Professor Bruce Hood has the honour of delivering this year’s Royal Institution lectures, and he has something he’d like to introduce you to – your brain
Filmed in front of a live audience in the iconic theatre at the Royal Institution, the Royal Institution Christmas lectures for children were started by Michael Faraday in 1825 and have long been seen as one of the most important events in the scientific calendar.
Since 1825, lectures have been given by many distinguished scientists including Nobel Prize winners William and Lawrence Bragg, Sir David Attenborough, Lord George Porter and Dame Nancy Rothwell. This year is the turn of experimental psychologist Professor Bruce Hood.
In his jam-packed whistle-stop tour of the brain, Bruce will answer questions like: What do brainwaves look like? How fast is a neuron? And why does your brain create its own version of reality?
He’ll also look at why the human brain is so special, ask what sneaky shortcuts the brain takes to speed up mental ability and explores why is multi-tasking so dangerous. Bruce will explain how you create your own version of reality, what makes your brain decide what information to trust and what to ignore (without you even knowing!) and why you are programmed to read other people’s minds.
We caught up with Bruce to find out more about what he’s got planned for this year’s show.
How does it feel to be asked to deliver this year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures?
It is an immense honour as well as a daunting challenge. When I look at the roll call of who has given them in the past, I have to pinch myself.
The series is titled Meet your Brain; could you tell us what the lectures will include?
There are three subtitled lectures, “What’s inside your head?”, “Who is in control?” and “Are you thinking what I am thinking?” These deal with respectively, neural architecture, flexible & creative thinking and the social expertise of the human brain.
Are you nervous, given the lectures are going to be televised?
I would be lying to say that I am not nervous but then a little bit of anxiety is always good for presenting – it makes you seem more human.
What got you interested in the brain in the first place?
Who cannot fail to be amazed that the whole of our mental life is somehow generated and stored in his 1.5 kg lump of tissue? It is one of life’s great mysteries.
You’re the Director of the Cognitive Development Centre at the University of Bristol – could you tell us more about what you do here?
Yes, we study the emergence of young children’s reasoning and thinking about the world and how this forms the basis of later adult knowledge. Even though we learn new things, some of our childish ways of seeing the world never really go away.
- The lectures are taking place on Monday 12th, Thursday 15th and Saturday 17th December and will be screened on BBC4 at 8pm on 27th, 28th and 29th December.