Professor Paul Skokowski giving a talk on 'Explaining Consciousness' in the College's Old Dining Hall
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Previous Events

The Importance of Telling Stories - 24 February 2018

This symposium explored how the brain encodes information through stories and narrative, what makes a good story, and how this can be harnessed to allow more effective communication. The afternoon closed with a workshop, hosted by Simon De Deney of Infinite Space, to allow attendees to practise creating their own stories.

Is Seeing Believing? With Stephen Mottram's Animata - 25 November 2017

An exploration of how our brain creates perception of the world around us, and how this understanding can be exploited to create art, theatre and even magic. This symposium featured talks from Matthew Tompkins, a psychologist and magician investigating how sleight of hand experiments can teach us about perception; Dr Anthony Atkinson, a psychologist studying how emotions can be inferred from limited visual information; Dr Betina Ip, a vision neuroscientist with a background in fine art; and Stephen Mottram, who also closed the afternoon with a performance of his Animata show, which uses only white-tipped wands to create a funny, mesmerising story about youth and old age. Watch a video of Dr Anthony Atkinson's talk here.

Explaining Consciousness - 12 May 2017

A talk by Professor Paul Skokowski, Executive Director at the Centre for the Explanation of Consciousness and Consulting Professor of Symbolic Systems at Stanford University, and Visiting Fellow at St Edmund Hall. A related paper has now been published which describes many of the same ideas in greater depth. The paper is free to read and is available here

The Weather and our Emotions - 4 March 2017

This event explored the link between the weather and our emotions from the perspective of artists, neuroscientists and literature scholars, with talks from Donna Han, an award-winning artist; Dr Erin Lafford, whose work looks at atmospherics in 18th- and 19th-century literature; and Dr Alexander Kaltenboeck, who studies neuro-cognitive models of mood disorders.

Shakespeare and the Brain - 26 November 2016

This symposium explored the theme of Shakespeare and the Brain from the perspective of neuroscientists, literature scholars, and thespians. Podcasts of all the talks are available here.

Perceiving Presence: Theatre, Liveness and the Brain - 14 May 2016

Theatre has long been explored as a medium defined by its ‘liveness'. At its core the theatre event is a process of encounter between performer, space and audience. In this talk Campbell Edinborough (lecturer in the School of Drama, Music and Screen at the University of Hull) discussed how different paradigms of human interiority have shaped the terms of this encounter, outlining some of ways in which developments in the fields of neuroscience and psychology can be seen to have influenced the aesthetics of theatrical representation. Campbell also outlined how more recent insights from the field of neuroscience might be used by performers to develop practical skills for engaging with theatre as a live event, and spoke about how his approach to making theatre has been shaped by his interest in how the brain coordinates action, focusing particularly on his work with the Feldenkrais Method and martial arts.

Virtual Biopsy: Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and Brain Surgery - 8 March 2016

Part of a series of satellite events on neuroscience imaging methods, Uzay Emir of FMRIB and neurosurgeon Nick de Pennington spoke about magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a technique that probes the chemical make-up of the brain without piercing the skin, and its current and future applications.

The Myths and Reality of Healthy Ageing - Dr Claire Sexton of the Oxford Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB) - 3 March 2016

“Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.”   Maurice Chevalier

How does the Hollywood depiction of ageing, where cosmetic wrinkles and a loss of memory and abilities are portrayed as the norm, match with our experience of this most common of processes? Can neuroscience start to help us to understand both healthy ageing and that most feared condition, dementia, which currently affects 850,000 people in the UK? In this talk, Dr Claire Sexton discussed how charity-led initiatives like Dementia Friends translate research findings to raise awareness about dementia within our communities, the latest research findings examining links between physical activity and ageing, and how, going forward, community initiatives can inform research practice.

Get to Know the Human Connectome - 2 December 2015

This was the first in a new satellite series on Neuroscience Imaging Methods. Anderson Winkler and Saad Jbabdi, both of FMRIB (Oxford Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain), spoke about the Human Connectome Project (HCP). The HCP is a large, NIH-funded initiative that is mapping brain connections in more than a thousand individuals using state-of-the-art methods.

Creativity in Art: A Neuronal Hypothesis - Prof. J-P Changeux, Collège de France (in collaboration with the Maison Francaise) - 24 October 2015

Jean-Pierre Changeux is one of France’s most distinguished neuroscientists and was a PhD Student of Jacques Monod and Monod’s colleague, Francois Jacob, with whom he shared a Nobel prize. Changeux developed a novel model for the way neurons communicate that was a precursor of Edelman’s 'neural Darwinism' theory. He is a Professor in the Collège de France, served for many years as Chair of the French government’s art heritage committee and is a noted collector of French painting of the 18th century. He has become a well-known commentator on artistic creativity and its brain origins.

Professor Changeux's seminar was followed by a round-table discussion with Jason Gaiger (Associate Professor, Contemporary Art History and Theory & Fellow of St Edmund Hall), Morten Kringelbach (Professor of Neuroscience, Aarhus University & Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford) and Andrew Parker (Professor of Physiology, University of Oxford). 

Laughter and the Brain - 15 May 2015

We all like to laugh, and stand-up comedy is becoming increasingly big business. But why and how do we laugh? Does it serve an evolutionary purpose? This event was an evening of presentations and discussion on humour aimed at non-scientists and scientists alike, marking the end of the first successful year for the Centre for the Creative Brain. The speakers were Professor Sophie Scott (Deputy Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL), Professor Gordon Claridge (Emeritus Professor of Abnormal Psychology at Oxford University), Mr Paul Mayhew-Archer (prolific producer and script writer for radio and television comedy), Dr Brett Mills (Senior Lecturer in the School of Art, Media and American Studies at UEA) and Dr Hisham Ziauddeen (a psychiatrist with a research interest in the neuroscience behind food addiction, who also performs stand-up comedy). Read more.

Memory and the Mind - Dr David Dupret (St Edmund Hall) - 12 March 2015

The idea that every event in our lives leaves a distinct memory trace in the brain - and indeed that these traces can be written and re-written at will - is something that has fascinated film-makers for many years. The possibility of mplanting some-one else's memories, or erasing memories we no longer wish to have, have captured the imagination of directors and audiences alike. In this evening talk, David Dupret, a Fellow of St Edmund Hall, debunked the myths and spoke about his most recent work - suggesting that, in certain circumstances at least, the science fiction of Hollywood may not be that far from the truth.

Music and the Mind - 15 November 2014

The inaugural symposium of the Centre for the Creative Brain. Download the programme for the day here.

Speakers included Professor Raymond Tallis (philosopher & clinical neuroscientist), Alyn Shipton (writer, broadcaster, jazz historian & alumnus of St Edmund Hall), Professor Lauren Stewart (Reader, Goldsmiths, University of London), Dr Julian O'Kelly (Research Fellow, Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability), Chris Watson (Director of Music, St Edmund Hall), Dr Sallie Baxendale (Clinical Psychologist, Epilepsy Society Research Centre & University College London) and Professor Paul Matthews (Head, Division of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London & Fellow, St Edmund Hall). Read more.