Free Think University

View Our Newsroom

TED Talks About Breakthroughs in Neuroscience Featured in New Free Think University Course

Industry: Education

MIT Researchers and Others Challenge Students with the Question “Are You Using Your Brain?”

Washington D.C. (PRUnderground) February 5th, 2014

Our brains are amazing.  The more we study them, the more mysterious they seem to become due to their almost unfathomable complexity.  But that should not discourage us from learning all we can about the minds we use (or might use) to become Free Thinkers.

Free Think University’s new course experience, “Are You Using Your Brain?” asks not just about how the brain biologically regulates the body, but asks beyond that questions about perception, creativity, and thought itself.

Through a series of TED Talks, the course highlights fascinating insights about the mind from Autodesk Fellow Tom Wujec, Omneuron founder Christopher deCharms, Al Seckel, a member of the Edge Foundation, Ed Boyden and Pawan Sinha, researchers at MIT, and neuroscientist Molly Crockett, who is a researcher under the Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Information designer Tom Wujec asks, “How can we best engage our brains to help us better understand big ideas?” He says, “Cognitive psychologists now tell us that the brain doesn’t actually see the world as it is, but instead creates a series of mental models through a collection of ‘Ah ha!’ moments or moments of discovery through varying processing.”

Neuroscientist and inventor Christopher deCharms demonstrates a new way to use fMRI to show brain activity – thoughts, emotions, pain while it is happening. In other words, you can actually see how you feel. He observes: “There have been three ways to try to impact the brain – the therapist couch, pills, and the knife. This is a fourth alternative that you are soon going to have.”

MIT Researcher Ed Boyden talks in the course about how certain neurons in the brain can be activated or deactivated to control the brain. The engineering of these neurons has been used to cure blindness in mice, and could point the way to cures for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, or to ways of connecting to the brain via prosthetics. Hey says, “Our hope is that by figuring out brain circuits at a level of abstraction that lets us repair them and engineer them, we can take some of these retractable disorders…none of which have been cured in the 21sth century and make them history.”

This course experience from Free Think University presents cutting edge breakthroughs relating to how we understand the brain, and yet much of what we think about the brain is still unsubstantiated by good scientific experimentation and analysis. Neuroscientist Molly Crockett shares that neuroscience is turning up more and more in marketing, and we must be wary about claims made referencing scientific studies.

“Are You Using Your Brain?” closes with cautions about reducing the complexity of the brain into simple ideas that we can understand. It challenges the reader to remember that while we can study what the brain is made of, we must consider that this may be quite different from what the brain actually is.

Free Think University co-founder Jim Van Eerden noted in an announcement to students that “The complexity of the mind is an intriguing mystery. The issue at stake in this course is apathy: do we want to know more about our brains so that we can learn to think more clearly and constructively?”

To view the full Free Think University course, click here.  For additional media information, please contact

About Free Think University

Free Think University is where more than 30,000 free-thinking students have joined what Mortimer Adler called “The Great Conversation” – the dialogue of the ages about The Big Questions of our day, and where they participate in one of the fastest-growing independent scholarship funds in America. Submit questions for future courses to For more information go to or follow @freethinku.

Become a Fan

Press Contact

Jim Van Eerden

Image Gallery