Forum taps mysteries of the human brain

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Kevin Ward experienced a brainstorm after suffering a concussion in a skiing accident on Aspen Mountain on Christmas Day.

Ward, president of the Aspen Strategy Center, was frustrated by the lack of information when he tried to research what he should eat and do to recover from the concussion. As a man of science, he had the ability to understand doctors and scientists, but they had little to offer. He kept hearing, “We’re 10 years from knowing what we should do,” he said.

So Ward immersed himself in everything related to brain research.

“Frankly, we know more about the universe than we do about the brain,” Ward said. “Every other part of the body we know a ton about.”

But the lack of knowledge is poised to change. The Obama administration committed billions of dollars to brain research, and Europe is investing millions of euros in The Human Brain Project.

Ward’s interest in the brain led him to Jeannie Andlinger, an Aspen resident whose son, Ger, suffered two consecutive concussions while playing prep school lacrosse and ended up committing suicide. The incident got Gerry and Jeanne Andlinger committed to supporting traumatic-brain-injury research, diagnosis and treatment.

“Jeanne has been pursuing this doggedly,” Ward said.

He and Andlinger co-founded a forum where Aspen residents and visitors can learn what is being discovered about the brain and where research is leading. A one-day forum featuring several top speakers in brain-related research fields will take place Saturday. The Aspen Brain Lab will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Paepcke Auditorium. The cost for the entire event is $195 and includes lunch.

“It’s kind of everything you wanted to know about the brain,” Ward said.

The day will be divided into four sections. “Creative Brain” will explore whether the human brain is wired for imagination and innovation. Presentations will examine what sets geniuses such as Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein apart and how to realize your creative potential.

“Impaired Brain” looks at prevention of injuries and leading-edge therapies. That track of the forum interests Ward the most. He said numerous athletes suffer concussions in sports and many soldiers fighting in America’s wars suffered concussions and weren’t property diagnosed or treated.

“It’s an invisible injury,” he said.

Ward learned through research that there is a frightening connection between suffering multiple concussions and suicide — for reasons not fully understood.

The third area to be examined will be “Healthy Brain: An Owner’s Manual to Care and Maintenance.”

The final track will be “Future Brain: Extraordinary Ways of Knowing.”

Nearly all the presentations throughout the day will be for 10 or 20 minutes, and they are designed for the general public to understand. In one of his previous roles, Ward helped the Aspen Physics Center devise ways to present information in a way that would attract the general public.

For more on the Aspen Brain Lab presentations, visit


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