Nobel Conference 51: Synopsis by Travis Sigafoos ’16

Posted on October 22nd, 2015 by

My first experience with the Nobel Conference was during a campus visit as a senior in high school. I recall entering Lund Forum excited to hear Dr. Paul Glimcher delve into the intricacies of decision-making at Nobel Conference 47, The Brain and Being Human. Meanwhile, I was in the midst of deciding which college to attend and the theme conveniently matched my interest in psychology and neuroscience.

Although brain scientists are routine speakers at the conference, the topic of addiction for Nobel 51, Addiction: Exploring the Science and Experience of an Equal Opportunity Condition, was exceptionally exciting and provided valuable opportunities for Psychological Science students like myself. Caroline David ’16, Andrea Garcia ’16, Matthew Broschard ’16, Lili Rothschild ’15, Jaclyn Perish ’16, and I had the opportunity to host a speaker, which proved to be a valuable opportunity to connect with the distinguished speakers, Gustavus faculty, and members of the greater community. Moreover, it allowed me to fully engage in the conference and, in doing so, I do believe that my brain ‘changed’ as it was immersed in the science of addiction.

Drs. Eric and Denise Kandel introduced us to the neurobiology of synaptic plasticity and the molecular epidemiology of addiction, which guided our discussion of the ‘addicted’ brain. Dr. Sheigla Murphy provided insight into the powerful social context of addiction and Dr. Carl Hart followed with a critical and socially-progressive stance, grounded in his own neuroscience research, against the mainstream perspectives of addiction. Dr. Owen Flanagan gave a refreshing philosophical perspective on how we categorize and perceive ‘addicts’. Dr. Marc Lewis, during the closing dinner, refuted the disease model of addiction with his learning model while synthesizing the diverse perspectives of the aforementioned speakers. In addition, the “Exploring Different Treatment Options” panel discussion was new to the Nobel Conference this year, where we heard from four experts in the clinical field. Their engaging discourse shaped how we apply the science in the context of clinical interventions for those who have substance use disorders. Together, Nobel 51 felt like a ‘think tank’ that sought to bridge some divides in beliefs and terminology between the speakers while provoking the audience to think critically about addiction.

Interestingly, Prof. Patricia Reeder and I had the opportunity on the second day of the conference to connect with my high school psychology teacher’s class following Dr. Hart’s talk. Since several speakers provided advice to the high school students in the audience, it was fascinating to hear how they perceived the talk. Through our dialogue, we addressed their specific questions in a way that increased their interest in the psychological and biological sciences, and perhaps they’ll decide to come to Gustavus as I did following Nobel.

Nobel 51 Psychological Science Support

Nobel 51 Psychological Science Support: Andrea Garcia ’16, Lili Rothschild ’17, Caroline David ’16, Professor Reeder, Travis Sigafoos ’16, Matt Broschard ’16 and Professor Walker

Submitted by Travis Sigafoos ’16


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