New technologies are enabling neuroscientists to record activity in ever larger fractions of the brain, thus opening the prospect in the next generation of finally understanding the material basis of behavior and subjective experience. As these results are reported in the news and seep into the curriculum, conversations about human minds and ‘souls’ will change dramatically. Even religious experiences will be measurable as brain processes. How might humanists prepare for the next thirty years? This talk will summarize briefly the astounding results of the past five years in neuroscience, sketch prospects for the near future, and consider in depth how our conversations about our fundamental human fears, hopes and thoughts will change.
Dr. Mark Reimers investigates brain function by integrating statistics, computer models, and neurobiology. He obtained his PhD in mathematics from the University of British Columbia in Canada, and has worked at the National Institutes of Health, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, and now at Michigan State University. He teaches courses in neuroscience data analysis internationally, and in brain function modeling and brain genomics at MSU. His research work attempts to model brain function, and analyze and interpret the very large data sets now coming out of neuroscience. He supervised the data analysis for the BrainSpan paper in Nature in 2011, and assisted in data analysis for a paper analyzing mouse global cortical dynamics in Nature Neuroscience in 2013. He is currently working on understanding communication inside the brain and writing an article on the neuroscience of altruism.