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Who Is the Shaking Woman?

Siri Hustvedt + Hans Breiter

Friday, March 5, 2010
7:00 PM–8:30 PM

The novelist Siri Hustvedt enagages the director of Harvard Laboratory of Neuroimaging and Genetics about her neurological condition, marking the publication of her new book The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves.
While speaking at a memorial event for her father in 2006, Siri Hustvedt suffered a violent seizure from the neck down. Despite her flapping arms and shaking legs, she continued to speak clearly and was able to finish her speech. It was as if she had suddenly become two people: a calm orator and a shuddering wreck. Then the seizures happened again and again. The Shaking Woman tracks Hustvedt’s search for a diagnosis, one that takes her inside the thought processes of several scientific disciplines, each one of which offers a distinct perspective on her paroxysms but no ready solution. In the process, she finds herself entangled in fundamental questions: What is the relationship between brain and mind? How do we remember? What is the self?

Hans Breiter, M.D., is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. His publications have generated more than 5,000 citations. Trained in mathematical logic, he completed five post-doctoral fellowships along with a psychiatry residency. He directs the MGH Phenotype Genotype Project in Addiction and Mood Disorder, an interdisciplinary project involving more than 80 investigators integrating experimental psychology, multi-modal neuroimaging, and genetics ( His research seeks the principles organizing motivation and emotion. It applies engineering approaches to identify law-like patterns in reward/aversion behavior, and connects these patterns across scale to brain function and structure, and to genetics.