Neuroscientist and Author of Portraits of the Mind
Carl Schoonover is a neuroscientist at Columbia University, where he studies the sense of touch with the goal of elucidating basic principles of neural circuit processing in the mammalian cortex. He is the author of Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century and has written for The New York Times, Le Figaro, and Scientific American. He is the co-founder of NeuWrite, a collaborative working group for scientists, writers, and those in between.
After receiving a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Harvard College, Schoonover completed his PhD at Columbia University, where he remains a postdoctoral fellow. He lives in New York City and hosts a radio show on WKCR, which focuses on opera, classical music, and occasionally their relationship to the brain.
The Brain Revealed
There have been extraordinary advances in understanding the brain, but how do we actually study the neurons inside it? This nervous system presents a fundamental challenge: it remains the most elusive, mysterious, and maddeningly complex object in the universe. Neuroscientist and TED Fellow Carl Schoonover explains the ingenious tools that let us see inside our brains--and shares the gorgeous imagery they reveal. The spectacular data range from medieval sketches and intricate drawings by groundbreaking scientists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Santiago Ramón y Cajal, to the exquisite architectures revealed through the use of cutting edge biotechnology and imaging. These exquisite images, which emerged from microscopes, electrophysiological instruments, and MRI machines, are the fuel of daily neuroscience research yet most have not been seen by people outside of the neuroscience community.
In the era of big data, the brain is the most complex dataset we have to contend with. Just as the design of an algorithm determines the quality of a web search, our understanding of the brain depends on the tools we invent to look at it. These tools have provided us with radically new ways of seeing and interpreting our brains—and by extension ourselves. The future is bright thanks in part to the "Brain Initiative" recently announced by the White House, which will promote the development of novel, disruptive technologies to study the nervous system (Schoonover will touch on this briefly, in this talk).
Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century
Portraits of the Mind follows the fascinating history of our exploration of the brain through images, from medieval sketches and 19th-century drawings by the founder of modern neuroscience to images produced using state-of-the-art techniques, allowing us to see the fantastic networks in the brain as never before. These black-and-white and vibrantly colored images, many resembling abstract art, are employed daily by scientists around the world, but most have never before been seen by the general public. Each chapter addresses a different set of techniques for studying the brain as revealed through the images, and each is introduced by a leading scientist in that field of study. Author Carl Schoonover’s captions provide detailed explanations of each image as well as the major insights gained by scientists over the course of the past 20 years. Accessible to a wide audience, this book reveals the elegant methods applied to study the mind, giving readers a peek at its innermost workings, helping us to understand them, and offering clues about what may lie ahead.
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