Andrea Shindler on the History of the Foundation for Human Potential from Brett Belleau on Vimeo.

The Foundation for Human Potential

Established in 1990, the Foundation for Human Potential (FHP) exists to inform and enhance the educational process by sharing positive learning experiences from both, the classroom and conditions of therapy for brain damaged patients. Reflecting upon these observations, FHP seeks to develop, implement and evaluate unique teaching methods in collaboration with neuroscientists end educators.,

With its diverse board of advisors, FHP embraces differences in learning with compassion and understanding.

FHP was founded by Andrea Gellin Shindler. Early in her career, Shindler worked as a research assistant in neurology at Michael Reese Hospital, Chicago. Later, she was a speech pathologist at both the Behavioral Neurology Unit of Harvard Medical School and at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago working with patients who had experienced brain damage. While doing this work, Shindler was particularly inspired by the unexpected artistic abilities displayed by a young woman who had suffered a devastating stroke.

This experience took Shindler into a journey of inquiry and wonder that forced her to review existing limited assumptions about human cognitive abilities. To support this inquiry, Shindler began exploring the revolutionary set of principles presented by Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences, and also began asking questions related to the brain and its compensatory processes that take place after any loss of function.

Shindler’s inquiry brought her to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where through its most supportive president, Tony Jones, directed her to its Department of Art Education and Art Therapy. There, Shindler’s ideas found a voice, and in 1988, The School held the first symposium devoted to the subject of “Art and the Brain”. The success of the “Art and the Brain” Symposium prompted Shindler to establish, in 1991, The Foundation for Human Potential for the purpose of continuing such public education programs to explore issues concerning creativity and learning.


Art and the Brain

The primary goal of this symposium was to stimulate multidisciplinary cooperative research concerning the possible relationship between artistic creativity and neurologic functioning. It brought together professionals preeminent in the fields of neuroscience, neurology, psychiatry, art history, art therapy, art education, neuropsychology, neuropsychiatry, developmental psychology, cultural anthropology, speech pathology, learning disabilities, neurosurgery and education. Lectures were designed for the general public, specialists, and artists. Issues explored were The Definition of Art, Psychological Models of The Brain, The Effect of Specific Brain Disorders upon Creativity, The Relative Contributions of The Right and Left Hemispheres to Artistic Creativity, studies of well known artists with known or suspected neurologic histories and creative development within both the species and the individual. As a complement to the lectures, a related art exhibit took place in The Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room during the first two days of the conference.

Symposium guest faculty: Don Seiden, Sue Taylor, John Zukowsky. Drs. Nancy C. Andreasen, David Bear, Dietrich Blumer, Louis R. Caplan, Antonio R. Damasio, Betty Edwards, Elliot W. Eisner, L.G. Freeman, Howard Gardner, Mary Mathews Gedo, Reinhold Heller, Wendy Heller, Nancy Helm-Estabrooks, Daniel B. Hier, Susan C. Levine, Jerre Levy, Elliott D. Ross, Todd Siler, and Ellen Winner.

Music and the Brain

This symposium was designed to explore the bases of creativity and to stimulate interdisciplinary cooperative research concerning the possible relationship between musical ability and neurologic functioning, particularly at the cognitive level.

Symposium guest faculty: Drs. Tedd Judd, Antonio R. Damasio, Fred Lerdahl, Elliott Ross, Frank Wilson, Peter Ostwald, Jeanne Bamberger, Leon Miller, Mark J. Tramo, Carol Krumhansl, Robert Root-Bernstein, David Epstem, John Brust, and Simha Arom

Sports, Dance, Movement and the Brain

This symposium explored bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, as presented by Professor Howard Gardner in his highly acclaimed book, Frames of Mind:The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

Symposium guest faculty: MacArthur Fellowship recipient dancer-choreographer Jacques d’Amboise, Stuart Pimsler, Jenny C. Seham, Ellen Weinstein, David Dorfman, Anne Clarke, Bonnie Frankel, Joseph H. Mazo. Drs. Cynthia Comella, Antonio R. Damasio, Apostolos P. Georgopoulos, Mark Hallet, Nancy Helm-Estabrooks, James C. Houk, J.A. Scott Kelso, Zafra Lerman, Jerre Levy, Michael M. Merzenich, Karl M. Newell, Elliott Ross, and Sandra Weintraub.

