Stay Positive

"In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." - Alert Camus

Friday, September 10, 2010

Robert Wright on optimism | Video on TED.com

Robert Wright on optimism | Video on TED.com

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks was born in 1933 in London, England into a family of physicians and scientists (his mother was a surgeon and his father a general practitioner). He earned his medical degree at Oxford University (Queen’s College), and did residencies and fellowship work at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco and at UCLA.

Since 1965, he has lived in New York, where he is a practicing neurologist. In July of 2007, he was appointed a Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, and he was designated Columbia University’s first Columbia Artist. 

In 1966 Dr. Sacks began working as a consulting neurologist for Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx, a chronic care hospital where he encountered an extraordinary group of patients, many of whom had spent decades in strange, frozen states, like human statues, unable to initiate movement. 

He recognized these patients as survivors of the great pandemic of sleepy sickness that had swept the world from 1916 to 1927, and treated them with a then-experimental drug, L-dopa, which enabled them to come back to life. 

They became the subjects of his book Awakenings, which later inspired a play by Harold Pinter (“A Kind of Alaska”) and the Oscar-nominated feature film (“Awakenings”) with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams.

Sacks is perhaps best known for his collections of case histories from the far borderlands of neurological experience, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and An Anthropologist on Mars, in which he describes patients struggling to live with conditions ranging from Tourette’s syndrome to autism, parkinsonism, musical hallucination, epilepsy, phantom limb syndrome, schizophrenia, retardation, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

He has investigated the world of Deaf people and sign language in Seeing Voices, and a rare community of colorblind people in The Island of the Colorblind. He has written about his experiences as a doctor in Migraine and as a patient in A Leg to Stand On. His autobiographical Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood was published in 2001, and his most recent book is Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (Knopf, 2007). 

Sacks’s work, which has been supported by the Guggenheim Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, regularly appears in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, as well as various medical journals. The New York Times has referred to Dr. Sacks as “the poet laureate of medicine,” and in 2002 he was awarded the Lewis Thomas Prize by Rockefeller University, which recognizes the scientist as poet. He is an honorary fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and holds honorary degrees from many universities, including Oxford, the Karolinska Institute, Georgetown, Bard, Gallaudet, Tufts, and the Catholic University of Peru.













































Vilayanur S. Ramachandran MD, PhD

http://cbc.ucsd.edu/ramabio.html

Biography Laboratory Publications Interviews Illusions


V.S. Ramachandran is Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and Professor with the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Biology at the Salk Institute. Ramachandran initially trained as a doctor and subsequently obtained a Ph.D. from Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. Ramachandran’s early work was on visual perception but he is best known for his experiments in behavioral neurology which, despite their apparent simplicity, have had a profound impact on the way we think about the brain. He has been called “The Marco Polo of neuroscience” by Richard Dawkins and “The modern Paul Broca” by Eric Kandel.

In 2005 he was awarded the Henry Dale Medal and elected to an honorary life fellowship by the Royal Instituion of Great Britain. His other honours and awards include fellowships from All Souls College, Oxford, and from Stanford University; the Presidential Lecture Award from the American Academy of Neurology, two honorary doctorates, the annual Ramon Y Cajal award from the International Neuropsychiatry Society, and the Ariens-Kappers medal from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences. In 2003 he gave the annual BBC Reith lectures and was the first physician/psychologist to give the lectures since they were begun by Bertrand Russel in 1949. In 1995 he gave the Decade of the Brain lecture at the 25th annual (Silver Jubilee) meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. Most recently the President of India conferred on him the second highest civilian award and honorific title in India, the Padma Bhushan.

Ramachandran has published over 180 papers in scientific journals (including five invited review articles in the Scientific American). He is author of the acclaimed book “Phantoms in the Brain” that has been translated into nine languages and formed the basis for a two part series on Channel Four TV (UK) and a 1 hour PBS special in USA. NEWSWEEK magazine has named him a member of “The Century Club” – one of the “hundred most prominent people to watch in the next century.”

Recent Reviews

A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness; BBC Reith Lectures. New York: Pi Press, 2004

“Vintage Ramachandran, packed with ideas that are bold, irreverent, original, and ingenious. People who have never thought much about the brain will be intrigued, but so will those who, like me, have spent most of their lives thinking about the brain.”

-David Hubel, Nobel Laureate, Harvard University, author of Eye, Brain, and Vision

“An extraordinary book by a remarkable scientist! Ramachandran is … the modern Paul Broca, the great French neurologist who opened up the biological analysis of higher mental functions.”

