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March 11, 1998

Tipper Gore and Neuroscientists Speak at Conference on the Science of Emotion

Leading neuroscientists will discuss their research at a conference at the Library of Congress on May 5 and 6, with an address by Tipper Gore on May 6 at 9 a.m.

All sessions of the conference, "Discovering Our Selves: The Science of Emotion," will take place in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the Library's James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. The conference is free and open to the public.

Mrs. Gore will open the second day of the conference. As mental health policy adviser to the President, she has worked to educate the public and eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness.

"The Library of Congress is pleased to be the site of the 12th program in this 'Decade of the Brain' series. During the 1990s, the Library and NIMH -- each devoted in its own way to the life of the mind -- have collaborated to explore the exciting scientific advances in basic and clinical neuroscience, a field that requires more than 200 specialty journals to report its new developments," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.

The conference is being organized by the Library of Congress and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health with major funding from the Charles A. Dana Foundation.

Said Dr. Steven E. Hyman, NIMH director: "The science of emotion is an emerging field where sophisticated research is helping us understand and appreciate how the constant interplay between our emotions and our environment governs what we do and how we think."

Sessions will focus on:

  • The interdependence of memory and emotion, including memory formation, memory storage and memory loss: Why do some survivors of a disaster suffer lasting psychological trauma while others do not?
  • How the study of emotion enables researchers and clinicians to increase their understanding of early childhood development and adult emotions: Why do some children learn better than others? Why might one child in a healthy family get in trouble while one child in a dysfunctional family succeeds beyond all expectations?
  • How our emotions can affect us in our daily lives, contributing to well-known or common disorders, including heart disease, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety: How can the pain of cancer or arthritis be reduced?

New ways of exploring the living brain are yielding vital information. Interdisciplinary research and technological innovation in the biological sciences are enabling scientists to learn from individuals whose brain circuitry is impaired as a result of either genetics or the environment or a combination of both. Studying the brains of living stroke victims or malnourished children has increased scientists' understanding of the brain's structure and its processes.

As a result, researchers and clinicians have demonstrated how treatment with psychotherapeutic drugs and psychotherapy-both of which affect the brain's circuits-can modify these abnormal functions and help alleviate suffering.

Among speakers at the conference will be:

  • Antonio R. Damasio, M.D., Ph.D., M.W. Van Allen Professor and Head, Department of Neurology, University of Iowa College of Medicine; and Adjunct Professor, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Dr. Damasio has used imaging techniques to identify what part of the brain is used when a speaker utters a verb.
  • Eric R. Kandel, M.D., University Professor, Columbia University and Senior Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Kandel studies flatworm brains to determine how memory works.
  • Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D., Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science, Center for Neural Science, New York University, and author of The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life
  • Daniel L. Schacter, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past

Since 1991, the Library and NIMH have cooperated in an interagency initiative, the Project on the Decade of the Brain, to advance the goals set forth in a proclamation by President George Bush designating the 1990s as the Decade of the Brain. Within the Library's Office of Scholarly Programs, the project sponsors symposia and publications to update members of Congress, their staffs and the general public on cutting-edge research on the brain.

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PR 98-032
3/11/98
ISSN 0731-3527

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