Conversation with Professor Michael Gazzaniga on “The Social Brain”

Professor Michael Gazzaniga joined Literature and the Mind on November 16th for a conversation about The Social Brain: Discovering the Networks of the Mind. Professor Gazzaniga, along with Roger Sperry, pioneered the study of the split brain. Our discussion focused on the human brain processes that generate belief systems. Professor Gazzaniga’s research showed that the mind has a modular organization, and each module or unit is capable of producing independent behaviors. After the emission of behaviors, the left-hemisphere language-based system interprets the behaviors and constructs a narrative to explain their meaning. Thus, human beliefs are generated as a result of the dynamics between our mind modules and our left-brain interpreter module.gazzaniga talk

Events on Campus: Notes from Opening Reception

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On October 12, Literature and the Mind gathered with affiliated programs on campus for an introduction to the new year and to share information about our mind-related projects.  We had a fantastic turnout, with undergraduates, grad students, faculty, and post-doctoral researchers from a variety of departments and initiatives (including English, Comparative Literature, and Psychology).  Below, you’ll find pictures of our attendees, as well as more information about the programs that we heard about across campus.

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Julie (pictured above left) led us through the L&M Initiative’s plans for the upcoming year, as we undertake two endeavors: continuing to study our biennial theme of “Improvisation,” searching for a new English Department faculty member who specializes in cognitive science, and engaging with the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center’s study of “The Humanities and the Brain.”  We will have more word on both of these events throughout the year, so stay tuned!

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We heard from Dr. Bridget Queenan, Associate Director of the Brain Initiative at UCSB (pictured above right).  This initiative, under the direction of Dr. Ken Kosick, will “assemble & support research teams to attack the most fundamental problems in neuroscience. Providing intellectual, technical, and financial resources, [they] are changing how academic research is done.”  Dr. Queenan was especially excited to discuss this project and the brain with scholars in literature and the humanities at large, and to bring these disciplines that have studied the mind and brain into deeper conversation.  Learn more about the work and scholars behind this project here.

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Claire Zedelius (pictured above left) spoke with us about the UCSB Daydream Project, an initiative housed in Dr. Jonathan Schooler’s Memory Emotion Thought Awareness, or META, Lab (website here).  The project’s description notes, “We spend about half our waking lives daydreaming. This research project is investigating how different styles of daydreaming influence creativity.”  Learn more about the Daydreaming project, and how you can participate in the data-gathering stage of their project, on the group’s Facebook page here.

Thanks to all of our attendees for helping us to kick off a dynamic year!