2014 Schedule
Interactive: March 7–11  •  Film: March 7–15  •  Music: March 11–16

Engaged Brains: What Do We Really Know?

#sxsw #TheBrain


It goes without saying that ultimately, the success of Interactive Media depends on its ability to engage human brains. It also goes without saying that, in principle, brain science could potentially inform Interactive Media Design. Therefore it is not in the least bit surprising that data from neurobiology, and perhaps especially data from brain imaging studies, is increasingly evident in meetings like SxSW, often presented as evidence for the validity of a new product, or a new approach to human engagement.
This panel of neuroscience experts will address what we really know, what we don't know, what we could know, what we can't yet know, and what we may never know about how interactive media really affects our brains.
Representing expertise in brain modeling, brain imaging, learning and human behavior, as well as human aging, after brief introductions, the format for the panel will be interactive, directed largely by questions from the audience.



Alfredo Fontanini

Asst Prof of Neuroscience

Stony Brook University

I received my MD degree and my PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Brescia Medical School, Italy. My PhD research, entirely performed at Caltech, focused on understanding the relationship between respiration and neural activity in the brain. After a brief distraction from chemical senses, studying plasticity in the somatosensory cortex, I joined Dr. Donald Katz's group at Brandeis University in 2003 as a Sloan-Swartz Fellow. It is during my postdoctoral studies in Don's lab that I discovered taste. My postdoctoral research focused on understanding how cortical circuits of alert rodents process gustatory information. In 2008 I joined the faculty of the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Stony Brook University, where I am currently Assistant Professor. My group at Stony Brook combines elecrophysiological, behavioral and computational methods to understand how thalamic and cortical circuits involved in the perception of taste are influenced by expectation. Our research is supported by through generous funding from NIDCD, ONR and Swartz Foundation. Our work has been published in several journals and recognized with a Klingenstein Fellowship, an Ajinomito Award and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.


Jim Bower



Dr. Bower is CEO of Numedeon Inc, whose virtual learning world for children, Whyville.net is the oldest and one of the largest game/based immersive learning worlds on the Web. Dr. Bower is also a computational neuroscientist whose research over many years has involved computer modeling and experimental study of mammalian cortical structures.


Veronica Galvan

Asst Professor

Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies

Dr. Veronica Galvan is an Assistant Professor in physiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Her scientific research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms that connect aging to brain dysfunctions like Alzheimer's, and on defining the role of signals from the nervous system in the control organismal aging in mammals. In 2010, work from Dr. Galvan’s laboratory provided the first evidence that a drug that delays aging and extends lifespan blocks progression of Alzheimer's-like cognitive and cerebrovascular deficits in mice. In the same year Dr. Galvan received an Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award in Aging.

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