Science 101 for Parents
The Biology of Sensory Perception: How Children Discover the World

Date: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 Place: 1230 York Avenue at 66th Street
Registration: 5:30 p.m.   Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Hall
Program: 6:00 p.m.   The Rockefeller University

From the first moments of life, a child’s rapidly developing brain is shaped by a profusion of sights, sounds, and other sensations.  Sensory perception is the foundation of face recognition, motor coordination, language fluency, and other abilities that children must acquire in order to thrive. For scientists who study the brain, the sensory systems serve as windows to understanding how children learn.

On the evening of Wednesday, February 8, Parents & Science will explore the fundamental biology of perception with renowned sensory neuroscientist Jim Hudspeth as our guide.  Focusing on human vision as well as hearing—his primary field of expertise—Dr. Hudspeth will provide an introduction to the principles of neural signaling and development.  He will explain, using examples familiar to every parent, how information from the outside world is captured by the sensory organs and relayed to the higher centers of the brain.  He will also invite us to consider the brain’s most remarkable feature, its plasticity, which allows continuing adjustments in its operations that permit learning during childhood and throughout life.

Research in Dr. Hudspeth’s laboratory at The Rockefeller University is shedding light on the mechanisms of normal hearing. His investigations are also showing how exposure to loud sounds damages the ear’s sensory receptors at the cellular and molecular levels. This work is particularly timely in light of recent reports that American teenagers are now experiencing much higher rates of hearing impairment than young people in the 1980s and 1990s. Current research in the Hudspeth laboratory is aimed at identifying and controlling stem cells that can regenerate the ear’s sensory receptors.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and an Investigator of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Dr. Hudspeth directs the F. M. Kirby Center for Sensory Neuroscience, a consortium of Rockefeller University laboratories dedicated to research on sensory systems and the disorders that affect vision, hearing, balance, or the other senses. He has been recognized as an outstanding teacher by his colleagues at Rockefeller, Caltech, and other institutions where he has conducted research.

To RSVP or for more information, please contact Erika Layfield at (212) 327-7434 or

Richard Lifton, M.D., Ph.D.
The Rockefeller University

Parents & Science
Faculty Advisor

Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D.
Alfred E. Mirsky Professor
Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch
Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology

Parents & Science Leadership


Daniella Lipper Coules
Talbott Simonds

Steering Committee

Rebecca Anikstein
John Bernstein
Charles W. Caulkins
Karen de Saint Phalle
Blair Pillsbury Enders
Wendy Ettinger
Kathy Heinzelman
Tania Neild, Ph.D.
Ilona Nemeth
Marean Pompidou
Courtney Smith Rae
Loli Echavarria Roosevelt
Kimberly Kravis Schulhof
Roxy Zajac

Scientific Advisory Council

Evelyn Attia, M.D.
BJ Casey, Ph.D.
Myron Hofer, M.D.
Ilene Sackler Lefcourt
Margaret McCarthy, Ph.D.
Richard Nisbett, Ph.D.
Michael Thompson, Ph.D.

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