One of the world’s leaders in computational psychiatry will kick off the upcoming Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture Series at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC in September. 

The public lectures bring innovators and thought leaders in science, medicine, and health from around the globe to the Health Sciences and Technology campus in Roanoke.

Leading the series with a discussion of machine learning and human thought is Read Montague, the Virginia Tech Carilion Vernon Mountcastle Research professor and director of the Center for Human Neuroscience Research at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC.

Montague’s research led to the development of the prediction error reward hypothesis — among the most influential ideas at the basis for human decision-making in health and in neuropsychiatric disorders — and recently to first-of-their-kind observations in the human brain of how the neurochemicals dopamine and serotonin shape people’s perceptions of the world around them. 

He will share details of his data-driven neuroscience applications to machine learning to better identify and treat diseases of the brain at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 28 at the institute.

Montague, who is working with clinicians and research centers worldwide to gather data on brain signaling, is also a professor in the department of physics at Virginia Tech’s College of Science.

Next in the series is J. Marshall Shepherd, who started his career as a meteorologist and became a leading international expert in weather and climate. He is an elected member of three of the nation’s influential scientific academies: the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

How is his work part of a series on health? The World Health Organization recognizes climate change as “the single biggest health threat facing humanity.” Shepherd will address the intersection of climate, risk and perception.

Bookending the series in May 2024 is Rick Woychik, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. The molecular geneticist oversees federal funding for biomedical research related to environmental influences, including climate change, on human health and disease.

Other lectures in the series address Alzheimer’s disease, infant nutrition, dementia, COVID-19 and cardiovascular outcomes, and locomotor learning in children with brain injury.

We look forward to joining with members of the wider community to better understand these exciting new innovations and insights that are germane to health,” said Michael Friedlander, Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology and executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute. “This is an incredible collection of speakers who represent some of the best thinking in science, medicine, and policy in the context of improving health. We are also proud that our own Read Montague is among them, and we look forward to sharing this research with the wider community.” 

The free public lectures are named for Maury Strauss, a Roanoke businessman and longtime community benefactor who recognized the value of welcoming leaders in science, medicine, and health to share their work. The 2023-24 series, which began in 2011, highlights the research institute’s commitment to the community.

The full 2023-24 Maury Strauss Distinguished Public lectures include:

The public is invited to attend the lectures, which begin with a 5 p.m. reception. Presentations begin at 5:30 p.m. in 2 Riverside at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.  All are free, in person, and open to the public. Community attendance is encouraged. To make the lectures accessible to a wider audience, most are streamed live via Zoom and archived.

In addition to the Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lectures, the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute also hosts Pioneers in Biomedical Research Seminars, the Timothy A. Johnson Medical Scholar Lecture Series, as well as other conferences, programs, lectures, and special events.

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