Sandia LabNews

Sandia hosts fourth Decade of the Mind symposium

Reverse engineering of the brain will be the focus of a two-day symposium — Decade of the Mind IV — Jan. 14-15 in Albuquerque. Hosted by Sandia, the symposium will be attended by some 200 to 300 internationally respected scientists and decision makers.

The symposium, subtitled “Reverse Engineering the Brain: Sowing the Seeds for Technology Innovation,” will explore recent scientific advances in brain science and application of this science to create new technologies.

“This will be a very interesting two days of discussions that will reach across disparate fields such as cognitive science, medicine, neuroscience, psychology, mathematics, engineering, neurotechnology and computer science,” says John Wagner (6341), manager of Sandia’s cognition department and symposium chairman. “We at Sandia are honored to host a symposium of this magnitude.”

Discussions at the symposium sessions will cover potential benefits and hurdles of reverse engineering of the brain, computational neuroscience, cognitive modeling and massive neuronal simulations. Scientific breakthroughs in these areas are believed to offer insights that will spawn a wave of innovative new technologies promoting US competitiveness across nearly every sector of the economy.

The symposium will be held at the Tamaya Resort north of Albuquerque and is open to the public. Registrations are accepted at Cosponsors include the Krasnow Institute at George Mason University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Santa Fe Institute, the University of New Mexico, and the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

For more information about the Decade of the Mind symposium, contact Kevin Dixon at 505-284-5615 or

Symposium speakers

The symposium will include keynote addresses by Rick Stevens, senior vice president of Human Resources and Administration for Boeing, and George Johnson, New York Times science writer. Also presenting will be Jim Olds, George Mason University; Jim Giordano, Georgetown University; Christof Koch, California Institute of Technology; Bob Shulman, Yale University; Jim Albus, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); Jay McClelland, Stanford University; Jeff Krichmar, University of California, Irvine; and Gert Cauwenberghs, University of California, San Diego.

Initiative focuses on four broad areas

(From Wikipedia entry on Decade of the Mind)

Recent advances in brain research, in combination with the scientific consensus that mind emerges as a result of the activities of the brain, has led to the notion of a new Decade project — one dedicated to understanding the phenomenon of mind within the context of neuroscience.

In May 2007 a group of leading scientists met at George Mason University’s Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study to map out what such a national initiative might look like. The starting point was the earlier Decade of the Brain initiative during the 1990s, which set the stage for today’s accelerated understanding of the operations and diseases of the brain.

The Decade of the Mind initiative is transdisciplinary and multiagency in its approach. Success will require research that reaches across many disciplines.

The Decade of the Mind initiative focuses on four broad areas:

  • Healing and protecting the mind: This is the notion of improving the public health by curing diseases of the brain that affect the mind. An example of such a disease is Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Understanding the mind: This aspect of the initiative seeks to understand how mind actually emerges from brain functional activity. Some of the key characteristics of the mind that are still not understood include consciousness, memory, and dreams.
  • Enriching the mind: Improving learning outcomes in education is a key component of the initiative.
  • Modeling the mind: A key approach to understanding the mind is to model it either analytically or using computers. Such models of mind may facilitate the creation of new hypotheses that can then be tested in the laboratory or clinic. Modeling the mind may also allow for the creation of new applications, technologies, and inventions.

The Albuquerque symposium is the fourth in a series of Decade of the Mind conferences.