DATE: Thursday, May 29, 2008
TIME: 8:00 PM-9:30 PM
VENUE: NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
MODERATOR: John Hockenberry
PARTICIPANTS: Vilayanur Ramachandran, Michael York, Matthew Ritchie, Saul Griffith, Nancy C. Andreasen, David Eagleman, Bill T. Jones

Blending live performances, personal accounts of the creative process, and state-of-the-art brain imaging, this program illuminated questions about whether creativity is innate or learned, whether the innovative brain has distinct structural or chemical features, and whether we can enhance our ability — and that of our children — to be creative.

Choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones, actor Michael York, painter, sculptor and digital artist Matthew Ritchie, and 2007 MacArthur Fellow and “prodigy of invention” Saul Griffith joined neuroscientists V.S. Ramachandran, Nancy C. Andreasen, and David Eagleman to explore cutting edge research into the brain’s creative impulses. The event was moderated by John Hockenberry.

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John Hockenberry

Three-time Peabody Award winner, four-time Emmy Award winner, and Dateline NBC correspondent John Hockenberry has broad experience as a journalist and commentator for more than two decades. Hockenberry is the anchor of the public radio show The Takeaway on WNYC and PRI. He has reported from all over the world, in virtually every medium, having anchored programs for network, cable, and radio. Hockenberry is a noted presenter and moderator at conferences such as TED, Aspen Ideas, and the World Science Festival.



V.S. Ramachandran investigates the nature of self and human consciousness. His work spans the causes and effects of synesthesia and phantom limb pain to questions about visual perception and the brain. He is Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego.

Michael York at arrivals for The 4th Annual BAFTA/LA and ATAS Tea Party honoring Emmy nominees from the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Park Hyatt Hotel, Los Angeles, CA, August 26, 2006. Photo by: Michael Germana/Everett Collection
Actor, Author

After graduation from Oxford in 1964, Michael York joined the National Theatre company, making his film debut in The Taming of the Shrew. His more than 60 other screen credits include Romeo and Juliet, Cabaret, Jesus of Nazareth, The Three Musketeers, Logan’s Run, Murder on the Orient Express, Conduct Unbecoming, The Omega Code and all three Austin Powers movies.

York’s television work includes The Forsyte Saga, Great Expectations, Space, The Far Country, The Heat of the Day, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Simpsons, as well as The Lot, for which he received an Emmy nomination. Among his Broadway credits are Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, Bent, The Crucible, and Camelot. He has narrated concert versions of Henry V, Peer Gynt, Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, and Amadeus, and he has recorded over 70 audio books, including Treasure Island, for which he was nominated for a Grammy, and Stephen Hawking’s The Theory of Everything. He is currently recording the entire Bible.

His autobiography, Accidentally on Purpose, was followed by A Shakespearean Actor Prepares, Dispatches from Armageddon and, most recently, Are My Blinkers Showing? York has lectured internationally, and has been awarded Britain’s OBE, France’s Arts et Lettres, and a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Painter, Sculptor, Digital Artist

Matthew Ritchie is a painter, sculptor, and digital artist. His work combines science, architecture, history, and the dynamics of culture to explore the idea of information, and is featured in the collections of numerous institutions, including MoMA and the Guggenheim Museum. In 2001, TIME magazine listed him as one of its 100 innovators for the new millennium.

Saul Griffith poses in Alameda, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007. (Photo by Noah Berger)
Entrepreneur, Inventor, Writer

Saul Griffith is the President and Chief Scientist at Makani Power, a company that is seeking to harness clean energy from high-altitude wind. He is a 2007 MacArthur Award-winning inventor, entrepreneur and writer.


Neuroscientist Nancy C. Andreasen is well known for her pioneering work using MRI imaging to explore mental illness and the neural bases for artistic creativity and innovation. She is the author of several books including The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius and is both the Andrew H. Woods Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa and Director of the Iowa Mental Health Clinical Research Center.

Neuroscientist, Author

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist, best-selling author, and Guggenheim Fellow who holds joint appointments in the Departments of Neuroscience and Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. His areas of research include time perception, vision, and synesthesia—a condition where stimulation of one sense triggers responses in others. He directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action, and is the founder and director of Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He has written several neuroscience books, including his latest, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. His work has also appeared in Discover Magazine, Slate, Wired, and New Scientist.

Dancer, Choreographer

Bill T. Jones, a Tony Award-winning choreographer and dancer, has changed the face of American dance. He has infused issues of identity, form and social commentary into hundreds of award winning shows worldwide. Jones is the artistic director and co-founder of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in New York City.