David Eagleman

possibilian

sum

David Eagleman (b. 1971) is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, where he directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action and the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He is best known for his work on time perception, synesthesia, and neurolaw. He is also an internationally bestselling fiction writer.

An early experience of falling from a roof raised his interest in understanding the neural basis of time perception. Eagleman’s scientific work combines psychophysical, behavioral, and computational approaches to address the relationship between the timing of perception and the timing of neural signals.

Areas for which he is known include temporal encoding, time warping, manipulations of the perception of causality, and time perception in high-adrenaline situations. In one experiment, he dropped himself and other volunteers from a 150 foot tower to measure time perception as they fell. He writes that his end goal is ‘to understand how neural signals processed by different brain regions come together for a temporally unified picture of the world.’ He has also written about ‘neurolaw,’ an emerging field that determines how modern brain science should affect the way we make laws, punish criminals, and invent new methods for rehabilitation.

Synesthesia is an unusual perceptual condition in which stimulation to one sense triggers an involuntary sensation in other senses. Eagleman is the developer of The Synesthesia Battery, a free online test by which people can determine whether they are synesthetic. By this technique he has tested and analyzed thousands of synesthetes, and has written a book on synesthesia with Richard Cytowic, entitled ‘Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia.’ Eagleman has published extensively on what visual illusions tell us about neurobiology, concentrating especially on the flash lag illusion and wagon wheel effect.

Eagleman’s work of literary fiction, ‘Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, described as a ‘thought-provoking little collection belonging to that category of strange, unclassifiable books that will haunt the reader long after the last page has been turned. It is full of tangential insights into the human condition and poetic thought experiments… It is also full of touching moments and glorious wit of the sort one only hopes will be in copious supply on the other side.’ As opposed to committing to strict atheism or to a particular religious position, Eagleman refers to himself as a Possibilian.

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