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November 12, 2007, 7:30 PM

The Biology of Freedom

Participants: Cristina Alberini, Francois Ansermet, Pierre Magistretti, Edward Nersessian (moderator), Donald Pfaff, Daniel Schechter

The discovery of plasticity in neural networks and the neurophysiological mechanisms responsible for the alteration of brain structure provide the scientific evidence for what is, in some ways, already obvious—namely the effect of the environment on brain activity and micro-anatomy. Without such alterations and modifications, learning and memory—that is to say the impact of lived experience—would not be possible. A consequence of this discovery has been to open the door to a dialogue between mind-science and brain-science. While the languages of the two disciplines (psychology and neurology, in broad terms) are still very different, the hope is that dialogue will lead to the discovery of areas where the building of preliminary bridges can be contemplated. The roundtable will address this subject, with representatives of the brain (neuroscientists) engaging in a conversation with representatives of the mind (psychoanalysts).

Cristina Alberini is Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Psychiatry, and Structural and Chemical Biology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Her current research interest is in learning and memory.

Francois Ansermet is a psychoanalyst and Professor and Head of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the School of Medicine at the University of Geneva. He is member of the World Association of Psychoanalysis (AMP).

Pierre Magistretti is a Professor of Neuroscience and Co-Director of the Brain Mind Institute of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne. He also serves as Director of the Center for Psychiatric Neurosciences at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and University of Lausanne. He holds the International Chair 2007-2008 at the Collège de France, Paris, and has served as the president of the European Federation of Neuroscience Societies (FENS).

Edward Nersessian (moderator) is Co-Director of the Philoctetes Center. He is a psychoanalyst and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Weill-Cornell Medical College.

Donald Pfaff is Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Neurobiology and Behavior at The Rockefeller University. He is a brain scientist who uses neuroanatomical, neurochemical and neurophysiological methods to study the cellular mechanisms by which the brain controls behavior. Dr. Pfaff is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, a member of the Advisory Board of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves on the editorial boards of numerous scholarly journals.

Daniel Schechter is Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry in Pediatrics at the Columbia University Medical Center. A child psychiatrist specializing in early childhood and parenting issues, he serves on the faculty of the Parent-Infant Program of the Columbia Psychoanalytic Center. He is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including an American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Pilot Research Award, a Significant Contribution to Research Award from the International Psychoanalytical Association, and an NIMH Research Career Award, the focus of which is maternal post-traumatic stress disorder and its potential impact on caring for very young children.


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