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Brain Games: Meet the Experts


Apollo Robbins

Follow Apollo on Twitter: @ApolloRobbins
Apollo first made national news as the man who pick-pocketed the Secret Service as he entertained former president Jimmy Carter, "relieving them of their watches, wallets and confidential itinerary." He is a unique blend of entertainer, speaker, and consultant, who uses his expertise in pick-pocketing and sleight-of-hand to demonstrate proximity manipulation, diversion techniques, and attention control. Apollo is known as the “Gentleman Thief” for his ability to work with his participants in a non-invasive way while providing a behind-the-scenes view for the audience without any embarrassment. His trademark is in his ability to warn his participant that he is about to steal from them, before he does it right under their nose. Some of his celebrity engagements have included being hired by the Phoenix Sun to swipe Charles Barkley’s personal items, by the producers of “Alias” to “borrow” Jennifer Garner’s engagement ring, and by Tiffany & Co. to “plant” a very expensive collection on their top VIPs as a gimmick.

Lera Boroditsky

Follow Lera on Twitter: @leraboroditsky
An Assistant Professor of psychology, neuroscience, and symbolic systems at Stanford University, Dr. Boroditsky's interests lie primarily in the relationships between mind, world, and language. After earning her PhD in Cognitive Psychology at Stanford University in 2001, she served on the faculty in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before returning to Stanford. Her research focuses on “the nature of mental representation, and how knowledge emerges out of the interactions between the mind, world, and language." Lera is also very interested in investigating the ways in which culture and language shape our thoughts. Her laboratory has collected data from Indonesia, Chile, Turkey, and Aboriginal Australia. She also runs a satellite laboratory in Jakarta, Indonesia. Her research has attracted a lot of attention and has been widely featured in the media. She has earned several awards, including the National Science Foundation CAREER award and the Searle Scholars award.

Dan Simons

Follow Dan on Twitter: @profsimons
Dan is a prominent experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and Professor in the Department of Psychology at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois. His undergraduate and graduate level courses cover the field of visual cognition and psychology. His research explores the limits of our minds, and why we are so often unaware of our limits. Beyond his academic work, he is a writer and keynote speaker. In 2010, he published his first book, New York Times best-seller The Invisible Gorilla, that was later translated into over a dozen languages. He is also the founder and president of Viscog Productions, “a company that produces and distributes DVD presentation tools that aid teachers and speakers in illustrating the limits of visual perception and attention.”

Ron White

Follow Ron on Twitter: @memorytraining
Ron White is a two-time national memory champion, having won the USA Memory Championship in 2009 and 2010. He holds the record for the fastest to memorize a deck of shuffled cards in only 1 minute and 27 seconds. Ron lectures all over the world about how to increase one's memory. In his talks, Ron shares that he is no different from anyone, and that everyone can learn how to improve their memory. He has appeared on Good Morning America, Martha Stewart Show, FOX and Friends, the CBS Evening News, CBS Early Show, FOX, NBC and newspapers across the country from the New York Post to the Dallas Morning News. He has been the guest on over 200 radio programs and is the author of over a dozen CD albums and books. Ron joined the US Navy as a reservist after September 11th and completed a tour in Afghanistan in 2007.

Johnelle McDermott
Johnelle McDermott

I have to tell all you neuropsychs, Ph.D experts & other series experts - this show is excellent! Like so many other people in the world, I am a traumatic brain injury survivor. I have fought super hard to recover enough that if people didn't know I suffered a severe TBI a few years ago, they would never guess it. And I just happened to come accross this series one evening and found it thoroughly inspiring. It reminds the brain injured survivors that we truly are no different than uninjured people - everyone suffers the same cognitive/mental deficits...just to differing levels. A TBI person's threshold for brain activities requiring perception, memory, etc. are just set much lower than an uninjured person. It's inspiring to know that everyone suffers memory problems, attention lapses, and misperception... and the fact that the brain does it for a reason is even better to know! TBI folk just happen to have it happen a little more than most.

Additionally, with the series' short participatory brain exercises, a person can more explicitly define an existing deficit he or she may have. For instance, I wasn't fooled by any of the visual brain games that altered light gradiants or used other movements to misdirect. I didn't even 'see' the pictures as were being portrayed. I felt all special not to fall for the tricks...until the show explained that the brain is 'programmed' to perceive such motion and/or objects. Basically, I became aware that: while my medical records don't state my injury having injured any of the visual cortex or occipital lobe, I apparently have some minimal damage to areas within the posterior brain - must be since my injury was diffuse axonal in the cerebrum all the way down between the two hemispheres. Anyway, now I am aware of my limited visual perception and can train to improve it.

In fact, I recommend donating a few of the series episodes in hospitals dealing heavily in brain care - The Rehab Inst. of Chicago, Kessler Inst. of Rehab, or University of Washington Hosp., etc. This series may assist loved ones in understanding what the TBI survivor may experience. Furthermore, it may help the patient to better understand what is happening to them cognitively.

The series explains the topics so that a non-neuroscientist can understand the stuff; afterall, we aren 't all MDs. I look forward to other series discussing this fascinating organ of the body!