2007 Kavli Directors Symposium: Neuroscience

A Video Presentation



Neuroscience Panelists

Jeffrey Elman - Co-Director (with Nick Spitzer) of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at the University of California, San Diego

Ralph Greenspan - Associate Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at the University of California, San Diego

Eric Kandel - Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University

Edvard Moser - Director of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Pasko Rakic - Director of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale University

MODERATOR: Alan Alda - actor, producer, filmmaker and author


 Panel Overview

What goes on in the mind and why? What is consciousness and what makes us think and react, love and hate? These were some of the topics visited in a wide-ranging discussion among the four Kavli institute directors who study the mind and its biological foundations. As posed by Eric Kandel, director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University: Now that neurobiology and psychology have come together to produce a new “science of mind,” what are the next steps? Can this new science “explain how we enjoy arts, the nature of creativity, how people interact with one another, what governs the kinds of decisions we make?”

In other words, can we discern the biology behind what makes us fully human?

As the panelists discuss, genes are part of the answer. Studies show how the tweaking of single genes can turn worms from solitary to social hunters in the search for food, and can make a vole promiscuous or committed to a single partner in pair bonding.

Aspects of social behavior in higher or ganisms, such as empathy, have also been traced to the biology of the brain. But as Kandel and other panelists note, so much more remains to be learned – about abstract thought, language, altruism, affection, aggression, diseases such as autism and the nature of personal responsibility (do we really control our actions, and should we be held accountable for them?) The science of mind, as described by this panel, is just starting to fulfill its huge potential.

 2007 Symposium Overview

Overview of the September, 2007 Symposium: Panel Discussions on Observational Astrophysics, Theoretical Astrophysics, Nanoscience and Neuroscience

How did the universe begin? What is matter really like in its smallest form? What makes us truly human? Such are the profound questions that face us at the limits of our scientific knowledge. A distinguished group of scientists – directors of the 15 Kavli Institutes – met in Santa Barbara, Calif., in September 2007 to share their insights on the great remaining scientific mysteries and humankind’s progress toward solving them.

The day-long symposium was a first for the Foundation. Never before had all the Institute directors been together in one place. It was a special event for the scientists, too, who were encouraged to ignore the narrow focus and formalities of most research symposia. Here they could – and did – talk not just about the latest research but also about the future of their science. As Kavli Foundation President David Auston explained, they were asked “to look ahead … and not only to look ahead and be prospective, but also to be speculative and provocative.

The symposium consisted of four panel discussions covering neuroscience, nanoscience, observational astrophysics and theoretical astrophysics. Moderating each discussion was actor, producer, filmmaker and author Alan Alda, whose interest in and advocacy for science has earned him the Public Service Award of the National Science Board.