Beckman-Brown Lecture on Interdisciplinary Science

Photo collage of Arnold Beckman and Ted Brown overlaid on the Beckman Institute gates.

The Annual Beckman-Brown Lecture on Interdisciplinary Science honors Dr. Arnold O. Beckman, the founder of the Institute, and Dr. Theodore “Ted” Brown, the founding director. The series is funded by a gift from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.

Fall 2019 Lecture

Portrait of Yaakov Stern

"Cognitive Reserve: An Evolving Concept"
Professor Yaakov Stern, Columbia University

Beckman Institute Auditorium
Reception to follow.


Research indicates that lifestyle factors such as achieving educational and work milestones, participating in leisure and social activities, as well as IQ are all associated with reduced risk of developing dementia. Many of these lifestyle factors have also been associated with lower rates of cognitive decline in normal aging, and have a similar influence on other brain diseases. The cognitive reserve hypothesis argues that individual differences in the flexibility and adaptability of brain networks may allow some people to cope better with age- or dementia-related brain changes than others. This is in contrast to the concept of brain reserve, which argues that the brain’s anatomy can guard against dementia and related conditions. Recent evidence also supports the idea that specific genetic and lifestyle factors may help preserve a healthy brain or enhance brain reserve, a process that has been called brain maintenance. This talk will review these theoretical concepts, and current efforts intended to promote collaboration on reserve-related research.


Yaakov Stern is professor of neuropsychology in the Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry, as well as the Taub Institute for the Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain, at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Division of the Department of Neurology. Stern earned his BA in psychology from Touro College and his PhD from the Experimental Cognition program of City University of New York.

Stern’s research focuses on cognition in normal aging and in diseases of aging, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. One strong focus of his current research program is investigating the neural basis of cognitive reserve. Stern’s work was crucial to identifying and clarifying the nature of cognitive reserve, which is a theory that explains individual differences in the susceptibility to age-and disease-related brain changes.

Stern also leads a large scale imaging study to identify unique neural networks underlying the major cognitive abilities affected by aging, and another long-term study that models the natural history of Alzheimer’s disease.

Previous Beckman-Brown Lectures

"Predictions: Understanding Global Warming"
Dr. Michael Mann, director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center
October 15, 2018

"Surface Glycans as Cellular IDs"
Dr. Laura Kiessling
Department of Chemistry, MIT
November 3, 2017

"Enzymes by Evolution: Expanding the Scope of Biocatalysis"
Dr. Frances Arnold
Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry and director of the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center at California Institute of Technology
September 19, 2016