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Dr. Robert Sapolsky - APA Annual Meeting Keynote Speaker

APA is pleased to announce that Dr. Robert Sapolsky, neuroendocrinology researcher and acclaimed author will deliver the keynote address at the Annual Meeting Closing Session on May 3.

Robert Sapolsky Headshot
“We are biological organisms, but the way all the pieces come together is wildly nonlinear and unpredictable. But it doesn’t mean [these influences] are any less understandable”

Robert M. Sapolsky is the author of several works of nonfiction, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.

The message that Dr. Sapolsky carries about the neuroscientific revolution of our time is both hopeful—promising a new understanding of behavior and more effective tools for treating people with mental illness—and yet also profoundly sobering, challenging our notions about free will.

Sapolsky’s unique perspective on the human condition comes from his more than thirty years spent as both a field primatologist and a laboratory neuroscientist. As a result, he effortlessly moves from discussing pecking orders in primate societies (human and baboon) to explaining the neurochemistry of stress—in ways that even science-phobics readily understand.

In his most recent book Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, he addresses some of life’s headier questions – free will, crime and punishment, and the nature of love. Sapolsky focuses, with passionate interest, on the unique human capacity for cruelty and violence and asserts that human beings are at once the most creatively altruistic creatures and—by far—the most violent.

In an interview with Psychiatric News, Sapolsky explained that neuroscience is increasingly weaving all of these threads together, with results that promise a greater understanding of human behavior and solutions for “bad” behavior. For psychiatrists, the neuroscience revolution stitching together the forces that shape the human organism promises more effective tools and treatments for behavior caused by mental illness.

When asked what he hopes psychiatrists will take away from his lecture, Sapolsky said: “How mechanistic we are, how much we are the outcome of random biological luck, and how much those influences are nonetheless not easily understood in straitjacketed, reductionist ways. We are biological organisms, but the way all the pieces come together is wildly nonlinear and unpredictable. But it doesn’t mean [these influences] are any less understandable. It just means we are going to need radically new tools.”

Closing Session
  • Monday, May 3, 2021
  • 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. EST
  • This plenary session includes a special lecture from Dr. Robert Sapolsky

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Learn more about this year's theme, Finding Equity Through Advances in Mind & Brain in Unsettled Times

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