Thursday, October 6, 2016

Neuroscientist Tor Wager presented the first lecture of the VASD Program's Senses series and was preceded by a performance by magician Shawn Preston. The ideas presented by our two speakers ignited a fascinating conversation about perception, belief, and both the abilities and limitations of empirical knowledge – providing an important contribution to this complex and rich yearlong reflection on the senses.

About the Lecture
Modern neuroscience suggests that sensory perception, memory, and emotion have one important thing in common: they are “conceptual acts”  creations made from a mix of experiences, thoughts, and beliefs. Even basic sensory experiences are, at their heart, not veridical representations of the external world. Rather, they are mental models of reality that depend on both past experiences and projections into the future. They are constructed in the brain. Neuroscientist Tor Wager presented a picture, grounded in neuroscientific evidence, of how and why this constructive process occurs and how they influence and relate to illusion, creativity, and art.
An audience Q+A session Dr. Wager and magician Shawn Preston followed the lecture.

About the Lecturer
Tor Wager, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the Director of the University’s Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab (CANlab). His research focuses on the brain mechanisms underlying affective experiences—including pain, stress, and emotion. The work of CANlab has been featured on NPR’s Talk of the Nation and Radiolab, PBS, CNN, National Geographic, Wired, The Economist, LA Times, Science News, BBC television and print, and other news services. 

About Shawn Preston
Based in Denver, magician Shawn Preston is a RMCAD alum and has performed his quick wit and exceptional sleight-of-hand for nearly 20 years. His ability to deceive the senses will provide unique insight into our series and Dr. Wager’s lecture.