Bisan Lecture Series by Professor Nancy Kanwisher « Functional Imaging of the Human Brain, : A Window into the Architecture of the Mind »

| Scientists for Palestine |

The next Bisan Lecture webinar will take place on Wednesday, October 12 at 7pm Palestine time (6pm Central European Time, 12 noon US Estern time). We will have the pleasure to welcome Prof. Nancy Kanwisher (MIT) who will speak on « Functional Imaging of the Human Brain: A Window into the Architecture of the Mind ». You can register for the event on Zoom here.


Dear Colleagues,

On September 14-th, 2022, Salim Tamari (Editor of the Jerusalem Quarterly, Senior Fellow of the Institute of Palestine Studies, Professor of Sociology at Birzeit University) gave the first lecture of the 2022-2023 Bisan Lecture Series. Quoting Rashid Khalidi (the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University), Salim Tamari is today’s “preeminent Palestinian historical sociologist.” Demonstrating an unmatched expertise as a researcher of personal diaries, official archives, government deeds, newspaper articles, and obscure documents from long-bygone years, Dr. Tamari gave a fascinating overview of political and social movements in and around Palestine, shortly before and after World War One. Looked at from the passage of one century, the war led to major social dislocations and transformations in the ways in which people of the region – from the Ottoman capital of Istanbul to the Arab provinces of the Empire – viewed themselves and the world. With the help of captivating archival photographs, Dr. Tamari recounted how the war and the ensuing devastation were reflected in the biographical trajectories of well-known writers and publicists (Muhammad Kurd Ali, Khalil Sakakini, Najib Nassar, and others) and Arab soldiers conscripted into the Ottoman army (Muhammad Fasih, Aref Shehadeh, Ihsan al- Turjman). You can watch the video recording here. The lecture slides will be available soon at the web page of the webinar.

We are pleased to announce that the next Bisan Lecture webinar will take place on Wednesday, October 12 at 7pm Palestine time (6pm Central European Time, 12 noon US Estern time). We will have the pleasure to welcome Prof. Nancy Kanwisher (MIT) who will speak on

Title: Functional Imaging of the Human Brain: A Window into the Architecture of the Mind

You can register for the event on Zoom here

Abstract: The last 20 years of brain imaging research has revealed the functional organization of the human brain in glorious detail. This work has identified a set of regions of the cortex, each of which is specifically engaged in a particular mental task, like the recognition of faces and places, perceiving speech sounds, understanding the meaning of a sentence, and thinking about another person’s thoughts. Other brain regions play a more general role in intelligence, getting engaged when we perform nearly any difficult mental task at all. Each of these regions is present, in approximately the same location, in every normal person. I like to think of this initial rough sketch of the functional organization of the brain as a diagram of the major components of the human mind, a kind of picture of who we are as perceivers and thinkers. But at the same time this new map is just the barest beginning, revealing a vast landscape of unanswered questions. What other specialized regions exist in the cortex, and what are they specialized for? What exactly is computed and represented in each region? What are the structural connections of each region, and how does information flow among them? How do these regions arise in development, and how much of the organization of the brain is specified at birth? How did brain regions specialized for uniquely human mental abilities evolve? Perhaps most fundamentally, why, from a computational point of view, is the brain organized the way it is, with this combination of highly specialized brain regions, along with very general-purpose systems? These open questions are much harder to answer, but I will mention a few tantalizing glimmers that are beginning to emerge from labs around the world.

You can register for the event on Zoom here

Biographical Sketch: Nancy Kanwisher

Nancy Kanwisher received her B.S. and Ph.D. from MIT, working with Professor Molly Potter. After a postdoc as a MacArthur Fellow in Peace and International Security, and a second postdoc in the lab of Anne Treisman at UC Berkeley, she held faculty positions at UCLA and then Harvard, before returning to MIT in 1997, where she is now an Investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, a faculty member in the Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, and a member of the Center for Minds, Brains, and Machines. Kanwisher uses brain imaging and other methods to discover the functional organization of the human brain as a window into the architecture of the mind. Kanwisher has received the Troland Award, the Golden Brain Award, the Carvalho-Heineken Prize, and the 2022 National Academy of Sciences Neurosciences Award. She was named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow, MIT’s highest teaching recognition. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. You can view her short lectures about human cognitive neuroscience for lay audiences and newcomers to the field here and her undergraduate course The Human Brain here.

This lecture is sponsored by theBisan Center for Research and Development, Scientists for Palestine and the Center for Palestinian Studies of Columbia University

Hoping to see many of you at this webinar, we send you our best regards.

The Bisan Lecture Series Steering Committee

Next BLS webinar

- Wednesday November 9, 2022, 6 pm pm Palestine time

Prof. Esther Duflo (MIT, Nobel laureate in Economic Sciences in 2019)

- Wednesday December 14, 2022, 7 pm Palestine time 


Prof. Daniel Pauly (University of British Columbia)

- Wednesday January 11, 2023, 7 pm Palestine time 

Prof. Mahmood Mamdani (Columbia University)

To be confirmed

- Wednesday March 8, 2023, 7 pm Palestine time

Marina Warner (Mythographer, novelist and independent scholar)

- Wednesday April 12, 2023, 7 pm Palestine time

Prof. Mark Smith (University of Missouri)

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BLS Statement of purpose

In concert with Scientists for Palestine and the Bisan Center for Research and Development, and in keeping with their joint commitment to full integration of Palestine in the global community of learning, the Bisan Lecture Series sponsors discourses on subjects of cultural, scientific, and societal importance by leading research experts and public intellectuals of varied heritage and viewpoint. The interactive webinars are free and open to the public, and recordings of each will be posted soon afterward.