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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
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
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.”