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SNF Brain Insight Lecture on ‘Making the Right Moves in a Pandemic’

November 11, 2020

NEW YORK – The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Brain Insight Lecture series, hosted by Columbia University's Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, continued with Making the Right Moves in a Pandemic on November 10. The virtual event, via Zoom featured the speakers Dara Kass, MD, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and Andrés Bendesky, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology at Columbia University's Zuckerman Institute. The discussion was moderated by Natalie Steinemann, PhD, Columbia's Zuckerman Institute.

Rui Costa, director and chief executive officer of Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute and a professor of neuroscience and neurology at Columbia's Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, gave the welcoming remarks to open the virtual event, thanking SNF in particular for its continuing support of this important lecture series.

According to the event’s description, “the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our lives at multiple levels: our health, our daily lives and our communities. Dealing with the pandemic requires us to make effective decisions, communicate rapidly and harness all our resources.

“The COVID-19 pandemic — caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus — has challenged the world with unprecedented public health and economic crises. We need effective strategies to slow the spread of the virus.

“We must be able to rapidly and affordably diagnose the virus because a major reason for the extreme societal and economic disruptions is the lack of appropriate testing technology to easily identify infectious people, especially those who do not have symptoms. We also need effective decision making and communication at both the clinical and community level to mitigate SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools, at work and in the community at large.”

In the virtual SNF Brain Insight Lecture Series event, the discussion featured two experts from Columbia University who are involved in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in very different ways. Dr. Dara Kass reflected on decision making, both clinical and community, from the perspective of an emergency medicine doctor who, herself, was infected with the virus. She also discussed how to communicate rapidly evolving information in an effective manner. Dr. Andrés Bendesky discussed his lab’s work to develop a simple, affordable test that can be performed at home.

The informative presentation was followed by a Q&A session which offered even more insights into the pandemic and the significant advances that have been made so quickly in the study of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Both speakers were hopeful for the future, and as Dr. Kass noted concerning the response to the pandemic by New York in particular, “We had our nationally renowned health centers, clear and consistent messaging from our leadership, and we had a citizenry that felt united around a collective identity, so to me that reaction was very helpful. It made me realize that New Yorkers can do anything and I’d never been more proud to be a New Yorker and I’ve been one my entire life.”

This talk was part of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Brain Insight Lecture series, offered free to the public to enhance understanding of the biology of the mind and the complexity of human behavior. The lectures are hosted by Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute and supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

The lecture was also streamed live online and is available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/zF_219Mv1_0.

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