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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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    Elliot Krane: The mystery of chronic pain

    We think of pain as a symptom, but there are ...

    We think of pain as a symptom, but there are cases where the nervous system develops feedback loops and pain becomes a terrifying disease in itself. Starting with the story of a girl whose sprained wrist turned into a nightmare, Elliot Krane talks about the complex mystery of chronic pain, and reviews the facts we're just learning about how it works and how to treat it.

    May 18, 2011 Read more
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    Ed Boyden: A light switch for neurons

    Ed Boyden shows how, by inserting genes for light-sensitive proteins ...

    Ed Boyden shows how, by inserting genes for light-sensitive proteins into brain cells, he can selectively activate or de-activate specific neurons with fiber-optic implants. With this unprecedented level of control, he's managed to cure mice of analogs of PTSD and certain forms of blindness. On the horizon: neural prosthetics. Session host Juan Enriquez leads a brief post-talk Q&A;.

    May 15, 2011 Read more
  • HD

    Ron Gutman: The hidden power of smiling

    Ron Gutman reviews a raft of studies about smiling, and ...

    Ron Gutman reviews a raft of studies about smiling, and reveals some surprising results. Did you know your smile can be a predictor of how long you'll live -- and that a simple smile has a measurable effect on your overall well-being? Prepare to flex a few facial muscles as you learn more about this evolutionarily contagious behavior.

    May 11, 2011 Read more
  • HD

    Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong

    Most of us will do anything to avoid being wrong. ...

    Most of us will do anything to avoid being wrong. But what if we're wrong about that? "Wrongologist" Kathryn Schulz makes a compelling case for not just admitting but embracing our fallibility.

    Apr 19, 2011 Read more
  • HD

    Sam Richards: A radical experiment in empathy

    By leading the Americans in his audience step by step ...

    By leading the Americans in his audience step by step through the thought process, sociologist Sam Richards sets an extraordinary challenge: can they understand -- not approve of, but understand -- the motivations of an Iraqi insurgent? And by extension, can anyone truly understand and empathize with another? (Filmed at TEDxPSU.)

    Apr 18, 2011 Read more
  • HD

    David Brooks: The social animal

    Columnist David Brooks unpacks new insights into human nature from ...

    Columnist David Brooks unpacks new insights into human nature from the cognitive sciences -- insights with massive implications for economics and politics as well as our own self-knowledge. In a talk full of humor, he shows how you can't hope to understand humans as separate individuals making choices based on their conscious awareness.

    Mar 14, 2011 Read more
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    Noreena Hertz: How to use experts -- and when not to

    We make important decisions every day -- and we often ...

    We make important decisions every day -- and we often rely on experts to help us decide. But, says economist Noreena Hertz, relying too much on experts can be limiting and even dangerous. She calls for us to start democratizing expertise -- to listen not only to "surgeons and CEOs, but also to shop staff."

    Feb 21, 2011 Read more
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    Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies

    Patricia Kuhl shares astonishing findings about how babies learn one ...

    Patricia Kuhl shares astonishing findings about how babies learn one language over another -- by listening to the humans around them and "taking statistics" on the sounds they need to know. Clever lab experiments (and brain scans) show how 6-month-old babies use sophisticated reasoning to understand their world. (Filmed at TEDxRainier.)

    Feb 15, 2011 Read more
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    Ariel Garten: Know thyself, with a brain scanner

    Imagine playing a video game controlled by your mind. Now ...

    Imagine playing a video game controlled by your mind. Now imagine that game also teaches you about your own patterns of stress, relaxation and focus. Ariel Garten shows how looking at our own brain activity gives new meaning to the ancient dictum "know thyself." (Filmed at TEDxToronto.)

    Jan 26, 2011 Read more
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    Charles Limb: Your brain on improv

    Musician and researcher Charles Limb wondered how the brain works ...

    Musician and researcher Charles Limb wondered how the brain works during musical improvisation -- so he put jazz musicians and rappers in an fMRI to find out. What he and his team found has deep implications for our understanding of creativity of all kinds. (Filmed at TEDxMidAtlantic.)

    Jan 5, 2011 Read more
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