Wednesday, June 17, 2015

An Evening with Dr. Peter Whybrow
in conversation with David Milch

The Well-Tuned Brain: 
Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived

William Turner Gallery
Bergamot Station Arts Center
2525 Michigan Avenue,
Santa Monica, CA 90404

$20 General Admission
$30 Reserved Seats
$46 Includes Whybrow’s book + Seat in reserved section
$95 Includes pre-reception (6:30-7:30pm) + book + Seat in reserved section

Watch a series of short videos we made with Dr. Whybrow.
On his new book,
Why the Well-Tuned Brain,
On Teachers and the Well-Tuned Brian
On the Market and the Human Brain
On Creativity and Imagination
On Mindfulness

Peter C. Whybrow, MD, is director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles. Born and educated in England, he is the author of, among other books, A Mood Apart and the award-winning American Mania: When More Is Not Enough. For more information visit his website.

“In The Well-Tuned Brain Peter Whybrow combines gripping big themes with an abundance of fascinating stories. The big themes revolve around the collision between our ancient human habits, our human brains often operating on autopilot, and the seductive material success of our modern market economy. You’ll find this book as rich and as thought-provoking as it is enjoyable.”
Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel

In The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived, eminent neuropsychiatrist Peter Whybrow weaves cutting-edge science, philosophy, history and personal experience to explore how the human brain is at odds with the enticements of the consumer society. 

It is the challenge central to our times. But with self-knowledge comes opportunity, as Whybrow explains in this optimistic and inspiring book. Fundamental to crafting a sustainable future is accepting the mismatch between who we are and the vibrant culture that we have created. First, is to recognize that the human brain is of hybrid construction. Self-interest and the drive to overconsumption are relics of our evolution, from a time when competition for scarce resources was essential to survival. Secondly, we are creatures of habit. These are the brain’s autopilots that allow the brain to run efficiently and with speed⎯intuitively and without conscious attention. But when habits are shaped primarily by the temptations and novelties of consumerism self-control is eroded. In explaining how this mismatch has emerged, Whybrow digs deep into the birth of the modern market society, how the market’s self-regulation is rooted in the dynamics of normal human behavior⎯melding self-interest and social awareness⎯and how that behavioral balance has been distorted by the rapid cultural and technological change that we now experience.

So, in the second half of the book, Whybrow asks “How to live” in this Age of Man? How may we “re-tune” ourselves to live in harmony with our achievements? Whybrow demonstrates how knowledge of behavioral neuroscience can help craft those habits essential to physical well-being, and to environmental preservation. What emerges is a call to rediscover the strengths and virtues of our extraordinary capacity as social animals. To find our way forward is a collective enterprise, and in a progressive series of chapters Whybrow uses behavioral neuroscience to help illuminate the path. What do we know about the chemistry of love? Why is early nurturing essential to priming a well-tuned brain and to the development of trust? How does self-command emerge from the security of these early relationships to make possible the stable union that is mentored education? Through a series of compelling stories, told with passion and insight by those intimately engaged, Whybrow brings alive how character is shaped in youth and how such balanced, empathic understanding of the social world is the bedrock of a life well lived and the key to life-long learning. As Whybrow observes, “…beyond the acquisition of facts, education serves a moral purpose—the development of individual character and the capacity for self-directed growth.” 

Cross-cutting this path to self-understanding is the magic of the imagination, which in a later chapter Whybrow explores in detail. Together with its kissing cousin, creativity, imagination is a uniquely human attribute that has blossomed comparatively recently in our evolution making possible the emergence of the technologies and the vibrant communities that we now take for granted. But it is also through imagination that we harness the experience of the past to create a worthy future for our children. With careful attention we can do so with wisdom.

In his scholarship Whybrow casts a broad net: with insights from the Bronze Age, from Renaissance Italy, the Scottish Enlightenment, the writings of Adam Smith, and the Founding Fathers, the details of modern neuroscience are illuminated by crisp, clear writing and insights from personal experience. The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived, is a riveting work that will prompt readers to reexamine life and embrace the possibility of a new way forward. “Tuning the brain demands knowledge, attention, and hard work,” reflects Whybrow. “However, there’s no investment more worthwhile: striving to be in tune with one’s self simultaneously makes both common sense and serves the common good.” 

David Milch is an Emmy-Award-winning writer and producer responsible for some of the most celebrated television dramas of the last three decades. Milch, who won the Tinker Prize for highest achievement in English at Yale University and earned an M.F.A.from the Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, left a teaching career at Yale to write for Hill Street Blues. He subsequently served as Executive Story Editor and then Executive Producer for Hill Street Blues. In 1992, Milch co-created the history-making police drama NYPD Blue. Milch took home Emmys for Best Writing in a Drama for the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons. Milch created another police drama, Brooklyn South, and co-authored, along with NYPD Blue producer Bill Clark, True Blue: The Real Stories Behind NYPD Blue, and served as creative consultant for Steven Bochco’s Murder One and Total Security. Milch also created and was the Executive Producers of  Deadwood and Luck for HBO.