential for mapping brain function, a topic in its infancy. “I loved the lab and the opportunity it provided to think about new ways to solve problems,” she says. As a USC medical student Mayberg’s interests in neuropsychiatric disorders became more focused, but she had difficulty deciding between residency training in psychiatry, neurology, or neurosurgery. There were limited opportunities in those days for brain-based quantitative measurements of complex behavior. Computed tomography (CT) was only newly available to help diagnose brain lesions; positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) were not available. But in her senior year, she had the opportunity to study with behavioral neurologist Norman Geschwind in Boston, solidifying her decision to train in neurology but with a future focus on neuropsychiatry. Mayberg completed her neurology training at the Neurological Institute at Columbia Presbyterian in New York before moving to Johns Hopkins for further training in nuclear medicine and the emerging field of functional neuroimaging using PET. Following training in PET methods and their application to the study of epilepsy, Mayberg chose to focus on major depression, taking a neurologist’s perspective and


capitalizing on the mapping strategies offered by PET and later functional MRI scanning methods. Studies with colleagues in Baltimore, San Antonio, and then Toronto further explored the effects of various antidepressant treatments—starting first with medication, but then also cognitive behavioral therapy and even placebo—mapping brain regions most critical to illness recovery. These studies led to observations about the critical role of the subcallosal cingulate region—Brodman Area 25—in both depression recovery and the mediation of negative mood in healthy subjects. The rationale to target Area 25 using deep brain stimulation in intractably ill depressed patients was developed and ultimately tested by her team in Toronto, bringing cutting-edge neuroscience to the threshold of therapeutic practicality. “What makes this work gratifying is seeing how research can have major impact on individual patients’ lives, Mayberg says. “Deep brain stimulation seems to allow the brain to recover, but it takes time. It isn’t like flipping a switch, but it is still amazing to realize that patients who were debilitated for years by depression are able to return to normal lives, going back to their families, to school, to jobs—getting on with activities we all take for granted. It is wonderful to see people thrive after fighting their brains for so long.” The experiences of her research subjects are teaching Mayberg and her colleagues things about the brain they could not have anticipated, helping to better design future studies. “All scientists should be so lucky as to have this kind of feedback,” Mayberg says. She is encouraging students to study neuroscience, not just because it is interesting, but because we need to understand how the brain works to help people affected by neuropsychiatric disorders like depression. “This is an area where science and humanity meet,” she says.


ANIRUDDH PATEL, Ph.D. What is it about rock and roll music that makes those listening want to move? The beat, of course. But, what is it about the human brain that makes it so responsive to beat and rhythm? After all, this reaction isn’t that common in nature. Monkeys, for example, can’t be trained to tap to a beat, while some birds do respond. For the last few years, Aniruddh Patel has been trying to find a model system to study the human response to a musical beat as a way to explore brain interactions between the auditory and motor systems during beat perception. It isn’t just because he likes working with Snowball, the sulfurcrested cockatoo, who has been seen by millions on YouTube. It’s largely due to curiosity about the universal power of music to drive rhythmic movement in human listeners. This power has been shown to help Parkinson’s disease patients to walk, though the mechanisms behind this effect remain unknown. Patel’s work with Snowball complements the neuroimaging research he and his colleagues are conducting with humans, to unravel the brain mechanisms of musical beat perception. As long as he can remember, Patel has been passionate about two things: biology and music. He was able to pursue at least one of his passions in college, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Virginia. As a senior, while taking a class in behavioral biology, he began thinking about studying the biology of human music. He quickly learned how little was known about this topic at the time, but that didn’t dissuade him. He went on to study evolutionary biology under E. O. Wilson at Harvard. Wilson encouraged his unusual interests. Working with Wilson and with scholars from a range


