The idea of the brain

7.00pm to 8.30pm, Thursday 12 March

The Theatre

The Royal Institution of Great Britain GB United Kingdom W1S 4BS 21 Albemarle Street London

This event has already taken place

  • Credit: Matthew Cobb

Price

Standard £16

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Concession £10

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Ri Members and Ri Patrons £7

Event description

Please note that this event was previously advertised as 'Thinking Matter: Our Quest to Understand the Brain'

Today we tend to picture the brain as a computer. Earlier scientists thought about it in their own technological terms: as a telephone switchboard, or a clock, or all manner of fantastic mechanical or hydraulic devices. Could the right metaphor unlock the brain's deepest secrets once and for all?

Galloping through centuries of wild speculation and ingenious, sometimes macabre anatomical investigations, scientist and historian Matthew Cobb reveals how we came to our present state of knowledge. Our latest theories allow us to create artificial memories in the brain of a mouse, and to build AI programmes capable of extraordinary cognitive feats. A complete understanding seems within our grasp.

But to make that final breakthrough, we may need a radical new approach. At every step of our quest, Cobb shows that it was new ideas that brought illumination. Where, he asks, might the next one come from? What will it be?

About the speaker

Matthew Cobb is professor of zoology at the University of Manchester, where his research focuses on the sense of smell, insect behaviour and the history of science. 

He did a BA in Psychology at the University of Sheffield, and went on to do his PhD there, in Psychology and Genetics, looking at the mating behaviour of seven species of fruitfly. He was lucky enough to be in one of the few places in the UK that studied Drosophila behaviour genetics. 

Your chair for the evening is Adam Rutherford, science writer and broadcaster.

Timing

The doors will open at approximately 6.30pm, with a prompt start at 7.00pm. There will be time for questions after the talk.

Latecomers will be admitted into the gallery.

Book signing

Copies of Matthew's book, 'The Idea of the Brain: A History', will be available for purchase and signing after the talk. 

Filming

This event will be filmed and on the Ri's YouTube channel within a few months. Subscribe for free to hear when new videos are released.

Accessibility

The theatre is on the first floor and there is step-free access from the street via lift.

The closest underground station is Green Park, which is step-free.

There is space at floor level in the theatre for wheelchair users.

Seating is usually unreserved for our events. If you and your group require seating reservations, please do let us know by email and we’ll be more than happy to help. Email: events@ri.ac.uk.

Carers can receive a free ticket to an event by emailing events@ri.ac.uk.

Our theatre is equipped with an Audio Induction Loop. 

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