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Trinity Academics Participate in Lecture Series

News feed for Trinity College Dublin.

Dec 23, 2013

Professor of Cognitive Science at the School of Psychology Ruth Byrne and Professor of Comparative Immunology at the School of Biochemistry and Immunology Cliona O'Farrelly participated in the most recent event – a series of inspiring talks by and about Irish people with big and interesting ideas.

Organised by Dublin City Council, the Royal Irish Academy and Science Foundation Ireland, as part of Innovation Dublin, the series features six speakers who have just six minutes to tell the audience what their big idea is without the use of PowerPoint, notes or podiums.

Professor of Cognitive Science at the School of Psychology Ruth Byrne gave a talk entitled The Rational Imagination. Professor Byrne’s research expertise is in the cognitive science of human thinking, including experimental and computational investigations of reasoning and imaginative thought. In her talk she focused on her research into the reasoning errors that can feed into major disasters and the major role that the imagination plays in this process.

Speaking at the event Professor Byrne explained: “Understanding the human mind is the holy grail of cognitive scientists. If you want to understand what makes people tick you need to understand their inner mental lives and of all the achievements of the human mind reasoning seems like the peak. Without reason we wouldn’t have any social regulation, any laws, any science or technology.”

“When people try to reason they are not using logic they are trying to imagine alternative possibilities. If you want to be really good at reasoning you have to be especially good at imagining alternatives. Reasoning is the star of the human mind's show but imagination and creativity doesn’t just put in an occasional appearance, it’s there all the time. The imagination is behind the scenes and in fact it is directing the show. The imagination isn’t an optional extra, something that evolved late just to entertain us. The imagination is the very architecture of the human mind. It is what makes possible all of the rest of our mental life.”


Professor of Comparative Immunology at the School of Biochemistry and Immunology Cliona O'Farrelly gave a talk on Love Your Bugs. Professor O’Farrelly’s research focuses on identifying species-specific and individual-specific differences in immune genes and molecules, in order to develop target-directed therapies. In her talk she explained current research into how good bugs could be used to help tackle bovine infertility among the national dairy herd.

Speaking at the event, Professor O’Farrelly explained: “Towards the end of the last century a big drive was made to change our national dairy herd to Holstein Friesians because they are fantastic milk producers and these magnificent animals have quadrupled milk production in this country but it turns out that they have a surprisingly high level of infertility. We think that immunology might help solve this problem.”   

“We know that our immune systems help build and rebuild our bodies as well as protecting against pathogens and that this process is particularly important during and after pregnancy. We think that good bugs are important triggers of this immune body-building activity especially in the uterus.”



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| | Last updated: December 19, 2013