I’m getting a lot of requests for more information about the experience of being interviewed by Oprah yesterday evening for her Soul Series on XM-Radio. We did it out of the studios of WGMU in the Johnson Center here at Mason, but with the ISDN line it really felt as if the two of us were just having a friendly conversation in the same studio.
The first thing I need to say is that Oprah is an extremely personable interviewer. She put me pretty much instantly at ease with her combination of humor and warmness, and then we pretty much jumped into a discussion of just what modern neuroscience can offer us as to insight into the human mind, using Joel Achenbach’s article in the Washington Post as a starting point.
We talked about the difference between human intelligence and animal intelligence (we both came to the consensus that our dogs don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on either their soul or their place in the universe). I spent some time talking about what non-invasive brain imaging has gotten us….and what it hasn’t (i.e. we can’t read off the neural code).
Talking about meditation, I think she was surprised to learn that the Dalai Lama had been the star plenary guest at a recent Society for Neuroscience meeting held in Washington. Neuroscience certainly is interested in altered mental states.
The interview then turned to the “Decade of the Mind” project itself. My strong sense is that she understood why we belief that this proposed investment is necessary and supported it.
We also talked about my favorite brain structure, the hippocampus–how it is not only beautiful from a structural standpoint, but also what the clues from patients who have lesions to their hippocampi say about the laying down of episodic memories.
She asked me if it’s just a neuroscientist “thing” to find the hippocampus beautiful or would any person agree. Of course you can guess how I answered.
Finally I got to spend some time talking about the role of intuition in the life of an experimental science–how intuition at the laboratory bench can lead to that “Ah Ha” moment of discovery.