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Brainwave: it could change your mind

Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound


About Brainwave 

Brainwave brings people from diverse walks of life together to engage with neuroscientists in one-on-one conversations in order to better understand the workings of our minds. Starting February 2013 we will start with the (Buddhist) premise that everything is an illusion, and that the processes of the brain make that perception necessary.

Presenting Sponsor of Brainwave 2011 and 2012 was


Brainwave 2012 was made possible, in part, by support from the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism. Here is an overview, with links, to last year's program whose main topic was  memory.  "Central Asia is home to some of world culture’s greatest feats of memory. The 12th century epic poem of King Gesar, the early mythic king of early Tibet, is assessed at a million verses long, for example. Tibetan Buddhist culture in particular makes use of ‘artificial memory’ in retaining sacred teachings through the form of elaborate iconography in painted and sculptural form. In this year’s series we will look at the role of memory has played in the past, and the debatable role it plays in our contemporary cut-and-paste culture." – Tim McHenry, Director, Public Programs & Performance



Sat, Feb 4
3:00 p.m.


Sean Scully + Anjan Chatterjee

Abstract Cognition

Painter Sean Scully engages with neurologist Anjan Chatterjee on the role art plays in cognitive enhancement and how it relates to identity and memory.

Sat, Feb 4
6:00 p.m.


Laurie Anderson + Dean Buonomano

Brain Bugs

Performance artist Laurie Anderson explores the fallibility of our brains—everything from why we forget our shopping lists to the cause of the 2008 market crash—with neuroscientist Dean Buonomano, author of Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives.

Wed, Feb 8
7:00 p.m.

Jane Pauley + Sebastian Seung

Welcome to Connectome

Sebastian Seung is on a quest to discover the biological basis of identity. Seung explains to broadcaster Jane Pauley his belief that our identity lies in the pattern of connections between the brain’s neurons: the connectome.

Sat, Feb 11
3:00 p.m.

Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche + Marsha Lucas

Mindfulness, Meditation and Memory

How can we master our minds in order live more fully? Shyalpa Rinpoche draws upon the prescriptions in his new book Living Fully: Finding Joy in Every Breath to equip us with the tools we need to experience genuine inner freedom, uncorrupted by endless craving for something better.

Wed, Feb 15
7:00 p.m.

Just Trial and Error:
Conversations on Consciousness

Film + Talk: Christine Sun Kim, Jesse Prinz and filmmaker Alex Gabbay

Performance artist Christine Sun Kim engages with Jesse Prinz, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York, Graduate Center, after a screening of the new film Just Trial and Error.

Sat, Feb 18
2:00 p.m.

Just Trial and Error:
Conversations on Consciousness

Film + Talk: Steven Siegel, Taylor Carman and filmmaker Alex Gabbay

Sculptor Steven Siegel, who uses trash and found objects to explore such issues as the passage of time and the environmental impact of mass consumption, engages with Taylor Carman, a professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, after a screening of the new film Just Trial and Error.

Sat, Feb 18
4:00 p.m.

Just Trial and Error:
Conversations on Consciousness

Film + Talk: Heather Knight, Dave Carmel, and filmmaker Alex Gabbay.

Heather Knight, the creator of socially intelligent robot performances and sensor-based electronic art, engages with Dave Carmel from NYU's Center for Neural Science after a screening of the new film

Wed, Feb 22
7:00 p.m.

Just Trial and Error:
Conversations on Consciousness

Film + Talk: Douglas Irving Repetto, Scott Barry Kaufman, and filmmaker Alex Gabbay

Douglas Irving Repetto, whose works include sculpture, installation, performance, recordings, and software, engages with NYU Professor of Psychology Scott Barry Kaufman after a screening of the new film Just Trial and Error.

Wed, Feb 29
7:00 p.m.

Kurt Diemberger + Philip Lieberman

Mind the Altitude

Alpinist Kurt Diemberger sits down with Philip Lieberman to explore how memories are shaped by extreme environments and how the brain copes with the effects of altitude.

Sat, Mar 3
3:00 p.m.

Randall Wolf + Miguel Nicolelis

The Robotic Mind

Are brains and machines about to be merged? Imagine living in a world where people use their computers, drive their cars, and communicate with one another simply by thinking. Duke University neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis shares his revolutionary findings with a surgeon who has pioneered robotic surgery.

Sat, Mar 3
6:00 p.m.

Rivka Galchen + David Linden

Memory and Identity

Novelist Rivka Galchen sought to enter the mind of a psychiatrist in her first prize-winning novel (Atmospheric Disturbances) that addressed memory and identity. Here with Johns Hopkins neuroscientist David Linden, she ventures into her own mind, in particular her memory in search of her literary influences.