of disciplines, including linguistics, neuroscience, and music psychology, Patel learned about the neurobiology of auditory communication and wrote his thesis, “A Biological Study of the Relationship between Language and Music.” His scholarship helped usher in a new field of study, the neurobiology of music. Patel’s 1998 brain imaging work showed for the first time that the processing of musical grammar overlaps with the processing of language grammar in the brain. This was an early clue that the neurobiology of music could provide some insight into language disabilities and maybe even point to a way to heal them. Patel’s work has thus contributed to a recent rise of interest in music-based treatments to help stroke victims re-learn language skills. For example, it has been shown by other researchers that having such patients produce simple phrases by singing is often more effective than the traditional therapy of having them repeat the spoken phrases, suggesting that portions of the brain responsible for processing music can take over when language areas of the brain have been damaged. Patel says that the study of the neuroscience of music is in its early stages. He is excited to be in this field because it offers the chance to study the connections between culture and biology and to do empirical work that spans linguistics, music psychology, animal behavior, and other areas of science and social science. He thinks that the next interesting area of study will be the twoway interaction between brain and culture, exploring how musical experience shapes the brain and influences mental abilities such as language and attention both in normal people and in neurological patients. Aniruddh Patel enjoys spending time with his family, especially taking his two children to Legoland, the zoo, and the beach.



JOHN P. DONOGHUE, Ph.D. A woman driving a wheelchair with nothing but her mind. Does this sound like science fiction? With the help of BrainGate neural prosthetic technology designed by John Donoghue, Cathy Hutchinson can control her wheelchair, a computer, and even one of her arms. This wonder of applied research and engineering promises to allow stroke victims like Cathy and those with ALS and spinal cord injuries to again control their limbs and perhaps even allow them to perform many day-to-day activities. One of John Donoghue’s short-term goals is to provide Cathy with enough control of her limbs that she can take a drink without assistance.

to bypass the broken communication system in paralyzed individuals. In most cases, the brain still commands the muscles to move; it is a breakdown of the spinal cord, nerves, or muscles themselves that keep muscles from responding. Insight into the firing of cells associated with the thought of motion made it possible for Donoghue to stun the world by helping to restore movement to the paralyzed. To develop the laboratory findings into clinical applications for humans, Donoghue co-founded Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc., which is continuing to develop the BrainGate system. His work earned him a number of awards, including the 2005 Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics magazine, a 2004 Discover Award for Innovation and Reader’s Digest’s Top Medical Breakthrough of 2005.

Donoghue obtained his bachelor’s degree in biology from Boston University and his master’s degree in anatomy from the University of Vermont. After earning his doctorate in neuroscience from Brown University, he began a post-doctoral appointment at Michigan State University. There, he studied brain abnormalities in people with mental retardation, and continued the research at the National Institute of Mental Health. Exploring the cerebral cortex, he looked at many brain cells at once in order to understand how the brain transforms thought into action. The development of multi-electrode brain probes allowed Donoghue and his students to understand the fundamental codes of communication used by the brain. They were able to demonstrate, for example, how a monkey could play a simple video game using only its mind.

John Donohue is excited to be able to apply basic science to help the human condition. The 20 years of National Institutes of Health money that allowed him to teach monkeys to play video games has also jumpstarted neurotechnology. What started out as just an attempt to determine how the brain worked could end up changing the lives of many people suffering from paralysis due to brain and spinal cord injury. He will continue to work to make it possible for paralyzed people to communicate, to develop crude movement, even to get up and walk around. Running two laboratories keeps John Donoghue very busy. Whenever he has the chance, he says, “I enjoy being out on the water in my small power boat.”

Donoghue’s BrainGate system combines one hundred hair-like electrodes inserted in the motor cortex with external processors and additional electrodes



PAUL GLIMCHER, Ph.D. Have you ever entered the cereal aisle in a large grocery store and felt overwhelmed by the choices? Maybe you have sat down at a new restaurant and you just couldn’t decide what to order. Why does your brain just seem to shut down? Under what circumstances does this happen? Paul Glimcher believes he can understand the biological reasons for your experience by applying neural activation models to your decision-making process. He describes this as “stitching together the boundary between the natural and social sciences to develop a better standard model of human decision-making.” Glimcher says that he was “raised as neurophysiologist.” Growing up in New York, he was always interested in science, so it was natural to study neuroscience at Princeton as an undergraduate. After earning his Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, he remained for a postdoc position in the psychology department. While studying the brainstem and nerves that control eye rotations, he found evidence that the nerves participating in the execution of saccadic eye movements (i.e., quick, simultaneous gaze shifts of both eyes in the same direction) might be involved in planning those movements as well. Since then, he and his students have been studying the signals that connect the neural processes associated with sensory inputs and the neural processes responsible for motion, which they believe underlie decision-making. They use a variety of tools in their work, including single-neuron electrophysiology, functional magnetic resonance imaging traditionally used by neuroscientists, and game theory developed by psychologists and economists.


