Humanists UK celebrates a record-breaking 2023 Blackham Lecture with Professor Roi Cohen Kadosh

7 December, 2023

Humanists UK hosted its best-selling Blackham Lecture of all time this week, starring a leading figure in cognitive neuroscience, Professor Roi Cohen Kadosh. Over 500 households tuned in online, and the lecture was chaired by Humanists UK’s Policy and Campaigns Officer, Laura Newlyn.

Professor Cohen Kadosh underscored the social significance of greater ADHD awareness. He emphasised the critical need for a comprehensive understanding of how ADHD profoundly impacts individuals, and how modern life can exacerbate symptoms, and how it is so often (and sometimes cruelly) misunderstood. He explored the moral implications too, namely: accessibility, affordability, freedom of choice, and the equitable distribution of resources.

By challenging misconceptions, he aimed to create an environment of compassion and support, advocating for a shift in attitudes towards inclusion and understanding.

His talk shed light on his research and clinical trials using new technologies for conditions affecting focus and attention – namely Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), including testing transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) on 3,000 trial participants, as a treatment to improve measures such as learning, maths, executive functions, and attention performance.

This technique applies a low electrical current to the scalp, modulating neural activity and offers a promising alternative to traditional drug-related treatments, said Professor Roi Cohen Kadosh. And, in light of a tragic ADHD medication shortage, where people are ‘rationing’ their medication, evidence suggests that tRNS could offer a promising alternative.

Studies involve assessing the impact of electrical stimulation on specific brain regions – promoting ‘neuron excitability’. Of particular interest was the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into neurotechnology, where AI is employed to determine optimal levels of stimulation for each patient. 

After a lively Q&A session and in a fitting conclusion, Humanists UK was proud to award Professor Roi Cohen Kadosh with its prestigious Blackham Lecture Medal for ‘for his years of work to better understand the factors that can affect learning and cognition, and his efforts to develop safe and sustainable methods for improving learning across diverse populations.’The event was Humanists UK’s second Blackham Lecture looking at the social and ethical dimensions of understanding and better including neurodiverse people, following on from Professor Simon Baron-Cohen’s lecture on autism last year.

Notes

The Blackham Lecture explores an aspect of education, either philosophical, practical, or social, that relates to humanism. The Blackham medallist has made a significant contribution in one of these fields.

The lecture and medal are named for the educationist and activist Harold Blackham, first executive director of Humanists UK and first general secretary of Humanists International. It is held annually, in association with Birmingham Humanists.

The Blackham Lecture is just one of the events that make up the Humanists UK Annual Lecture series, which also comprises The Darwin Day Lecture, The Rosalind Franklin Lecture, The Voltaire Lecture, and the Holyoake Lecture.

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.