An internationally renowned neuroscientist from Israel and a science writer from the U.S. discussing the mysteries and workings of the brain may not sound like the makings of a riveting, sometimes hilarious event, but that’s what the program Monday evening at The Jewish Center turned out to be.
Sponsored by American Friends of Bar-Ilan University and The Jewish Week, the conversation entitled “The Future Of Memory,” featured Professor Moshe Bar, director of Bar-Ilan’s multidisciplinary brain research center, and Joshua Foer, author of the best-seller “Moonwalking With Einstein,” which dealt with his coverage of a national memory contest that, after mental training, he later entered and won.
Jewish Week book critic Sandee Brawarsky moderated the lively discussion that explored why the brain is science’s last frontier, how memory is as much about looking forward as it is about looking back, and how the brain can be harnessed to be more effective.
Bar and Foer, who met for the first time only a few minutes before they took the stage, came at the topic from different interests and areas of expertise. But they often agreed with each other’s observations, including that novelty is key to memory, since the brain is always seeking new information, and that paying close attention to a subject engages the brain and enhances memory.
Staying active, mentally and physically, can stave off memory loss, they said. Watching television “numbs us in some way,” said Foer, because it reduces novelty, and “routine is the enemy of memory.”