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“The Hidden Brain” lecture by Shankar Vedantam benefits hospital in Chennai

By Suzanne Sen
April 2015
“The Hidden Brain” lecture by Shankar Vedantam benefits hospital in Chennai

Shankar Vedantam spoke on his book, The Hidden Brain. (Photo: Suzanne Sen)

People often feel better about going out on the town when part of the money spent is going to a charity. There is no lack of dance and music programs, silent auctions and gala dinners that entice us to pay for tickets and more to benefit various kinds of nonprofit organizations. They may be helping students here attend college or helping underprivileged children in India get basic education; they may help battered women, refugees, religious organizations, or hospitals. One recent fundraiser not only helped an unusual hospital, but enticed with an unusual program.

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Shankar Vedantam stands at the screen, flanked by the Atlanta SNOMTrust volunteer committee of Ani Agnihotri and Madhu Iyer (left) and Ashok Kumar, Krishnadas Pisharodi, and Deepak Raghavan (right)—Dr. Seshu Sarma not pictured. (Photo: Suzanne Sen)

On February 28, 2015 the Atlanta team of supporters of the Sankara Nethralaya OM Trust USA (SNOMTrust) invited potential donors to a luncheon address and book signing by Mr. Shankar Vedantam, the NPR (National Public Radio) science correspondent and author of The Hidden Brain, his book on how the unconscious mind shapes everyday life.

The program at the Palace Restaurant was introduced by Mr. Ashok Kumar, a scientist himself, expert in technologies for wireless and video communications. The SNOMTrust supports Sankara Nethralayam, the premier organization in India providing world-class eye-care without regard to the ability to pay. It is most unusual in finding ways to reach out to the needy: it goes to the villages to screen for cataracts, provides free surgery at the hospital, and even takes the patients home afterwards. Mobile refraction vans provide glasses, saving time as well as money for the villagers. And satellite connections between the mobile vans and the medical center enable this screening and educating of patients for early complications of diabetes like diabetic retinopathy, and help prevent blindness, which is important given the rapidly increasing prevalence of diabetes in India.

Ani Agnihotri explained that donors can contact the trust at snatlanta@yahoo.com to sponsor eye surgeries, helping 3-400 individuals per year. Sankar Vedantam agreed that the organization is run along Gandhian lines, with the spirit of service, and noted that his talk would link to the topic of generosity and altruism.

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Shankar Vedantam graciously signed his book, The Hidden Brain. (Photo: Suzanne Sen)

Mr. Vedantam described how the brain can operate even apart from logic, making you “see” things that you know are not true, in an illusion, for example. When we are not aware of some of the brain’s “mistakes,” an unconscious prejudice or bias can affect our judgements so that we make decisions without realizing it. Examples ran from refugee camps to land use to budgeting. Knowing that it is easier to feel compassion for an individual than for a group helps us understand certain advertising and political campaigns, for example, and how we can be manipulated or, with more awareness, make better decisions.

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Website Bonus Feature

Videos:
How the “Hidden Brain” Shapes Perception https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mpe6luA5Os

How the “Hidden Brain” Affects Persuasion http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9wxpn4nflA


At the Palace Restaurant (below). (Photo: Suzanne Sen)

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