Recognizing the applications of evolutionary behavioral economics to his work, Glimcher went back to school, so to speak, to learn economics. It wasn’t easy. “I had to essentially teach myself micro-economics to show that I was serious enough to get the attention of economists,” he says. Eventually, he was invited to join the economics department, and ultimately formed a neuroeconomics center at NYU with postdocs in economics, neuroscience, and psychology. Glimcher is excited about the tremendous consilience now evolving among biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and economics as a result of the kind of work he does. The challenge of understanding animal and human choice behavior requires work from the level of neurons and ion channels up to the level of economics, according to Glimcher. Studying choice behavior in humans with scanners and using chemical and electrophysiology stimulation to test the rich models developed in this incredible collaboration will lead to a better standard model of human decision making. An important challenge is learning how and where in the brain the value of various options is stored. “Only true interdisciplinary research is up to this challenge,” he says. He requires his students to develop a deep enough understanding of each of the disciplines that they see the beauty in all of them, putting aside the biases of their original discipline and taking up the biases of the others, so that they can develop richer and better models. Glimcher enjoys solving optimization problems on the fly, sailing in ocean races. He has single-handedly sailed a number of 1,000-mile passages, and with other crew members he has circumnavigated the globe one-and-ahalf times.



MARTHA FARAH “Neuromarketing could make mind reading the ad-man’s ultimate tool.” Could this title of a recent Guardian article become reality? Although Martha Farah thinks “such technology is a million light years away,” there are ethical issues related to how functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans are used. “We are nowhere near being able to read thoughts,” Farah said, “but we can derive a fair amount of personal information from MRIs, including current mental states, such as mood, intentions, and desire to buy an object.” Marketing has enlisted the help of neuroscientists to more accurately predict how we’ll react to stimuli in the marketplace, from prices to packages to advertisments, in order to make more money for clients. This leads Farah to be wary of neuro-marketing. “The biggest ethical issue to me is the fact that many of the most exciting new applications of brain imaging are being developed entirely with private corporate funding for commercial purposes,” she said. “I don’t think that is going to give us the best new contributions to society, and I don’t think that is going to lead to the greatest transparency concerning what these scans can do.” Martha Farah earned bachelor’s degrees in both metallurgy and philosophy at MIT and went on to receive a Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard. She has taught at Carnegie Mellon University and at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is now a professor of psychology and director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. She began her career as a cognitive scientist and slowly drifted into cognitive neuroscience.


She describes the difference between these two areas by saying, “Basically, it’s the difference between trying to do something really hard with one hand tied behind your back, and going at it with both hands.” When asked about the biggest changes in the field, Farah says that there have been so many changes in cognitive neuroscience in the last 30 years that it is hard to point to just one thing as being the greatest. Perhaps functional imaging of cognition, or computational models linking single-neuron behavior with the functioning of large-scale networks in the brain, or the extension of the cognitive neuroscience approach into the study of social and emotional functions, or . . . She says, “Maybe the best way to answer the question is to say this: We went from having neuroscience and cognitive science as two separate disciplines to having a truly integrated study of mind and brain.” Her work spans many topics within cognitive neuroscience, including visual recognition, attention, mental imagery, semantic memory, reading, and prefrontal function. Martha Farah is proud that Penn’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience is state-of-the-art in a wide range of methods, and very much committed to a multidisciplinary approach. At a time when many scientists are focusing on neuroimaging, she points out that there are fundamental questions that imaging can’t answer but that patient-based research can. In addition to a thriving fMRI facility, the Penn Center for Cognitive Neuroscience has its own patient research coordinator to locate and screen potential research subjects. But even the most advanced equipment and best patients are useless without good experimental design, so that is also—necessarily—a focus of her work. Martha Farah lives in Philadelphia with her daughter and her parrot.


