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Spark of Genius? Awakening a Better Brain

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

How far would you go to improve your focus, memory, or even learning ability? Would you be willing to strap on headgear that delivers electrical shocks to targeted areas of your brain? You may soon have that option. It’s called transcranial direct current stimulation, and it’s currently being tested on soldiers and used by gamers, students, and others looking for a cognitive edge. But questions linger: does it work? What are potential long-term effects? And how should it be regulated?

This program opens with an excerpt from the hit show “Robot,” from choreographer/filmmaker Blanca Li.

This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.


Photograph: Jon Smith

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Our media partner for this program is The Week.


Richard BesserPhysician, Journalist

Richard Besser is ABC News’ chief health and medical editor. In this role, he provides medical analysis and commentary for all ABC News broadcasts and platforms, including World News with David Muir, Good Morning America, and Nightline.

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Nita A. FarahanyBioethicist, Law Professor

Nita A. Farahany is a Professor of Law & Philosophy at Duke University and the director of Duke Science & Society. In 2010, she was appointed by President Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, and continues to serve as a member.

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Richard HaierNeuroscientist

Richard J. Haier is professor emeritus at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. Haier is also the associate editor of the Intelligence journal and the president-elect of the International Society for Intelligence Research.

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Blanca LiChoreographer, Filmmaker

Blanca Li, whose ROBOT received its American premiere at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House, has created music videos for Daft Punk, fashion videos for Beyonce, dances for films by Pedro Amodovar, runway shows for Jean Paul Gaultier, and commissions from the Paris Opera Ballet and Metropolitan Opera.

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Michael WeisendNeuroscientist

Michael Weisend is a neuroscientist whose research uses structural and functional neuroimaging to investigate normal memory, epilepsy, mental illness, and cognitive dysfunction.

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