David Eagleman

David Eagleman
David Eagleman

Born April 1971
Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.
Nationality American
Fields Neuroscience, Writing
Institutions Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University
Alma mater Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine, Salk Institute
Known for Time perception, synesthesia, neurolaw, Books: Sum, Incognito
Notable awards Guggenheim Fellow

David Eagleman (born April 1971) is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, where he directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action and the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He is best known for his work on time perception,[1] synesthesia,[2] and neurolaw.[3] He is also a Guggenheim Fellow and a New York Times bestselling author published in 23 languages.[4][5][6][7]



David Eagleman was born April 1971 in New Mexico to a physician father and biology teacher mother. An early experience of falling from a roof raised his interest in understanding the neural basis of time perception.[8][9] He attended the Albuquerque Academy for high school. As an undergraduate at Rice University, he majored in British and American Literature. He spent his junior year abroad at Oxford University and graduated from Rice in 1993.[10] He earned his Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in 1998, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute. He directs a neuroscience research laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine. He serves on the editorial boards of the scientific journals PLoS One and Journal of Vision. Eagleman sits on boards of several arts organizations and is the youngest member of the Board of Directors of the Long Now Foundation. He is a Guggenheim Fellow,[11] a Next Generation Texas Fellow,[12] a Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, a council member on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Brain & Cognitive Sciences, and was recently voted one of Houston's Most Stylish men.[13]

Eagleman's science and writing have been profiled in such magazines as the New Yorker,[1] Texas Monthly, and Texas Observer,[14] and on such television programs as The Colbert Report[15] and Nova Science Now.[16]

Scientific Specializations

Time perception

Eagleman's scientific work combines psychophysical, behavioral, and computational approaches to address the relationship between the timing of perception and the timing of neural signals.[17][18][19] Areas for which he is known include temporal encoding, time warping, manipulations of the perception of causality, and time perception in high-adrenaline situations. In one experiment, he dropped himself and other volunteers from a 150 foot tower to measure time perception as they fell.[20][21] He writes that his long-range goal is "to understand how neural signals processed by different brain regions come together for a temporally unified picture of the world."[22]


Synesthesia is an unusual perceptual condition in which stimulation to one sense triggers an involuntary sensation in other senses. Eagleman is the developer of The Synesthesia Battery, a free online test by which people can determine whether they are synesthetic. By this technique he has tested and analyzed thousands of synesthetes,[23] and has written a book on synesthesia with Richard Cytowic, entitled Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia.[2]

Visual illusions

Eagleman has published extensively on what visual illusions tell us about neurobiology, concentrating especially on the flash lag illusion and wagon wheel effect.

Neuroscience and the Law

Neurolaw is an emerging field that determines how modern brain science should affect the way we make laws, punish criminals, and invent new methods for rehabilitation.[3][24][25] Eagleman is the founder and director of Baylor College of Medicine's Initiative on Neuroscience and Law.[26]



Eagleman's work of literary fiction, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, is an international bestseller published in 23 languages. The Observer wrote that "Sum has the unaccountable, jaw-dropping quality of genius,"[6] The Wall Street Journal called Sum "inventive and imaginative"[27] and the Los Angeles Times hailed the book as "teeming, writhing with imagination".[7] In the New York Times Book Review, Alexander McCall Smith described Sum as a "delightful, thought-provoking little collection belonging to that category of strange, unclassifiable books that will haunt the reader long after the last page has been turned. It is full of tangential insights into the human condition and poetic thought experiments... It is also full of touching moments and glorious wit of the sort one only hopes will be in copious supply on the other side."[5] Sum was chosen by Time Magazine for their 2009 Summer Reading list,[28] and selected as Book of the Week by both The Guardian[29] and The Week.[30] In September 2009, Sum was ranked by Amazon as the #2 bestselling book in the United Kingdom.[31][32] Sum was named a Book of the Year by Barnes and Noble, The Chicago Tribune, The Guardian, and The Scotsman.

Why the Net Matters

In 2010 Eagleman published Why the Net Matters (Canongate Books), in which he argued that the advent of the internet mitigates some of the traditional existential threats to civilizations.[33] In keeping with the book's theme of the dematerialization of physical goods, he chose to publish the manuscript as an app for the iPad rather than a physical book. The New York Times Magazine described Why the Net Matters as a "superbook", referring to "books with so much functionality that they’re sold as apps.".[34] Stewart Brand described Why the Net Matters as a "breakthrough work". The project was longlisted for the 2011 Publishing Innovation Award by Digital Book World.[35] Eagleman's talk on the topic, entitled "Six Easy Ways to Avert the Collapse of Civilization", was voted the #8 Technology talk of 2010 by Fora.tv.


Eagleman's science book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain is a New York Times bestseller.[4] Incognito has been reviewed as "appealing and persuasive" by the Wall Street Journal[36] and "a shining example of lucid and easy-to-grasp science writing" by The Independent.[37] A starred review from Kirkus described it as "a book that will leave you looking at yourself--and the world--differently."[38]

Other writing

Eagleman has written for The New York Times,[39] Discover Magazine,[40] Slate Magazine,[41] The Atlantic,[3] Wired,[42] and New Scientist.[43] Discussing both science and literature, Eagleman appears regularly on National Public Radio in America,[44][45][46][47][48] England[49][50][51][52] and Australia.[53][54][55] As opposed to committing to strict atheism or to a particular religious position, Eagleman refers to himself as a Possibilian.[56][57][58][59]