Sun, Mar 4
6:00 p.m.

Scott Shepherd + John Kubie

Memorizing the Great American Novel

Actor Scott Shepherd knows all 47,094 words in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby off by heart. And in the right order. He has 'read' the work countless times as part of Elevator Repair Service's highly acclaimed dramatic presentation of Gatz, shortly to be revived at the Public Theater. The neuroscientist John Kubie explores the process of memorization and how it affects interpretation and his ability to recall his shopping list.

Wed, Mar 7
7:00 p.m.

Caris' Peace

Film + Talk: Lewis Black and Barry Gordon, MD, PhD
What's My Line?

Comedian Lewis Black and Johns Hopkins neurologist Barry Gordon, MD, PhD discuss the implications of short-term memory loss for an actor after the New York City premiere screening of Gaylen Ross's film Caris' Peace.

Sat, Mar 10
6:00 p.m.

Caris' Peace

Film + Talk: Mark Linn-Baker + Robert Landy
Short-term Memory Loss 

Actor Mark Linn-Baker and drama therapist Robert Landy discuss the implications of short-term memory loss for an actor after the screening of Gaylen Ross's film Caris' Peace.

Fri, Mar 16
7:00 p.m.

Jonatha Brooke + Gayatri Devi

Dealing with Dementia

The singer/songwriter Jonatha Brooke recently lost her mother to dementia after caring for her in her own home for over a year. She discusses the role of music and caregiving with Director of the New York Memory and Healthy Aging Services, Dr. Gayatri Devi.

Sun, Mar 25
4:30 p.m.

Caris' Peace

Film + Talk: David Carr and Andre Fenton
Short-term Memory Loss 

New York Times media columnist and author of "Night of the Gun" David Carr and NYU neuroscientist Andre Fenton discuss the implications of short-term memory loss for an actor after the screening of Gaylen Ross's film Caris' Peace.

Wed, Mar 28
7:00 p.m.

Caris' Peace

Film + Talk: Allan Lokos and John Deluca
A Memory of Living in the Moment 

Meditation teacher Allan Lokos and neuropsychologist John DeLuca compare the Buddhist notion of 'living in the moment' with the moment-to-moment existence of someone suffering from short-term memory loss following the final screening of Gaylen Ross's film Caris' Peace.

Wed, Apr 11
7:00 p.m.

Joshua Foer + Daniel Kahneman

As Time Goes By

US Memory Champion Joshua Foer and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman debate how memory works as a function of time.

Sat, Apr 14
3:00 p.m.

Diane Ackerman + Todd Sacktor

Using and Losing Language

Writer Diane Ackerman's literary husband Paul West "had a draper's touch for the unfolding fabric of a sentence, and he collected words like rare buttons." In 2003, West suffered a stroke that left him with global aphasia: an inability to produce words or to understand words spoken to him. Her book One Hundred Names for Love documents her remarkable process in helping him repair his brain. Poet, essayist, and naturalist, Diane Ackerman is the author of two dozen highly acclaimed works of nonfiction and poetry, including the best-selling A Natural History of the Senses.

Mon, Apr 16
7:00 p.m.

Eric Kandel + George Prochnik

The Age of Insight

Nobel Prize-winner Eric Kandel exquisitely bridges science, medicine, and art to show how the unconscious was exposed during Vienna 1900. At a time when Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, and Alois Riegl, among others, were all living in the same city, they were all also simultaneously exploring the unconscious mind.

Mon, Apr 23
7:00 p.m.

Ruth Reichl + Paul Rozin

The Madeleine Syndrome

Proust's evocation of childhood conjured by the tasting of the scalloped madeleine has become the template for remembrance of things past. But why does taste bring forth memories of such emotional power? Gourmand Ruth Reichl seeks to analyze our taste buds with psychologist Paul Rozin, who returns to Brainwave after his conversation with chef Mario Batali in Brainwave 2009.

Fri, Apr 27
7:00 p.m.

Nick Flynn + William Hirst

Based on a True Story

Nick Flynn's memoir about his encounter with his absentee father in a Boston homeless shelter, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir in 2006. With psychologist William Hirst, an expert in trauma and collective and autobiographical memory, Flynn explores the degrees of truth in a memoir remembered.

Presented in association with Urban Zen

Sat, Apr 28
2:00 p.m.

Marilu Henner + Suparna Rajaram

Total Recall

Marilu Henner has Superior Autobiographical Memory-an uncanny ability to recall details of every day of her life-a talent known to be shared by only six other people in the world. Her latest book Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future which describes how an enhanced memory can help improve the quality of life, will be the subject of her discussion with cognitive psychologist Suparna Rajaram.

