Those folks who consider the brain to be the next frontier seem to be growing in numbers by the scores. A crowd of ’em were brought together by the Center for Vital Longevity at Communities Foundation of Texas on Wednesday, April 6, for the third annual Jean and Bill Booziotis Distinguished Lecture featuring Dr. John Gabrieli. It was a fascinating night for the guests and their gray matter. Here’s a report from the field:
Just like people, no two brains are the same.
That was the message that sank in at last night’s annual public lecture hosted by the Center for Vital Longevity, the neuroscience group at the University of Texas at Dallas dedicated to studying the aging mind.
The Center for Vital Longevity (CVL) held its third annual Jean and Bill Booziotis Distinguished Lecture at the Communities Foundation of Texas, welcoming Dr. John Gabrieli, the Director of the Athinoula A. Martinos Imaging Center at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for a public talk on “neuroindividuality.”
In an evening lecture that was completely free to the public, thanks to the generosity of the late Mrs. Jean Booziotis and her husband, Bill Booziotis, Dr. Gabrieli highlighted what principles of brain organization are consistent across individuals, and how brains vary across people due to age, personality, and other dimensions of individuality.
Nearly 300 guests attended the talk at the Communities Foundation of Texas, whose architecture was conceived and designed by Mr. Booziotis.
Touching on personality types, gender and culture, and the way these differences influence how our brains interact with the world, Dr. Gabrieli described how such hard-to-quantify factors might be better understood through imaging. Dr. Gabrieli shared current research on just how varied individuals of different ages can be in their integration of feeling and memory.
While age is very important, it is just one factor, Dr. Gabrieli said.
The amygdala – an emotional center in the brain often associated with fear – tends to activate differently in extroverts and introverts, he said. Extraverts tend to have more active amygdalae in response to positive information, such as a happy face, while introverts’ amydalae appear to be more active when processing negative information, such as an angry face.
Whether a person perceives situations from a “glass half-full or half-empty” perspective also depends on familial upbringing and any history of depression, he said. Ultimately, accounting for people’s individuality, with the help of imaging, is crucial in determining the best path for treatments that might have the fastest impact, he added.
Several generations attended, including students and staff from The Hockaday and Greenhill schools, and Williams Prep.
“Dr. Gabrieli’s lecture was enlightening and offered all in the audience insight into how complex and varied people’s brains are, reflecting factors such as personality type and cultural background,” said CVL Director Dr. Michael Rugg. “We were delighted to bring this lecture to the community at-large. We are very grateful to Dr. Gabrieli for visiting Dallas to share his research in such an accessible way.”
His talk was preceded by an evening reception of the CVL Director’s Research Circle, attended by among numerous others including Jannah Hodges, Chela Abdallah and retired CFO at the U.S. Department of Education and current chair of the Center’s advisory council Larry Warder.
The Center for Vital Longevity at UT Dallas was founded in 2010 by Dr. Denise Park and has grown to six labs in the last six years, becoming an international center for studying the aging mind. It is home to more than 50 staff members, researchers and faculty.
* Photos provided by the Center for Vital Longevity