NANCEY MURPHY, Ph.D., Th.D. Nancey Murphy is attracted to the often-charged intersection of faith and scientific understanding, seeking to support greater dialogue among theologians and scientists. As she points out, religion and science are merged virtually everywhere in modern life. According to some polls, more than 80 percent of the world’s people believe in God, and most of those people are immersed in technology and benefit in some way from scientific discovery. Murphy now spends most of her time studying this important interface, and is especially interested in how recent advances in neuroscience will change the understanding of scientists and theologians. Murphy grew up on a ranch in Nebraska before majoring in psychology and philosophy at Creighton University. As she recalls, “Psychology at that time was all about behaviorism.” She got interested in the philosophy of science and continued her studies in that field at UC Berkeley, where she earned her Ph.D. Realizing that she wanted to teach philosophy in a seminary, she decided she should also get a doctorate in theology, which she did, at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. After a brief stint as an assistant professor of religion, she joined Fuller Theological Seminary. There, she has contributed to the philosophical preparation of pastors, providing the background they need to work with their congregations. Over time, she has become involved in the science and theology conversation and has contributed several of her ten books and many more chapters and scholarly articles in this area.


Teaching at Fuller is rewarding, Murphy says, because the students are highly motivated and are delighted to have the opportunity to think critically and participate in open scholarly inquiry. Since the doctoral program at Fuller is large, she has ample opportunity to teach seminars in many areas of philosophy, such as philosophical ethics, philosophical theology, and philosophical issues in theology and science, along with more traditional theology and philosophy courses. When new interests arise, she can develop courses to help focus her exploration and, of course, to share with her students. Murphy’s colleague, Warren Brown, who teaches neuroscience at Fuller, got her involved in the connections among philosophy, theology, and neuroscience. Brown notes that most Christians are dualists; as the pressure from society to put more stock in science and technology has increased, the need has arisen to help Christians develop an understanding of human nature that is consistent with science. Do we even need the concepts of mind or soul ? How do those concepts fit with our new understanding of the brain and its workings? Murphy has authored or co-authored several books on these issues, including Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will, and Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? Murphy enjoys the traveling that comes with her collaborations in philosophy, science, and theology, as well as reading gory mystery and crime novels, which give her a break from “real” life. For the past two years, she has been helping her brother build a new house.


THE NOBEL CONFERENCE CONCERT, 2011 ‘A STATE OF MIND AND MUSIC: NEW SONGS BY MINNESOTA COMPOSERS’ Tuesday, October 4 | 8:15 p.m. | Jussi Björling Recital Hall | Free—no ticket required You are invited to experience vocal solo music written in the last ten years that provides insight into the creative minds of a number of composers who call Minnesota home. Represented composers include Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Dominick Argento, Libby Larsen (the 2010 winner of the George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America), Stephen Paulus, and Gustavus alumnus Steve Heitzeg. World premieres of commissioned music by Timothy Berry and Todd Harper will be featured, as well as works by Jocelyn Hagen and Hiram Titus. Professor of Music Michael Jorgensen, baritone, and Bonnie Jorgensen, piano, will have coached the music with the respective composers and will be assisted in the recital by student musicians. We anticipate that the composers will be in attendance as we celebrate their musical genius.

THEATRE ‘ON EGO’ Tuesday, October 4 | 8:15 p.m. | Anderson Theatre | R  eserved seating, tickets available at On Tuesday evening, the Department of Theatre and Dance presents a special performance of On Ego, a play by Mick Gordon and Paul Broks inspired by the book Into the Silent Land by Paul Broks, directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Henry MacCarthy. The play, called “totally gripping theatre” by the Sunday Times, addresses how the brain creates a sense of self. How does the darkness inside our skulls become a world of people and places, pleasure and pain, love and loss? On Ego is an exploration of identity, humanity, and what it means to be unique.

