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UCLA Magazine Spring 2005
From Murphy Hall
Living La Vida 'Lorca'
Stress Fractures
What's at Stake
The Importance of Being Elma
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Spring 2005
Stress Fractures

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Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior
The revamped NPI will be renamed the Jane and Terry Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

Intelligence and self-understanding, says Whybrow, can shape neurobiology. Our brains prompt us to seek reward, but the brain doesn’t know what to do in an affluent environment of excessive reward. “The only way to positively resolve our current challenge is through intelligence and empathic understanding, to use the rational part of our brains to think. We learn empathic behavior from each other. We need a public campaign to help people think about how to take care of themselves and those they love.”

In envisioning his ambitious plans to put the Semel Institute on L.A.’s map, Whybrow draws comparisons with Disney Hall in downtown L.A. “Los Angeles has always had a great orchestra, but people didn’t know how great it was until Disney Hall came along,” he says. “The Semel Institute is going to be like that, bringing the public in for a whole new understanding of neuroscience.”

He is hopeful that many members of the Los Angeles community will come to the table to share his vision. “Collectively, we can do some wonderful things for Los Angeles,” he says. “I’m very passionate about the potential we have here.” While our unlimited pursuit of material reward could lure us to self-destruct, “our social intelligence can enable us to do things that biology will not.”

And if we keep that dictum in mind, our uniquely American quest for a dream need not destroy us.

“We must distinguish material pleasure from happiness,” Whybrow says. “I want people to reconsider their dreams. It’s really a matter of thinking about ways in which we can sustain our dreams without the rampant materialism.

“If you get someone to really think about it, usually their true dream is not to have a bigger house or smaller cell phone,” he says. “Our truest dreams are to do something meaningful with our lives.”


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