The idea of the brain

External Event - 12th Mar 2020

7.00pm to 8.30pm

The doors will open at approximately 6.30pm, with a prompt start at 7.00pm. There will be time for questions after the talk.

Standard £16

Concession £10

Royal Institution Members and Ri Patrons £7

Location: The Theatre, 21 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4BS

About the event

Please note that this event was previously advertised as 'Thinking Matter: Our Quest to Understand the Brain'

Today we tend to picture the brain as a computer. Earlier scientists thought about it in their own technological terms: as a telephone switchboard, or a clock, or all manner of fantastic mechanical or hydraulic devices. Could the right metaphor unlock the brain's deepest secrets once and for all?

Galloping through centuries of wild speculation and ingenious, sometimes macabre anatomical investigations, scientist and historian Matthew Cobb reveals how we came to our present state of knowledge. Our latest theories allow us to create artificial memories in the brain of a mouse, and to build AI programmes capable of extraordinary cognitive feats. A complete understanding seems within our grasp.

But to make that final breakthrough, we may need a radical new approach. At every step of our quest, Cobb shows that it was new ideas that brought illumination. Where, he asks, might the next one come from? What will it be?

About the speaker

Matthew Cobb is professor of zoology at the University of Manchester, where his research focuses on the sense of smell, insect behaviour and the history of science. 

He did a BA in Psychology at the University of Sheffield, and went on to do his PhD there, in Psychology and Genetics, looking at the mating behaviour of seven species of fruitfly. He was lucky enough to be in one of the few places in the UK that studied Drosophila behaviour genetics. 

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