ART EXHIBITIONS A COLLECTOR’S PASSION FOR DÜRER’S SECRETS: THE MAGJEKL COLLECTION COMFORT ME, SAID HE: RECENT WORK by Kristen Lowe FOCUS IN/ON: GUY PÈNE DU BOIS, ‘CONNOISSEURS’ September 12–November 6 | Hillstrom Museum of Art Nobel Conference Reception | October 4 | 6–8 p.m. The Hillstrom Museum of Art is featuring two exhibitions and the latest in its continuing series of collaborative, detailed considerations of particular individual artworks from the Hillstrom Collection, FOCUS IN/ON, during the 2011 Nobel Conference. One exhibition is the remarkable and extensive Magjekl Collection of prints by German Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), begun by collector Elizabeth Garner in 2006 featuring around 50 masterpieces by the acclaimed artist. The second exhibition features works from the recently begun series of dramatic and intensely emotional large-scale works by artist Kristen Lowe, who teaches in the Department of Art and Art History at Gustavus Adolphus College. Finally, the displayed FOCUS IN/ON project is a collaboration of sociologist Richard A. Hilbert, of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Hillstrom Museum of Art Director Donald Myers considering the Museum’s watercolor Connoisseurs (1938), by American artist and critic Guy Pène du Bois (1884–1958), which was donated to the Museum in 2004 by the Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom. Kristen Lowe Comfort Me, Said He, No. 2, 2010 charcoal on paper 42 x 72 inches




The Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College, the first educational conference of its kind in the United States, is made possible through income generated by a Nobel Conference endowment and the support of annual conference contributors. The Nobel Conference Endowment Fund was created in July 1978 and is permanently secured as a result of the generous support of Drell and Adeline Bernhardson. Other gifts to the fund have been made by Russell and Rhoda Lund; the Mardag Foundation, in memory of Edgar B. Ober; and the UnitedHealth Group. The College also acknowledges key contributions to the 2011 conference from Cambria, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, and Heroic Productions.

In addition, the College acknowledges the Mankato Clinic Foundation and Medtronic, Inc. for their generous support.


Chuck Niederriter, Ph.D., professor of physics;

Tom LoFaro, Ph.D., professor of mathematics and

director, Nobel Conference

computer science

Mike Ferragamo, Ph.D., associate professor of

Karla Marz, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology Scott Moore, D.M.A., assistant professor of music So Young Park, Ph.D., assistant professor of English Garrett Paul, Ph.D., professor of religion Jessie Petricka, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics Tim Robinson, Ph.D., professor of psychology Amy Seham, Ph.D., professor of theatre and dance Bob Shoemaker, M.S., visiting instructor of education Dean Wahlund, director, communication services and

biology and neuroscience; chair, Nobel Conference 47

Jennifer Ackil, Ph.D., professor of psychology Scott Bur, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry Baili Chen, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics and computer science

Patric Giesler, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology and anthropology

Jon Grinnell, Ph.D., associate professor of biology Michele Koomen, Ph.D., associate professor of education

Mark Kruger, Ph.D., professor of psychology Richard Leitch Jr., Ph.D., associate professor of political science


special events

Esther Wang, D.M.A., associate professor of music Janine Wotton, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience

Steve Wright, D.M.A., associate professor of music


NOBEL CONFERENCE® 47 TICKETS ONLINE! Order lecture and meal tickets online with Visa or Mastercard at, or by phone at 507-933-7520 (mail orders no longer accepted). Tickets are good for the two-day conference. Seating in Lund Center Arena is limited to 3,000. Overflow seating will be available in Lund Center Forum, a specially, video-equipped site. Tickets are non-refundable. Please note that a separate ticket is required for the Nobel Conference Banquet on Wednesday evening. Tickets will be mailed beginning mid-August. Tickets ordered too late for mail delivery will be held at the Nobel Conference registration desk in Lund Center. Ticket prices: Reserved–$100; General Admission–$65; Student Delegation (block of 10)–$40. For more information, contact the Office of Marketing and Communication at 507-933-7520, by fax 507-933-6147, or e-mail

800 West College Avenue St. Peter, MN 56082 GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS COLLEGE



Nobel Conference 47 Preview  

"The Brain & Being Human" October 4 & 5, 2011 at Gustavus Adolphus College

Nobel Conference 47 Preview  

"The Brain & Being Human" October 4 & 5, 2011 at Gustavus Adolphus College