-Eric R. Kandel, M.D., Nobel Laureate, Columbia University

“The Marco Polo of neuroscience.”

-Richard Dawkins, Oxford University, author of The Blind

Phantoms in the Brain. New York: William Morror, 1998.

“The patients he describes are fascinating and his experiments on them are both simple and ingenious. If you are at all interested in how your brain works, this is the book you must read.”

-Francis Crick, Nobel Laureate, Salk Institute

“…Enthralling not only for its clear and eloquent descriptions of neurological phenomena but also for its portrait of Dr. Ramachandran, a scientist in search of the secrets of the mind…and he is a splendid subject indeed.”

-Michael Goldberg, M.D., Chief of Neuropsychology NIH








Eva Zeisel on the playful search for beauty | Video on TED.com

Eva Zeisel on the playful search for beauty | Video on TED.com




The legendary Eva Zeisel is a ceramics designer whose curvy, sensual pieces bring delight and elegance to tabletops around the world.

Why you should listen to her:

Young Eva Zeisel was driven by two desires: to make beautiful things, and to see the world. Her long and legendary career in ceramics has helped her do both. Born in Budapest in 1906, she apprenticed to a guild of potters as a teenager, then worked in Germany and later Russia (where she was imprisoned by Stalin for 16 months) and Vienna. Landing in New York in 1938 with her husband Hans, Zeisel began her second design career.

In the American postwar period, Zeisel's work simply defined the era. Organic shapes, toned colors, a sense of fun and play -- her Town and Country line for Red Wing in particular evokes an urbane early-1950s kitchen where you'd be likely to get an excellent cup of coffee and some good conversation.

Zeisel took a break from design in the 1960s and 1970s, returning to the scene in the 1980s as interest in her older work revived. But as she collects lifetime achievement awards and sees centenary exhibitions open and close, she's not simply rehashing her older work for the repro crowd -- she's has been branching out into glassware and furniture.



Michael Merzenich on re-wiring the brain | Video on TED.com




Michael Merzenich studies neuroplasticity -- the brain's powerful ability to change itself and adapt -- and ways we might make use of that plasticity to heal injured brains and enhance the skills in healthy ones.

Why you should listen to him:

One of the foremost researchers of neuroplasticity, Michael Merzenich's work has shown that the brain retains its ability to alter itself well into adulthood -- suggesting that brains with injuries or disease might be able to recover function, even later in life. He has also explored the way the senses are mapped in regions of the brain and the way sensations teach the brain to recognize new patterns.

Merzenich wants to bring the powerful plasticity of the brain into practical use through technologies and methods that harness it to improve learning. He founded Scientific Learning Corporation, which markets and distributes educational software for children based on models of brain plasticity. He is co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Posit Science, which creates "brain training" software also based on his research.

Merzenich is professor emeritus of neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco.
"Merzenich is perhaps the most recognizable figure in brain plasticity and how one develops competence through experience and learning."Dominique M. Durand






Michael Merzenich on re-wiring the brain | Video on TED.com



Karen Armstrong: Let's revive the Golden Rule | Video on TED.com

Dean Ornish


Dean Ornish: Physician, author


Dean Ornish is a clinical professor at UCSF and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. He's a leading expert on fighting illness -- particularly heart disease with dietary and lifestyle changes.

Why you should listen to him:

Dr. Dean Ornish wants you to live longer, and have more fun while you're at it. He's one of the leading voices in the medical community promoting a balanced, holistic approach to health, and proving that it works. The author of Eat More, Weigh Less and several other best-selling books, Ornish is best known for his lifestyle-based approach to fighting heart disease.

His research at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute (the nonprofit he founded) clinically demonstrated that cardiovascular illnesses -- and, most recently prostate cancer -- can be treated and even reversed through diet and exercise. These findings (once thought to be physiologically implausible) have been widely chronicled in the US media, includingNewsweek, for which Ornish writes a column. The fifty-something physician, who's received many honors and awards, was chosen by LIFE Magazine as one of the most influential members of his generation. Among his many pursuits, Ornish is now working with food corporations to help stop America's obesity pandemic from spreading around the globe.



"Instead of trying to motivate [patients] with the 'fear of dying,' Ornish reframes the issue. He inspires a new vision of the 'joy of living' -- convincing them they can feel better, not just live longer."   ~ Fast Company



Dean Ornish on healing | Video on TED.com

Dean Ornish on healing | Video on TED.com