Friday 23 March 2012

Brain Wars at the Wellcome Institute

In advance of their forthcoming exhibition on the human brain, the Wellcome Collection has invited me to be a guest at their Sunday-afternoon forum, The Thing Is... this weekend. In the company of Quentin Cooper I will be discussing a mystery object – I have been asked not to reveal what the mystery object is in advance of the event, but I can tell you it will be worth the suspense of waiting to find out.This free event was booked-out the moment it was announced back in January, but some extra tickets seem to have become available – and there should still be some returns available 90 minutes before the event itself, so I hope you can make it. Here is the copy I supplied for the Wellcome site to give you some idea of what to expect:
From neurosurgery to neuro-terrorism, over the past century the human brain has been a battlefield over which rival theories, treatments and beliefs have fought relentless campaigns for supremacy. Is the brain an organ of cognition which can be treated as any other part of the human anatomy, or something that can only be accessed as a set of precepts and behaviour patterns? Is psychotherapy a form of ideological programming? Is surgical intervention little more than clinically sanctioned violence? Fierce arguments have raged over a possible answer to these questions - and that is before the military and the intelligence agencies grew interested in the brain's workings during the height of the Cold War, resulting in psychiatric wards and medical research programmes being turned into training grounds for new forms of cognitive warfare. Meanwhile in the 21st century there are increasingly dark ruminations over how mood stabilizers, sedatives and hypnotics might be used to attack and disrupt civilian populations, thereby transforming the brain into a form of biochemical weapon. One thing remains certain, however: from Freud's early studies in hysteria through William Sargant's controversial writings on influence and belief to Tim Leary's utopian 'Politics of Ecstasy', the brain has remained a concealed chamber in which angels and demons continue to slumber.
Ken Hollings and Quentin Cooper explore these issues, with the aid of a mystery object.

The Thing Is...Brain wars
25 March 2012, 15.00 - 16.00
Free admission by ticket only - book now

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