Presented in association with Urban Zen

Sat, Apr 28
4:30 p.m.

Vernon Reid + Gary Marcus

The Science of Learning (to Play the Guitar)

One of our most eminent neuroscientists spent a year teaching himself to play the guitar. Why? Scientist Gary Marcus was keenly interested in how the brain can essentially rewire itself to make up for deficits caused by trauma. In the presence of Vernon Reid, #66 on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, he is put to the test.

Presented in association with Urban Zen

Wed, May 2
6:30 p.m.

Memory Palace

Do you want to be able to remember names at parties? Or where you last left your car keys? Or memorize The Wasteland? Attend this training by Mr. Memory himself: Ed Cooke, columnist of the London Times, author of Remember, Remember.

Presented in association with Urban Zen



Just Trial and Error: Conversations on Consciousness
(US Premiere)

2010, UK, Alex Gabbay, 62 min.

February 1522,  2012

What do art and science have to say about consciousness? Perhaps no aspect of the mind is more familiar or more puzzling than consciousness – it is something that has defied definition. Yet our conscious experience of self and the world is what shapes us and our history.

In an attempt to understand consciousness, filmmaker Alex Gabbay invites sculptor Antony Gormley, eminent neuroscientists Prof. Brian Butterworth and Dr. Beau Lotto and internet entrepreneur Twain Luu—whose study of the 'global brain' makes fascinating reading—to explore its meaning and how it affects their area of work.

View Just Trial and Error Trailer >>

Thank you to all of our distinguished guests who joined us for post-screening discussions.


Caris' Peace (New York City Premiere)

Caris Peace

2011, USA, Gaylen Ross and Rebecca Nelson, 76 min.
With Lewis Black, Kate Burton, Caris Corfman, Nancy Giles, Tony Shalhoub

March 7 - 28, 2012

She was an exceptional graduate of the Yale School of Drama. She was a rising star among such luminaries as Lewis Black, Kate Burton, and Mark Linn-Baker. She played opposite Tim Curry and Ian McKellen in the Broadway hit play Amadeus. And then she had a brain tumor. And then she lost her short-term memory. Gaylen Ross with collaborator Rebecca Nelson create a wrenching documentary which tells the story of Caris Corfman, a brilliant actress who was robbed of her ability to learn, recall, and recite lines. Unlike dementia sufferers who gradually lose awareness of their deteriorating condition, Corfman was swiftly forced to recognize that her career was over. This film captures what it is like to live trapped in the past, with only the thinnest slivers of the present.

View Caris' Peace Trailer >>

Post-screening discussions featured: Lewis Black + Dr. Barry Gordon, Mark Linn-Baker + Robert Landy, David Carr + Andre Fenton, and Allan Lokos + John Deluca.


Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory (Rough Cut)

Wednesday, April 18 - Saturday, April 21

Presented in association with the Alzheimer’s Association, New York City Chapter

Conversations with Dan Cohen, Dr. Scott Small, Music Therapist Alejandro Berti, Dr. Ottavio Arancio, Dementia Care Trainer Nancy Hendley, Dr. Concetta Tomaino, Dementia Care Trainer Lauren Volkmer, Rachael Bachleda, Dr. Peter Davies, and filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett.

Alzheimer’s disease is terrifying because one loses one’s memory. 5.6 million people in the U.S. are struggling with dementia and memory loss and 10 million more people are connected to them. There is no known cure and the numbers of sufferers is on the rise. The new documentary - currently a work in progress - Alive Inside follows Dan Cohen, a social worker who decides on a whim to bring iPods to a nursing home. What Dan Cohen discovers by accident, and scientists have been studying for years, is that a person suffering from memory loss can seem to "awaken" when given music they have an emotional attachment to. As Oliver Sacks explains, "Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience. Music evokes emotion and emotion can bring with it memory."

The film is witness to this reawakening of 'lost' patients. The effect on the patient, the family, the caregiver is both touching and inspiring. The introduction of personalized music into patient’s lives seems to be able to open new vistas of experience, especially those with the least ability to interact. The aim of this film is to encourage widespread adoption of personalized music programs in nursing homes. The reward is enormous and the cost low.

View Alive Inside Trailer >>

Ancilliary programs include:

Lunch Matters: the regular Wednesday lunchtime series of short mind science documentary screenings is followed by moderated discussion sessions.

Cabaret Cinemathe regular Friday late night screenings will present feature films that use memory in a significant way. An Affair to Remember, Casablanca, Kaurismaki's The Man Without a Past, Wenders' Paris, Texas, Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps.

For videos and information about past Brainwaves please visit Brainwave 2011 or Brainwave 2010