The Secrets of Sleep: Science and Philosophy

We begin our new Brain and Mind series by looking at how sleep affects brain function and how lack of sleep can influence the mind, as in the case of philosopher Emil Cioran, an insomniac.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


June 05, 2010 from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-08:00)

Sleep is essential—try just to go without it for a while. But few understand what sleep really is and how it works at a physiological level. To understand what happens when we sleep and why it is so crucial, swissnex San Francisco invites Swiss sleep scientist Mehdi Tafti to present the state of sleep research today.

Looking at sleep through the lens of history and philosophy, Willis Regier, Director of the University of Illinois Press, discusses how individual differences in sleep habits may modify the way we see fundamental questions. According to Regier, philosophy has a longstanding quarrel with sleep and vice versa. Case in point: philosopher E. M. Cioran, an insomniac who’s lack of z’s may have dramatically influenced his vision of the world—and animosity—for the philosophical establishment.


6:30 pm  doors open
7:00 pm  presentations and Q&A
8:00 pm  reception and networking
9:30 pm  doors close


Mehdi Tafti

Mehdi Tafti received his Ph.D. from the University of Montpellier, France, in 1991 after completing his doctoral thesis on sleep regulation in human narcolepsy. He was a research associate in the Department of Psychiatry and Biological Sciences at Stanford University and worked with Dr. E. Mignot and W.C. Dement. In 1995, he moved to the Department of Psychiatry in Geneva, where he established the first laboratory dedicated to the molecular genetics of sleep and sleep disorders. He joined the Center for Integrative Genomics in 2004, where he is Professor of Behavioral Genetics.


Willis G. Regier

Willis Regier is the director of the University of Illinois Press. He is author of Book of the Sphinx (2004), In Praise of Flattery (2007), and Quotology (forthcoming this October). As a publisher, he has released Jacques Derrida’s Glas and Cinders, Emmanuel Levinas’s Humanism of the Other, Unforeseen History, and Hannah Arendt’s Rahel Varnhagen.



Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos