The Mind and its Potential â€" Conference Review

Last Updated Dec 8, 2009 11:41 PM EST

Last week I spent 2.5 days along with at least 3,000 other participants at a conference titled "Mind and its Potential". Topping the list of speakers was the Dalai Lama but there were some other heavy hitters there including Dr. Martin Seligman, Paul Ekman, and the Baroness Susan Greenfield. Over the next couple of weeks I will provide some comments about the more interesting speakers.

The Dalai Lama This was the first time I have ever seen him in person. We had to spend an hour going through security and I must confess that while waiting I started to wonder that if you are firm believer in re-incarnation (which the Dalai Lama freely admitted during his time on stage) then why would you be worried about assassination? However, His Holiness is definitely a shrewdie, driven in part by his history and also by personality. The best story about him that I heard began by noting that the Dalai Lama is one person who is on everyone's list of of the living who they would invite to a dinner party. Accordingly His Holiness was asked whom would he invite to his dinner party? This is a tricky question as the answer would be bound to make few happy and alienate many. His reply was ingenious: "As a monk, I have a light breakfast in the morning and then meditate for three hours. I then have a reasonable lunch but no proper monk eats dinner. Thus I could not invite anyone to dinner."
Dr Charlie Teo It is fair to say this was the hit talk of the conference. Dr Teo began by showing a picture of a stunningly beautiful 25-year-old mother with a three-year-old daughter that he said was taken some three years ago. He then showed a picture of the same woman 13 months ago. She had put on least 70 kilos, was grossly obese and looked miserable because she had developed a dramatic eating disorder. After many false diagnoses including blaming her mother for poor parenting, brain scans revealed a minute tumour about the size of a blackcurrant on the hippocampus.

The next stage was a video of Dr Teo carrying out the operation to remove the tumour. He went though patient's nose! You saw the camera searching for the tumour and then the cutting out and removal of the patient.

Then Dr Teo showed a picture of the patient taken some 9 months after the operation. She had nearly regained her original weight and about 90 percent of her former attractiveness. To say the audience was gobsmacked was an understatement. He received a standing ovation.

However, then he gave the zinger. The next slide showed a brain scan of patient with a benign tumour about the size of a grapefruit in the frontal lobes which were crushed up against the skull. We then saw a video of the person who Dr Teo said was a doctor (GP) still practicing with no emotional or intellectual impairment!!

Dr Teo finished by saying to that to him the brain was an organ of infinite wonder. A tumour the size of a blackcurrant can cause unbelievable changes in personality while another the size of grapefruit has no effect and he had no explanation why this is the case.