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Rachel Hanna


For students who are interested in learning about why we do what we do as humans, hearing neuroscientist Dr. Robert Sapolsky speak in the main theater on Thurs. Oct. 12 at 7:00 P.M. would have been enjoyable for them.

Sapolsky is a professor at Stanford University and lectures on biology and neurology. According to Ernie Jones, a Las Positas psychology professor, Sapolsky speaks about “his cutting edge research into the neuroscience of what drives us to be so caring, compassionate, and altruistic and also intolerant, brutal, and violent.”

Sapolsky brought knowledge along with humor to Las Positas students as he devoted one hour to speaking about the human brain, and why we act the way we do in certain situations and in everyday life.

Most people wonder why our behavior can go from good to evil so quickly and vice versa.

“In one setting you could pull a trigger and that’s the most horrendous act imaginable, and in another setting you are heroically, suicidally, drawing fire to save someone else. In one setting you put your hand on someone else’s and it’s deeply compassionate, and in another with the same exact neurotic behavior, and it’s the start of a betrayal,” Sapolsky said.

To understand one’s behavior, every situation is different, which triggers different emotions in our brain. Context is everything.

Along with Sapolsky’s knowledge about biology and neurology, he brought amusement into his speech, which made a comfortable and welcoming setting for LPC students and others who attended this event.

Sapolsky gained laughs from the crowd as he explained that the frontal cortex is what helps us choose to make right decisions, but just as we decide to stray away from the right thing to do, our frontal cortex will be right there to help us. For example, if we decide we are going to lie, hence doing the wrong thing, our frontal cortex will then become more aware of what we need to do to come across as though we aren’t lying.

Students who enjoy studying the brain would have been captured by some of the facts Sapolsky spoke about pertaining to the frontal cortex and the amygdala. Deciphering between doing what is right and wrong is difficult at times, but certain parts of our brains are in charge of our actions and how we respond to things.

“The job of the frontal cortex is to race to the amygdala and say “wait a second, before you pull that trigger, are we sure that’s a handgun? Wait a second, I know you feel like throttling that person, but that’s really not a good idea, so hold on don’t do it, don’t do it, you’re going to regret it,” Sapolsky said.

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