Books by David Eagleman

External links


  1. ^ a b David Eagleman and the Mysteries of the Brain, The New Yorker, Apr 25, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Cytowic RE and Eagleman DM (2009). Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  3. ^ a b c The Brain on Trial, David Eagleman, The Atlantic, July 2011
  4. ^ a b Inside the List, New York Times, June 10, 2011
  5. ^ a b Alexander McCall Smith, Eternal Whimsy: Review of David Eagleman's Sum, New York Times Book Review, June 12, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-06-14.
  6. ^ a b Geoff Dyer, Do you really want to come back as a horse?: Geoff Dyer is bowled over by a neuroscientist's exploration of the beyond, The Observer, June 7, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-06-12.
  7. ^ a b David Eagleman's Sum (book review), Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-02-08.
  8. ^ Radiolab: Falling, September 2010.
  9. ^ Ripley, Amanda (2008). The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why. Crown Books. Pp 65-67.
  10. ^ "Association of Rice Alumni". Rice.edu. http://alumni.rice.edu/alc2008/bios.html. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  11. ^ Guggenheim Fellowship Awards 2011
  12. ^ The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law Next Generation Project Texas Fellows, retrieved on Sep 5, 2011
  13. ^ Houston Magazine's Men of Style 2011
  14. ^ The Soul Seeker: A neuroscientist's search for the human essence, Texas Observer, May 28, 2010.
  15. ^ Colbert Report: David Eagleman, Aired July 21, 2011.
  16. ^ Profile: David Eagleman, Nova Science Now, Aired Feb 2, 2011.
  17. ^ Eagleman DM (2009). Brain Time. In What's Next? Dispatches on the Future of Science. Ed: Max Brockman. Vintage Books.
  18. ^ Burdick, A (2006). The mind in overdrive. Discover Magazine, 27 (4), 21-22.
  19. ^ Eagleman DM (2008). Human time perception and its illusions. Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 18(2):131-6.
  20. ^ Choi, CQ. Time doesn’t really freeze when you’re freaked, MSNBC, Dec 11, 2007.
  21. ^ Exploring Time (documentary), Discovery Channel, 2007
  22. ^ Eagleman Lab website, retrieved on 2009-02-08
  23. ^ Why I and O are dull for synaesthetes, New Scientist, 19 Nov, 2007.
  24. ^ The Brain and The Law, Lecture at the Royal Society for the Arts, London, England, April 21, 2009.
  25. ^ Eagleman DM, Correro MA, Singh J (2009). "Why Neuroscience Matters For a Rational Drug Policy"PDF (125 KB), Minnesota Journal of Law, Science and Technology.
  26. ^ C-SPAN radio - Outside the Beltway, May 7, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-02-08.
  27. ^ Stark, A. In Our End Is Our Beginning, Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2009.
  28. ^ TIME Magazine's 2009 Summer Reading list, July 13, 2009.
  29. ^ Nick Lezard, Life after life explained, The Guardian, June 13, 2009.
  30. ^ Book of the week: Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives by David Eagleman, The Week, March 6, 2009.
  31. ^ Stephen Fry tweet sends book's sales rocketing, The Guardian, Sept 11, 2009.
  32. ^ Stephen Fry's Twitter posts on David Eagleman novel sparks 6000% sales spike, The Telegraph, Sept 11, 2009.
  33. ^ A new species of book, BBC Radio 4, Today Programme, Dec 13, 2010
  34. ^ Watch Me, Read Me, New York Times Magazine, Jan 16, 2011
  35. ^ DBW Innovation Awards longlist, retrieved Jan 16, 2011.
  36. ^ The Stranger Within, Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2011
  37. ^ Incognito review, The Independent, Apr 17, 2011
  38. ^ Kirkus Reviews - Incognito, Apr 15, 2011.
  39. ^ Eagleman DM (2009). America on Deadline, New York Times, Dec 3, 2009
  40. ^ Eagleman (2007). 10 Unsolved Mysteries Of The Brain, Discover Magazine, Aug 2007.
  41. ^ Eagleman (2010). An ode to my matriarchs, every last one, Slate Magazine, May 2010.
  42. ^ "Apocalyse? No. How the internet will save civilization.", WiredUK, Nov 2010.
  43. ^ Eagleman DM (2009). Time isn't what it used to be, New Scientist, 15 Oct, 2009.
  44. ^ NPR: Talk of the Nation, Feb 17, 2009. 'Afterlives'.
  45. ^ NPR: On Point, Feb 27, 2009. 'Envisioning the Afterlife'.
  46. ^ All Things Considered, May 18, 2009. Krulwich On Science
  47. ^ Radiolab, June 2, 2009 Stayin' Alive.
  48. ^ Radiolab, Sept 18, 2009 After Life.
  49. ^ BBC Radio 4 - Front Row with Kirsty Lang, Apr 24, 2009.
  50. ^ Science Weekly - David Eagleman on the Afterlife, Guardian.co.uk, Apr 27, 2009.
  51. ^ The possibility of the afterlife, BBC Radio 4 - Today Programme, Sept 10, 2009.
  52. ^ The Interview: Guest David Eagleman, BBC World Service, Dec 6, 2009.
  53. ^ Late Night Live with Phillip Adams - Tales from the Afterlife, Australian Broadcasting Corp., June 4, 2009.
  54. ^ Mornings with Margaret Throsby, Australian Broadcasting Corp, June 3, 2009.
  55. ^ All in the Mind with Natasha Mitchell, David Eagleman: The afterlife, synesthesia and other tales of the senses, Australian Broadcasting Corp, June 20, 2009.
  56. ^ Beyond god and atheism: Why I am a possibilian, David Eagleman, New Scientist, Sept 27, 2010.
  57. ^ Choose your afterlife, MSNBC.com, Sept 10, 2009.
  58. ^ Houston author stunned by buzz over 'possibilian' theory, Dallas Morning News, June 16, 2009.
  59. ^ Stray questions for David Eagleman, New York Times Paper Cuts, July 10, 2009.

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