The Biology of Helping: Lessons from Rats

Harvard Alum, Peggy Mason
Harvard Medical Society of Chicago Event

Peggy Mason, AB'82, PhD'87

The Biology of Helping: Lessons from Rats.

We live in an increasingly close but contentious world. Information about what enhances our ability to interact in a meaningful, helpful manner is crucial. As in many areas of science, animal models allow for investigations not otherwise possible and provide valuable insights relevant to humans. The challenge is establishing the credibility and relevance of such animal models. This is especially true in areas as complex as human behavior.

Peggy Mason is a Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Chicago. She received her BA in Biology as well as her PhD in Neuroscience from Harvard. She has been at the University of Chicago since 1992. Her current research is focused on the biological basis of empathy and helping. To do this, she has developed a scientifically accepted rat model that allows her to investigate these issues. Based on her investigations, she has found that rats will help other rats in distress in a socially selective manner. The motivation for rodent helping behavior is under active investigation but appear to fit best under the category of empathy. Professor Mason is working towards an understanding of brain circuits that support positive social behavior.

Professor Mason is an enthusiastic “neuroevangelist”. She is an engaging, articulate lecturer. She has taught undergraduates, graduate students, and medical students. She has won numerous teaching awards. Based on her teaching experience, she has authored a single author textbook designed for medical students (Medical Neurobiology, Oxford University Press, 2011, 2nd edition due out in 2017). Starting in 2014, she has taught a massively open online course (MOOC) on Coursera. The course is entitled Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life. Thus far, this course has attracted more than 100,000 students. As critical and important as is her work, her success can be attributed to her ability to convey her enjoyment in what she does.

DATE:           Tuesday, October 20, 2015
TIME:            5:30 pm Doors Open / Wine & Cheese Reception
                      6:00 pm Program
LOCATION:  McDermott, Will & Emery
                      227 W. Monroe St., 45th Floor, Chicago 60606

NOTE:  You will be required to show a photo ID in order to gain access to the building.  Please arrive before 6:00 pm.  After that time further security measures will be in effect in the building. 
Reservations will be held at the door.

$20 for HCC members and their guests
$10 for Harvard recent grads who are H
CC members                    
$35 for non-members
$20 for Harvard recent grads who are non-members

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