Empathy, Neurology & The Creative Brain

A Lecture by Alice Flaherty, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Flaherty is a neurologist and professor at Harvard Medical School, who treats patients with movement, mood and psychogenic disorders. In this lecture she speaks about the neurological function of both creativity and empathy as they pertain to mental illness and health. She offers a cogent exploration of the impact of creativity to both support and obstruct well being.  She explores the impact of mental illness on creativity through a look at both visual and literary artists, as well as through her own experience with trauma and mental illness. Dr. Flaherty notes the origins of the concept of empathy as a term in the arts as well as in connection with illness and health. Through her own clinical vignettes as well as references to contemporary art, she examines the interaction between empathy and art. She helps the listener to understand the role of empathy in promoting mental health, as well as the ways in which it can interfere with psychological well being.

From Eleanor Irwin, PhD, RDT, TEP:
“In this video, Alice Flaherty, a Harvard neurologist and psychiatrist, delivers a wide-ranging talk in which she covers multiple topics, including the mind/body problem; the biology of creativity; creativity and empathy; medications that promote or inhibit creativity; mirror neurons as reflected in cognition and empathy; and (tongue in cheek) the art of being a patient.  Using her own personal experience as a guide, she discusses the advantages and disadvantages of empathy, and tapping into literature and history, she discusses the ages-old controversy between creativity and mental illness; and calls creativity the highest form of human achievement.” 

Total Running Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes, 46 seconds



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