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Alumni Letters

Comments from our readers.
May 10, 2006

Brain and Cognitive Sciences
The Brain and Cognitive Sciences article in the last issue as well as that profiling Pat McGovern’s passion for and investment in brain studies (“Neuroscience Central” and “Brain Quest,” MIT News, March/April 2006) made me proud of the Institute. Such bold investment into disruptive technologies and pure research can shape an entire field of science, even though the commercial application may take decades to be realized.

The research of Elly Nedivi regarding plasticity in the brain reminded me of watching the DVDs of the Mind and Life XIII conference, which took place in Washington, DC, in November 2005. The conference was focused on clinical aspects of meditation and concentrating exercises. Researchers at the conference showed that accomplished meditators have measurable brain wave output that is drastically different from the average person’s.

I wonder if the Brain and Cognitive Sciences center has tried to do collabo-rative research with meditators, who seem to be just as eager as the scientists to participate in studies to determine the effects of meditation. It would be a gift to society if neuro-science research at MIT could one day create a list of activities or guidelines for healthy brains such as playing music, meditation, physical exercise, or eating specific foods, and know the direct impact of such activities on brain function. I’m glad MIT and its wonderful financiers are jumping in the right direction.
Brok McFerron ‘02
Baltimore, MD

The BCS Back Story
Thank you for a splendid piece on MIT’s recently dedicated Brain and Cognitive Sciences Complex (“Neuroscience Central,” MIT News, March/April 2006). In my opinion, it presents a compelling portrait of the complex in the here and now, and its promise for the future.

But what about the back story of this great achievement? What was the string of events that allowed the department of psychology, founded in 1964 and one of the Institute’s smaller departments, to emerge as “the world’s largest neuroscience center” 41 years later?

As a past chairman of the Corporation’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences Visiting Committee for 17 years, I remember the watershed events as imaginative and daring at the time. Taken together, I think they would present a fascinating story.
Angus MacDonald ‘46
Greenwich, CT

Buddhism on Campus
I enjoyed Jim Rosen’s article on Buddhism at MIT (“How I Found My Buddhist Path…along the Infinite Corridor,” MIT News, March/April 2006).

When I arrived on campus in 1998, I was confused that while there were active Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Bahai and other religious groups, there was not a community of Buddhists. As a young person who grew up in a family of generally nonpracticing Buddhists, I didn’t look into it further.

It wasn’t until I had already graduated and saw the Dalai Lama speak in Kresge during the Mind and Life XI conference Jim mentions in his article, and again in the Fleet Center for a public talk, and yet again in Central Park for another public talk, that I began to take a greater interest in Buddhism. I was proud to see MIT actively participate in the Dalai Lama’s interactions with the scientific community. It certainly added credibility to the conference and increased the general public’s awareness of His Holiness’s growing interest in science.

I wish someone had taken the initiative to bring together the Buddhist community while I was still at MIT. I know I would have benefited from the spiritual practice, and I would have enjoyed attending a sand mandala ceremony.

I am glad that future MIT students, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, will have the opportunity to learn about and participate in the MIT Buddhist community’s activities.
Yolanda Fan ‘02
Baltimore, MD

The Stata Center
Frank Gehry is quoted in the March 18, 2006, issue of the International Herald Tribune as saying that his MIT building looks as if “a party of drunken robots got together to celebrate.”

He got his fee, we got the drunken robots, and, as we used to say when I was a kid in the Bronx, “We wuz took.”
Lester A. Gimpelson ‘57
Director, MIT Club of Belgium
Brussels, Belgium

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