Medical research and magic come together

November 11, 2010

(Phoenix Arizona, November 11, 2010) -- The unorthodox research collaboration between two Barrow Neurological Institute scientists and some of the world's greatest magicians is detailed in a new book called Sleights of Mind.

Published by Henry Holt and Company, the book is the first ever written about the neuroscience of magic. The authors, Barrow vision and cognition researchers Susana Martinez-Conde, PhD, and Stephen Macknik, PhD, with Sandra Blakeslee, a New York Times Science correspondent, describe at a fundamental level why your brain is so vulnerable to magic and how science can learn from the art of illusion. Aiding with their research have been renowned magicians including Penn and Teller, Apollo Robbins, the Amazing Randi and Mac King.

"We have spent the last few years traveling the world, meeting magicians, researching their art, and collaborating with them on our study of the brain," says Dr. Martinez-Conde, director of the Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience. "Magicians do cognitive science experiments for audiences all night long and they may be even more effective than we scientists are in the lab."

Drs. Macknik and Martinez-Conde accepted faculty appointments at Barrow in 2004 and their research into vision and cognition is now a focal point at Barrow, the largest neurosurgical facility in the United States.

"We are on a fascinating journey about the neural underpinning of magic and the brain," says Dr. Macknik, director of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology. "If we fully understand how magicians hack our brains, we will unveil the neural bases of consciousness itself."

Sleights of Mind includes scientific discussions on topics like illusory correlations, eye movements and multisensory integration. But it also includes insider details on specific well-known magic tricks and how magicians execute the illusions to fool the brain. "We've warned readers with 'Spoiler Alerts' on the sections that describe the secrets of the tricks," says Dr. Martinez-Conde. "If you don't want to know the magical secrets you can skip those portions."

Dr. Macknik underscores that while their magic research has entertaining aspects, it has significant scientific goals. "Our hope is that the results of this research can have positive impact on many neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and autism. The notion of 'what produces awareness' is the ultimate scientific question, and neuroscience is on the verge of answering it."
-end-
About Barrow: Barrow Neurological Institute of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, is internationally recognized as a leader in neurological research and patient care and is consistently voted as among the Top 10 hospitals for neurology and neurology in the United States. Barrow treats patients with a wide range of neurological conditions, including brain and spinal tumors, cerebrovascular conditions, and neuromuscular disorders. Barrow's clinicians and researchers are devoted to providing excellent patient care and finding better ways to treat neurological disorders.

For information contact: Lynne Reaves 602-406-4734

St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center

Related Neuroscience Articles from Brightsurf:

Researchers rebuild the bridge between neuroscience and artificial intelligence
In an article in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers reveal that they have successfully rebuilt the bridge between experimental neuroscience and advanced artificial intelligence learning algorithms.

The evolution of neuroscience as a research
When the first issue of the JDR was published, the field of neuroscience did not exist but over subsequent decades neuroscience has emerged as a scientific field that has particular relevance to dentistry.

Diabetes-Alzheimer's link explored at Neuroscience 2019
Surprising links exist between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, and researchers are beginning to unpack the pathology that connects the two.

Organoid research revealed at Neuroscience 2019
Mini-brains, also called organoids, may offer breakthroughs in clinical research by allowing scientists to study human brain cells without a human subject.

The neuroscience of autism: New clues for how condition begins
UNC School of Medicine scientists found that a gene mutation linked to autism normally works to organize the scaffolding of brain cells called radial progenitors necessary for the orderly formation of the brain.

Harnessing reliability for neuroscience research
Neuroscientists are amassing the large-scale datasets needed to study individual differences and identify biomarkers.

Blue Brain solves a century-old neuroscience problem
In a front-cover paper published in Cerebral Cortex, EPFL's Blue Brain Project, a Swiss Brain Research Initiative, explains how the shapes of neurons can be classified using mathematical methods from the field of algebraic topology.

Characterizing pig hippocampus could improve translational neuroscience
Researchers have taken further steps toward developing a superior animal model of neurological conditions such as traumatic brain injury and epilepsy, according to a study of miniature pigs published in eNeuro.

The neuroscience of human vocal pitch
Among primates, humans are uniquely able to consciously control the pitch of their voices, making it possible to hit high notes in singing or stress a word in a sentence to convey meaning.

Study tackles neuroscience claims to have disproved 'free will'
For several decades, some researchers have argued that neuroscience studies prove human actions are driven by external stimuli -- that the brain is reactive and free will is an illusion.

Read More: Neuroscience News and Neuroscience Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.