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Talking to the brain in its own language

Friday, March 21, 2014

Neuroscientist Sheila Nirenberg to speak on new brain research that can be used to treat blindness as part of Distinguished Scientists Lecture Series

by Russell Guerrero '83

SAN ANTONIO – An award winning neuroscientist who received a McArthur genius grant in 2013 will speak on new ways to communicate with the brain that are leading to advanced technology for treating disease. Sheila Nirenberg will present “Talking to the Brain in its own Language” at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 31, in Laurie Auditorium on the campus of Trinity University. 

The event is part of Trinity’s Distinguished Scientists Lecture Series and is free and open to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis; tickets or reservations are not required.

Over the last 50 years, neuroscience research has focused largely on listening to the brain – on taking recordings, analyzing responses, and trying to extract meaning from them. But now scientists are entering a new phase of research, going beyond listening, and starting to talk back to the brain in its own language. This has opened the door to a host of new technologies for treating disease.  During her presentation Nirenberg will highlight one such technology: a new kind of neuro-prosthetic for treating blindness.

Nirenberg is a professor of physiology and biophysics at Weill Cornell Medical College and at the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud Institute for Computational Biomedicine, also at Weill Cornell. She received her doctorate from Harvard University in neuroscience with an emphasis on molecular biology. Her work focuses on information processing in the brain and uses a combined theoretical and experimental approach.

Nirenberg has won numerous awards for her innovations, including a Beckman Young Investigator Award, a Klingenstein Fellowship, a Frontiers of Science Award, a Stein Oppenheimer Award, a Whitehall Foundation Award, a NYC BioAccelerate Prize, and, from her students, Most Humorous Professor. She was also chosen as a 2013 MacArthur Fellow (the McArthur “Genius” Award).

The Trinity University Distinguished Scientists Lecture Series is made possible through an endowment gift from Mr. and Mrs. Walter F. Brown Sr. of San Antonio. For more information, contact Trinity’s Office of University Communications at 210-999-8406.

Russell Guerrero ’83 is the public information officer at Trinity. He can be reached at rguerrer [at]