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ABQ native gets inside our brains

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — David Eagleman has come a long way since growing up in the Duke City. Today, he’s a New York Times best-selling author, a Guggenheim Fellow and a world-renowned neuroscientist.

The 44-year-old’s next move will be onto the TV screen as he presents his six-part series, “The Brain With David Eagleman.”

The series, which will air on PBS, reveals how our brains create the rich and beautiful world around us by blending scientific truth with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories. The six-part series shows the inner workings of the brain and takes viewers on a visually spectacular journey into why they feel and think the things they do.

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It airs on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. from Oct. 14 through Nov. 18.

“I grew up watching Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos,’ and I wanted to do something like that,” Eagleman says. “Several years ago, I began thinking of ways to open up neuroscience and the magic of the field to a wider audience.”

Eagleman spent his childhood in Albuquerque, starting at Hubert Humphrey Elementary and Manzano Day School, then attending Albuquerque Academy through 12th grade. He comes back to visit many of his friends who live in Albuquerque.

While he was in high school, a career in neuroscience didn’t occur to Eagleman. It wasn’t until he was in college, at Rice University, that he realized the possibility.

“It was in my final year of college, I started to read everything I could about neuroscience,” he says. “I got interested in the brain, and the field was really young. This was back in the early 1990s. It hadn’t hit the public consciousness.”

David Eagleman is an Albuquerque Academy alum and runs the Laboratory for Perception and Action at the Baylor College of Medicine.

David Eagleman is an Albuquerque Academy alum and runs the Laboratory for Perception and Action at the Baylor College of Medicine. (Courtesy of Blink Films)

Eagleman’s day job is directing the Laboratory for Perception and Action at the Baylor College of Medicine, where he also directs the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He is known for his work on time perception, synesthesia and neurolaw.

At night, he writes. His work of fiction, “Sum,” has been an international best-seller published in 27 languages. His most recent book, the New York Times best-seller “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain,” explores the neuroscience “under the hood” of the conscious mind – in other words, all the aspects of neural function to which we have no awareness or access.

The series covers a wider spectrum.

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It is broken down as follows:

  • What Is Reality? – Explores how the brain, locked in silence and darkness without direct access to the world, conjures the rich and beautiful world we all take for granted.
  • What Makes Me? – Shows how we are our brains, how our personality, emotions and memories are encoded as neural activity.
  • Who Is in Control? – Looks at the unconscious brain and reveals that everything from our movements to our decisions to our behavior is largely controlled and orchestrated by an invisible world of unconscious neural activity.
  • How Do I Decide? – Demonstrates how the brain navigates the tens of thousands of conscious decisions we make every day.
  • Why Do I Need You? – Shows how the brain relies on other brains to thrive and survive.
  • Who Will We Be? – — Eagleman journeys into the future and asks what’s next for the human brain and for our species.

“The show was very big and unexpectedly crushed my daily schedule,” he says. “It was totally worth it. I focused on the content control for the series. I wanted everything to be factually correct.”

Eagleman spent a few years searching for the right production company, and it took just over a year for the project to be completed.

During filming, which occurred in London, Bosnia and Houston, Eagleman was balancing the series with running the lab at Baylor and launching two startup companies.

“I’ve always been the one who stays up later than everyone else,” he says. “I try not to waste any time when it comes to my work. I keep moving forward in the most interesting directions.”

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Assistant Arts Editor Adrian Gomez at agomez@abqjournal.com. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

 

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