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Professors lead exploration on 'The Future of Your Brain'

October 07, 2013

The brain makes us human, then determines just which human we will be. But no organ is more complex, and has been less understood throughout history, than the magnificent brain. The questions inspired by the brain are many. How does it work? What makes a brain malfunction, and when it does, how can we fix it? And if we can fix it, should we then try to improve it?

Two ASU professors, neuroscientist Stephen Helms Tillery and bioethicist Jason Scott Robert, will examine these questions and more in an intriguing series, “The Future of Your Brain.” This five-session course is part of the ASU Foundation’s new season of Presidential Engagement Programs. Session one is Thursday, Oct. 17, and the series continues on consecutive Thursdays through Nov. 14.

The course opens with a historical look at what we used to believe about the brain and what we’ve learned, titled “This is Your Brain, Then and Now.” Session two examines the many ways our brains can betray us in “Sick Brains,” while the next week offers potential solutions to those malfunctions in “Fixing Brains.” Fascinating possibilities and the complicated ethical issues they create are under the microscope for week four, with “Enhancing Brains.” And history, psychology, technology and ethics all combine for the final session, “This is Your Brain, the Future.”

Together, Robert and Helms Tillery create an exceptionally qualified team to lead this series. Robert is interim director of ASU's Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, and directs the Bioethics, Policy and Law Program at the Center for Biology and Society in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. A member of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Robert has published extensively in the areas of bioethics and the philosophy of biology. His current research focuses on how scientists justify controversial research.

Tillery’s research into the brain focuses on the intricacies of neural control of real arm movement, and how to address bioengineering issues in the design of neuro-electronic hybrid systems. He is working toward cortical interfaces for neuroprosthetics, examining the abilities and limitations they create, and discovering how tactile information can be input back into the central nervous system.

"The Future of Your Brain” will be presented from 10 a.m. to noon, Thursdays, Oct. 17-Nov. 14, at Northern Trust–Scottsdale, 14624 N. Scottsdale Road, Suite 250. The fee for the five-week course is $200, which also provides complimentary parking. For information or registration, visit

This ASU Foundation Presidential Engagement Program is presented in partnership with the ASU Center for Biology and Society, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Erik Ketcherside,
Communications Manager | Editorial Services
ASU Foundation for A New American University