Why do we search for miracles? Why does my memory of last night’s dinner party differ from yours? Why does opera make me cry but leave you cold?
These are questions whose answers require expertise in both
art and science. And that’s where Indre’s experience,
passion and education meet.
Psychology is the scientific study of how the mind works.
What we do, or how we behave, is a window into our minds.
Neuroscience takes the study of the mind and behavior one
step further, and is geared towards understanding how the
organic matter of the brain supports our thoughts,
memories, emotions, passions and perceptions. As an opera
singer, Indre explores the effects of extreme circumstances
on the minds and souls of the characters she embodies.
Through science, we
discover general principles that define our world. Through
art, we discover how individual experiences illustrate what
is universal. Answering life’s big questions requires both
viewpoints. What scientists and artists have in common is
that they are the observers in our society. Where science
ends, art begins.
An experienced observer of human behavior, Dr. Indre
Viskontas has published ground-breaking work on the neural
basis of memory and creativity, and has won numerous
research and teaching awards. Holding a PhD from UCLA in
cognitive neuroscience, Dr. Viskontas studies how memories,
creativity and other cognitive processes are supported by
neural networks, using cutting-edge techniques, including
direct recordings from neurons in the human brain,
high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging and
Dr. Viskontas’s work is characterized by innovation and a
focus on the ‘big’ questions in neuroscience: how do brain
cells code memory? What memory processes enable creative
thinking? How can the paradoxical facilitation of
creativity emerge from a degenerating brain?
Since completing her PhD in 2006, she has published more
than 40 articles and chapters, including several seminal
articles in top scientific journals such as the
Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of
Neuroscience, Current Opinion in
Neurology and Nature: Clinical
dissertation was recognized as the best of her class, and
she was a finalist for the New York Academy of Sciences
Dr. Viskontas has also been the recipient of numerous
fellowships, including a 4-year Julie-Payette Research
Fellowship awarded to the top 10 Canadian graduate students
in the Life Sciences, the Ursula Mandel Fellowship, a UCLA
dissertation fellowship, a McBean Family Foundation
fellowship, the Charles and Sue Young award for the top
five graduate students at UCLA, and the prestigious Larry
Cermak award at the Memory Disorders Meeting.
In 2012, Dr. Viskontas joined the collegiate faculty of the
San Francisco Conservatory of Music where she teaches
undergraduate and graduate studies how to apply the
principles of neuroscience to develop effective and
efficient practice strategies. She is also currently
affiliated with the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF, under
the direction of Dr. Bruce Miller, where she explores
creative impulses in patients with neurodegenerative
diseases. Her ongoing collaborations include projects with
internationally-acclaimed artist Deborah Aschheim, with
whom she is creating art pieces and scientific research
investigating the interplay between memory, creativity and
the brain, as well as several studies of creativity in
patients with degenerative dementias. She has been invited
to speak at scientific conferences around the world, and is
an Editor of the journal Neurocase.
A passionate science communicator, she represented the
scientific perspective as co-star of a television series
aired in 2011 on the Oprah Winfrey network and hosted the
popular science and critical thinking podcast called Point
of Inquiry in 2012. In 2013, along with science journalist
Chris Mooney and producer Adam Isaak, she launched
Minds, a podcast that explores the interface
between science and society. Within four months, the
podcast was awarded a "Best of iTunes" label, and has
since been downloaded more than 4.5 million times. In
March of 2014, The Teaching Company released her
24-lecture series 12 Essential Scientific
Concepts as part of The Great Courses. Her new
Myths Exploded, will be released in 2017.