Prof Faraneh Vargha-Khadem – What makes us human

The explosion of research in neuroscience and the advent of brain imaging have opened up the age old debate about the relationship between the brain, the mind and the spiritual capacities of humans. A topic that was traditionally addressed through the language of theology and faith has now become the subject of rigorous examination by scientists who strive to find a physical sign for the mind and the spirit in the brain.

In this talk, Faraneh will review some of the principles of the Baha’i Faith on the harmony between science and religion. She will then select excerpts from the Writings that highlight the spiritual nature of humans as distinct from that of animals. Finally, she will use some discoveries from the field of neuroscience to demonstrate how higher cognitive functions of human beings can be viewed as channels through which our spiritual nature can find expression.

FARANEH VARGHA-KHADEM is Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, and Head of Section on Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychiatry at the UCL Institute of Child Health. She is also the clinical- academic lead for the Department of Clinical Neuropsychology at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

Faraneh conducts research on the effects of brain injury on neural circuits serving memory and learning, speech and language, spatial navigation, and movement organization. Together with her colleagues, she has made a number of discoveries, viz the syndrome of developmental amnesia, the neural and behavioural phenotype of FOXP2 gene mutation in humans, and patterns of brain reorganization in children who have undergone neurosurgery for epilepsy. In 2010, Faraneh established the University College London Centre for Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, and is currently serving as its director. Faraneh is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and has received a number of national and international awards including the Jean Louis Signoret Prize for her contributions to understanding the genetics of behaviour.

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