Thinking about Thinking: Introducing the Real Time Club Brain Mind Forum (12 May 2010)

A suitably unusual timing (12:00 – 14:00) for this extraordinary event. The relationship between neurophysiology (i.e. the structure and biochemistry of the brain) and cognition (i.e. how we think and experience the world) is central to every aspect of our lives, yet one of the least understood areas of science. This will be a very important area of study over the coming decades, and is already producing research and debate on issues such as biological bases for criminality and antisocial behaviour (including use of evidence of tendency to such behaviour in court) and use of drugs that can enhance cognitive performance (e.g. nicotine and ritalin). Modern digital computing techniques will be crucial to research on the linkages of neurophysiology and cognition, as has been the case with recent tremendous advances in genetic research. Recognising the importance of these issues, the Real Time Club has established a Brain, Mind & Computing Forum (separate from the club’s regular dining programme), which will be launched at this luncheon.

The luncheon will include addresses by Prof John Stein (Profession of Physiology at Oxford University) on his work on movement control, dyslexia and antisocial behaviour and Charles Ross (founding member of the RTC and convenor of the Brain, Mind & Computing Forum) on plans for the Forum, followed by discussion and debate. There will also be a brief presentation by RTC Vice Chairman Maury Shenk on plans for the future of the RTC (with opportunity for member input).

Prof John Stein FRCP

John Stein is a Professor of Physiology at Oxford University. He studied physiology at New College, Oxford, then clinical medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital, London. He continued his training in Neurology in London, Leicester and Oxford. But he decided that neurological research might be more useful, and he was appointed tutor in medicine at Magdalen College in 1970. Since then, in addition to admitting and teaching medical students, he has been studying normal and abnormal eye and limb movement control in animals, neurological patients and dyslexics. He began to study the role of eye control in dyslexics in 1978, and has been pursuing the hypothesis that dyslexics’ problems may result from impaired low level perceptual visuomotor and auditory processing that is caused by abnormal development of magnocellular neurones in the brain. His brother, noted chef Rick Stein, is unfortunately not available to cook for the luncheon!

Charles Ross

Charles Ross is an Honorary Fellow of the British Computer Society who has worked for over fifty years on the entrepreneurial side of computing, and was involved in four world firsts in the design of computer software systems. He has applied his knowledge of systems design to the workings of the brain, having written numerous articles and given lectures on “what is thinking?”. He has started, bought and sold some thirty IT businesses in the UK and the USA over the last forty years. A programming language he designed won a silver medal award in 1989. Along with Shirley Redpath, he is author of the 2008 book, “Biological Systems of the Brain: Unlocking the Secrets of Consciousness”.