Trinity Celebrates 25 Years of Neuroscience with ‘The Brain Event’

Two-Day Conference Features Talks by David Tolin and Joseph LeDoux

​Hartford, Connecticut, April 18, 2016 – To honor the 25th anniversary of its Neuroscience Program, Trinity College has hosted a series of special events during the 2015-2016 academic year. The year-long celebration culminated on April 1 and 2 with “The Brain Event,” a two-day conference filled with talks given by world-renowned speakers, presentations of posters by Trinity students, and panel discussions featuring Trinity alumni, moderated by Trinity professors. Saturday’s events began with a welcoming speech given by Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney, who is also a professor of neuroscience at the College.

Charles A. Dana Research Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Sarah Raskin with David Tolin, Ph.D.
Photo by John Atashian​
In a mid-day plenary session, David Tolin, Ph.D., delivered a talk titled “Face Your Fears: Changing Behavior and the Brain with Exposure Therapy.” Tolin is the founder and director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living, an adjunct professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, the author of Face Your Fears, Buried in Treasures, and Treating Trichotillomania, and has been featured on “Hoarders” (A&E), “The OCD Project” (VH1), and “My Shopping Addiction” (Oxygen).

Tolin began his talk by explaining how everyone experiences anxiety. “It’s a human emotion,” he said. “There’s a range, however, from anxious people to an anxiety disorder, which becomes an issue when it hurts their functioning quality of life.” But when you want to face these fears that cause your anxiety, he said, that’s where his therapy comes in.

Tolin explained how therapy lasts longer than the effects of medications, as it actually changes the way that you as a person think, thus conditioning you to no longer be afraid or anxious. The process to achieve this conditioning requires several steps, Tolin said. He showed a clip of a woman he worked with who was afraid of snakes. A one-time therapy session with Tolin helped her get over her fears. He accomplished this by having her first fill out a questionnaire in which she ranked different scenarios interacting with a snake, ranging from hearing the word “snake,” to having a snake on her arm. Then he visually introduced her to a snake so she became comfortable seeing it. Finally, she became comfortable to the point that she was able to hold the snake in her hands.

​Erin Aisenberg '16 and Julia Duggan '16 with
Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D.
Later that evening, the keynote address, “Coming to Terms with Fear and Anxiety,” was delivered by Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D., Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science, Center for Neural Science at New York University. He is also director of the Emotional Brain Institute at NYU and the Nathan Kline Institute, and the author of The Integrated Mind, The Emotional Brain, Synaptic Self, and Anxious. The program also featured the music of LeDoux’s band, the Amygdaloids.

Neuroscience has made a name for itself at Trinity College. In 1996, then Trinity faculty member Priscilla Kehoe co-founded NEURON (Northeast Undergraduate Research Organization for Neuroscience) with professors from Bates College and Connecticut College. From the success of NEURON, Trinity was invited by Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL), an organization dedicated to advancing the study of STEM, to help other small liberal arts colleges set up their own neuroscience programs.

Sarah Raskin, Charles A. Dana Research Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and current director of Trinity’s Neuroscience Program, explained, “Neuroscience was – and still is – among the most interdisciplinary of all majors, blending biology, psychology, chemistry, engineering, and philosophy.”

Andrew Hatch ’17 a neuroscience major from San Diego, California, explained that he enjoys seeing how each professor brings a unique interpretation of how the brain works and what functions are most important. “I like it because it is a fascinating field with constant innovations and so much that has yet to be understood,” Hatch said.

For a complete schedule of events celebrating 25 years of neuroscience at Trinity College, click here.

Written by Ursula Paige Granirer ’17

To view the Flickr set of photos from which this slide show was generated, please click here.