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David Eagleman is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicinemarker, where he directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action and the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He is best known for his work on time perception, synesthesia, and neurolaw. He is also an internationally bestselling fiction writer published in 16 languages.


David Eagleman grew up in New Mexico to a physician father and biology teacher mother. An early experience of falling from a roof raised his interest in understanding the neural basis of time perception. As an undergraduate he majored in British and American Literature at Rice University, with his junior year abroad at Oxford Universitymarker, graduating in 1993. He earned his PhD in Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in 1998, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Salk Institutemarker. He serves on the editorial boards of the scientific journals PLoS One and Journal of Vision. He directs a neuroscience research laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine.

Scientific Specializations

Time perception

Eagleman's scientific work has combined psychophysical, behavioral, and computational approaches to address the relationship between the timing of perception and the timing of neural signals. Areas for which he is known include temporal encoding, time warping, manipulations of the perception of causality, and time perception in high-adrenaline situations. In one experiment, he dropped volunteers from a 150 foot tower to measure time perception as they fell. He writes that his end goal is "to understand how neural signals processed by different brain regions come together for a temporally unified picture of the world."


Synesthesia is an unusual perceptual condition in which stimulation to one sense triggers an involuntary sensation in other senses. Eagleman is the developer of The Synesthesia Battery, a free online test by which people can determine whether they are synesthetic. By this technique he has tested and analyzed thousands of synesthetes, and has written a book on synesthesia with Richard Cytowic, entitled Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia.

Visual illusions

Eagleman has published extensively on what visual illusions tell us about neurobiology, concentrating especially on the flash lag illusion and wagon wheel effect.

Neuroscience and the Law

Neurolaw is an emerging field that determines how modern brain science should affect the way we make laws, punish criminals, and invent new methods for rehabilitation. Eagleman is the founder and director of Baylor College of Medicine's Initiative on Neuroscience and Law.


Eagleman's work of literary fiction, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, was released in February 2009 and quickly hit bestseller status. It has been translated into 16 languages. The Observer wrote that "Sum has the unaccountable, jaw-dropping quality of genius," the Wall Street Journal called Sum "inventive and imaginative" and the Los Angeles Times hailed the book as "teeming, writhing with imagination". In the New York Times Book Review, Alexander McCall Smith described Sum as a "delightful, thought-provoking little collection belonging to that category of strange, unclassifiable books that will haunt the reader long after the last page has been turned. It is full of tangential insights into the human condition and poetic thought experiments... It is also full of touching moments and glorious wit of the sort one only hopes will be in copious supply on the other side." Sum was chosen by Time Magazine for their 2009 Summer Reading list, and selected as Book of the Week by both The Guardian and The Week. On September 10, 2009, Sum was ranked by Amazon as the #2 bestselling book in the United Kingdom.

Discussing both science and literature, Eagleman appears regularly on National Public Radio in America, England and Australia . As opposed to committing to strict atheism or to a particular religious position, Eagleman refers to himself as a Possibilian

Books by David Eagleman

  • Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, Pantheon Press, February 2009. (Fiction)
  • Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia, co-authored with Richard Cytowic, March 2009, MIT Press.
  • Dethronement: The Secret Life of the Unconscious Brain, Pantheon Books, 2010
  • The Fluid Machine: How the Brain Reconfigures Itself of the Fly, Oxford University Press, 2010
  • Cognitive Neuroscience: A Principles Based Approach, textbook co-authored with Jonathan Downar, Oxford University Press, 2011
  • Unsolved Mysteries of the Brain, under review at Oxford University Press. See short version: Ten Unsolved Mysteries of the Brain, cover article in Discover Magazine, August 2007.

External links


  1. Burdick, A (2006). The mind in overdrive. Discover Magazine, 27 (4), 21-22.
  2. Hughes, V (2006). The Most Beautiful Painting You've Ever Heard, Seed Magazine, Dec 13, 2006.
  3. Eagleman DM (2008). Neuroscience and the Law. Houston Lawyer. 16(6): 36-40.
  4. Alexander McCall Smith, Eternal Whimsy: Review of David Eagleman's Sum, New York Times Book Review, June 12, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-06-14.
  5. Geoff Dyer, Do you really want to come back as a horse?: Geoff Dyer is bowled over by a neuroscientist's exploration of the beyond, The Observer, June 7, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-06-12.
  6. David Eagleman's Sum (book review), Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-02-08.
  7. Ripley, Amanda (2008). The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why. Crown Books. Pp 65-67.
  8. Eagleman DM (2009). Brain Time. In What's Next? Dispatches on the Future of Science. Ed: Max Brockman. Vintage Books.
  9. Eagleman DM (2008). Human time perception and its illusions. Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 18(2):131-6.
  10. Choi, CQ. Time doesn’t really freeze when you’re freaked, MSNBC, Dec 11, 2007.
  11. Exploring Time (documentary), Discovery Channel, 2007
  12. Eagleman Lab website, retrieved on 2009-02-08
  13. Why I and O are dull for synaesthetes, New Scientist, 19 Nov, 2007.
  14. Cytowic RE and Eagleman DM (2009). Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  15. The Brain and The Law, Lecture at the Royal Society for the Arts, London, England, April 21, 2009.
  16. Eagleman DM, Correro MA, Singh J (2009). Why neuroscience matters for a rational drug policy, Minnesota Journal of Law, Science and Technology.
  17. C-SPAN radio - Outside the Beltway, May 7, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-02-08.
  18. Stark, A. In Our End Is Our Beginning, Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2009.
  19. TIME Magazine's 2009 Summer Reading list, July 13, 2009.
  20. Nick Lezard, Life after life explained, The Guardian, June 13, 2009.
  21. Book of the week: Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives by David Eagleman, The Week, March 6, 2009.
  22. Stephen Fry tweet sends book's sales rocketing, The Guardian, Sept 11, 2009.
  23. Stephen Fry's Twitter posts on David Eagleman novel sparks 6000% sales spike, The Telegraph, Sept 11, 2009.
  24. NPR: Talk of the Nation, Feb 17, 2009. 'Afterlives'.
  25. NPR: On Point, Feb 27, 2009. 'Envisioning the Afterlife'.
  26. All Things Considered, May 18, 2009. Krulwich On Science
  27. Radiolab, June 2, 2009 Stayin' Alive.
  28. Radiolab, Sept 18, 2009 After Life.
  29. BBC Radio 4 - Front Row with Kirsty Lang, Apr 24, 2009.
  30. Science Weekly - David Eagleman on the Afterlife,, Apr 27, 2009.
  31. The possibility of the afterlife, BBC Radio 4 - Today Programme, Sept 10, 2009.
  32. Late Night Live with Phillip Adams - Tales from the Afterlife, Australian Broadcasting Corp., June 4, 2009.
  33. Mornings with Margaret Throsby, Australian Broadcasting Corp, June 3, 2009.
  34. All in the Mind with Natasha Mitchell, David Eagleman: The afterlife, synesthesia and other tales of the senses, Australian Broadcasting Corp, June 20, 2009.
  35. Choose your afterlife,, Sept 10, 2009.
  36. Houston author stunned by buzz over 'possibilian' theory, Dallas Morning News, June 16, 2009.
  37. Stray questions for David Eagleman, New York Times Paper Cuts, July 10, 2009.

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