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Jane Pauley + Sebastian Seung

Welcome to Connectome

Wednesday, February 8, 2012
7:00 PM–8:45 PM

Jane Pauley is best known as long-time morning broadcaster for NBC’s Today Show and as a co-host for NBC’s popular news magazine, Dateline. In her autobiography Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue, (2004) Pauley revealed that she suffered from bipolar disorder, first diagnosed in 2001. Her attention to mental health issues is reflected in her role on the leadership board of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.
Sebastian Seung is a Professor of Computational Neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Department of Physics at MIT. We know that each of us is unique, but science has struggled to pinpoint where, precisely, our uniqueness resides. Is it in our genes? The structure of our brains? Our genome may determine our eye color and even aspects of our personality. But our friendships, failures, and passions also shape who we are. The question is: how? In his book Seung introduces us to the dedicated researchers who are mapping the brain’s connections, neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse. It is a monumental undertaking—the scientific equivalent of climbing Mount Everest—but if they succeed, it could reveal the basis of personality, intelligence, memory, and perhaps even mental disorders. Many scientists speculate that people with anorexia, autism, and schizophrenia are “wired differently,” but nobody knows for sure. The brain’s wiring has never been seen clearly. In sparklingly clear prose, Seung reveals the amazing technological advances that will soon help us map connectomes. He also examines the evidence that these maps will someday allow humans to “upload” their minds into computers, achieving a kind of immortality. Connectome is a mind-bending adventure story, told with great passion and authority. It presents a daring scientific and technological vision for at last understanding what makes us who we are. Welcome to the future of neuroscience.