The Dialogues between Neuroscience and Society lecture series has become a popular feature at the society's annual meeting that brings neuroscientists together with leaders in other fields to look for common ground. This year's lecture, for example, featured dance choreographer Mark Morris. Yesterday I asked incoming society president Thomas Carew what's on tap for the 2009 meeting in Chicago. A bit of magic is what.
Next year's attendees will hear from James Randi (aka The Amazing Randi) and Apollo Robbins. "For centuries magicians have been practicing their craft based on the way we perceive and encode information about the world," said Carew. Their tricks have a lot to teach neuroscientists about perception, awareness and attention, he said. At the same time, neuroscientists may be able to help magicians understand why the tricks they've discovered and perfected by trial and error fool the brain so effectively.
It sounds like an interesting dialogue, and it's one that has already started. Randi and Robbins are co-authors on a paper in this month's Nature Reviews Neuroscience urging neuroscientists to adopt "magical methods"--such as what happens in the brain when perceptions don't match reality.