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TED Theme: How the Mind Works

At a conference about ideas, it’s important to step back and consider the engine that creates them: the human mind. How exactly does the brain -- a three-pound snarl of electrochemically frantic nervous tissue -- create inspired inventions, the feeling of hunger, the experience of ...

At a conference about ideas, it’s important to step back and consider the engine that creates them: the human mind. How exactly does the brain -- a three-pound snarl of electrochemically frantic nervous tissue -- create inspired inventions, the feeling of hunger, the experience of beauty, or the sense of self -- and how reliable is it? Dan Dennett contemplates the mind as an ecosystem in which a new class of entities -- memes -- can compete, coexist, reproduce and flourish, and asks what sorts of nefarious things these entities might be up to. An enthusiastic Dan Gilbert presents his new research on the peculiar, counterintuitive -- and perhaps a smidge deflating -- secret to happiness. And Jeff Hawkins explains why a napkin-sized sheaf of cellular matter, wrinkled into a ball, will fundamentally change the direction of the computer industry.

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    Miguel Nicolelis: A monkey that controls a robot with its thoughts. No, really.

    Can we use our brains to directly control machines? Miguel ...

    Can we use our brains to directly control machines? Miguel Nicolelis suggests yes, showing how a clever monkey in the US learned to control a robot arm in Japan purely with its thoughts. The research has big implications for quadraplegic people -- and in fact, it powered the exoskeleton that kicked off the 2014 World Cup.

    Feb 18, 2013 Read more
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    Molly Crockett: Beware neuro-bunk

    Brains are ubiquitous in modern marketing: Headlines proclaim cheese sandwiches ...

    Brains are ubiquitous in modern marketing: Headlines proclaim cheese sandwiches help with decision-making, while a “neuro” drink claims to reduce stress. There’s just one problem, says neuroscientist Molly Crockett: The benefits of these "neuro-enhancements" are not proven scientifically. In this to-the-point talk, Crockett explains the limits of interpreting neuroscientific data, and why we should all be aware of them.

    Dec 18, 2012 Read more
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    David Pizarro: The strange politics of disgust

    What does a disgusting image have to do with how ...

    What does a disgusting image have to do with how you vote? Equipped with surveys and experiments, psychologist David Pizarro demonstrates a correlation between sensitivity to disgusting cues -- a photo of feces, an unpleasant odor -- and moral and political conservatism. (Filmed at TEDxEast.)

    Oct 23, 2012 Read more
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    Read Montague: What we're learning from 5,000 brains

    Mice, bugs and hamsters are no longer the only way ...

    Mice, bugs and hamsters are no longer the only way to study the brain. Functional MRI (fMRI) allows scientists to map brain activity in living, breathing, decision-making human beings. Read Montague gives an overview of how this technology is helping us understand the complicated ways in which we interact with each other.

    Sep 24, 2012 Read more
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    Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain

    Why do teenagers seem so much more impulsive, so much ...

    Why do teenagers seem so much more impulsive, so much less self-aware than grown-ups? Cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore compares the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to that of adults, to show us how typically “teenage” behavior is caused by the growing and developing brain.

    Sep 17, 2012 Read more
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    Vikram Patel: Mental health for all by involving all

    Nearly 450 million people are affected by mental illness worldwide. ...

    Nearly 450 million people are affected by mental illness worldwide. In wealthy nations, just half receive appropriate care, but in developing countries, close to 90 percent go untreated because psychiatrists are in such short supply. Vikram Patel outlines a highly promising approach -- training members of communities to give mental health interventions, empowering ordinary people to care for others.

    Sep 11, 2012 Read more
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    Scott Fraser: Why eyewitnesses get it wrong

    Scott Fraser studies how humans remember crimes -- and bear ...

    Scott Fraser studies how humans remember crimes -- and bear witness to them. In this powerful talk, which focuses on a deadly shooting at sunset, he suggests that even close-up eyewitnesses to a crime can create "memories" they could not have seen. Why? Because the brain abhors a vacuum. Editor's note: In the original version of this talk, Scott Fraser misspoke about available footage of Two World Trade Center (Tower 2). The misstatement has been edited out for clarity.

    Sep 10, 2012 Read more
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    Baba Shiv: Sometimes it's good to give up the driver's seat

    Over the years, research has shown a counterintuitive fact about ...

    Over the years, research has shown a counterintuitive fact about human nature: That sometimes, having too much choice makes us less happy. This may even be true when it comes to medical treatment. Baba Shiv shares a fascinating study that measures why choice opens the door to doubt, and suggests that ceding control -- especially on life-or-death decisions -- may be the best thing for us. (Filmed at TEDxStanford.)

    Jul 18, 2012 Read more
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    Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness -- from the inside

    "Is it okay if I totally trash your office?" It's ...

    "Is it okay if I totally trash your office?" It's a question Elyn Saks once asked her doctor, and it wasn't a joke. A legal scholar, in 2007 Saks came forward with her own story of schizophrenia, controlled by drugs and therapy but ever-present. In this powerful talk, she asks us to see people with mental illness clearly, honestly and compassionately.

    Jun 29, 2012 Read more
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    Ami Klin: A new way to diagnose autism

    Early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder can improve the lives ...

    Early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder can improve the lives of everyone affected, but the complex network of causes make it incredibly difficult to predict. At TEDxPeachtree, Ami Klin describes a new early detection method that uses eye-tracking technologies to gauge babies' social engagement skills and reliably measure their risk of developing autism. (Filmed at TEDxPeachTree.)

    Jun 9, 2012 Read more
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