Emotional Intelligence, Education and The Brain

As the fourth in a series of symposia focusing on the relationship among learning, creativity and brain function, Emotional Intelligence, Education and the Brain, this Symposium underscored the importance of considering emotional intelligence in the education of our children and in our daily lives.

Symposium guest faculty: MacArthur Fellowship recipient-choreographer Jacques d’Amboise. Drs. Howard Gardner, Antonio Damasio, Joseph LeDoux, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and Kay Redfield Jamison

Learning and The Brain: Myths and Realities

This symposium focused on the myths and realities associated with learning and the brain.
Symposium guest faculty: Drs. John T. Bruer, Antonio R. Damasio, Alison Gopnik, William T. Greenough, Peter Huttenlocher, Jerre Levy and Charles A. Nelson.

Passion on the Job: The Brain and Innovation in the Workplace

The purpose of this symposium was to introduce unique methods to encourage innovation in the workplace  and thereby, increase productivity. It provided tools to create a business culture and climate that fosters creative thinking and innovation.

Symposium guest faculty: Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, PhD., Martha Curtis, Jacques d’Amboise, Marcia S. Ivins, Dennis Kessler, Kenneth Lehman, Andrew M. Rosenfield, Oliver Sachs, MD., Craig F. Sampson, Benjamin Zander, and Rosamund Zander.

Mental Health and the Brain: Implications for Lifelong Learning

This symposium highlighted the activities of individuals who have risen above the challenges of mental illness to be productive members of society. Having reached extraordinary potential and, thereby, motivated to share their experiences with others. Conference’s participants heard from individuals with bipolar disorder, epilepsy and autism. Their stories were filled with hope to others.

Symposium guest faculty, and presentation topics:

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

The Roots of Mental Illness: Stigma and the Road Towards Destigmatization Frederick K. Goodwin, MD, Former Head, National Institute of Mental Health; Director, Center on Neuroscience, Medical Progress and Society, George Washington University Medical School, Bethesda, MD.

The Creative Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius Nancy Andreasen, MD PhD, Andrew H. Woods Chair of Psychiatry and Director of both the Mental Health Clinical Research Center (MHCRC) and the Psychiatric Iowa Neuro-Imaging Consortium (PINC) at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

The Effects of Early Experience on Brain Development: The Bucharest Early

Intervention Project Charles A. Nelson III, PhD, Richard David Scott Chair in Pediatrics Harvard Medical School; Director of Research, The Developmental Medicine Center of Cognitive Neuroscience, Boston Children’s Hospital.

Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning Roger Weissberg, PhD, Professor of Psychology and Education, University of Illinois at Chicago; President Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

Understanding the Brain’s Role in Mental Illness Joseph LeDoux, PhD, Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science, New York University Center for Neural Science

Stress, Brain and Mental Illness Bruce McEwen, PhD, Head, Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University, New York City.

Enhancing Cognitive and Brain Plasticity of Older Adults Arthur Kramer, PhD, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, the Campus Neuroscience Program, and the Institute of Aviation; full-time faculty member, the Beckman Institute Human Perception and Performance Group.

Societal Progress in Recognizing and Accepting Bipolar Disorder: A Personal Perspective of Living with Recovery Bill Lichtenstein, President Lichtenstein Creative Media (LCM); Senior Producer, The Infinite Mind; West 47th Street, Juveniles in Crisis; Honors: Peabody Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, the United Nations Media Award; Honors for dedication and commitment to mental health: National Mental Health Association, National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI), American Psychiatric Association, and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Public Service Award.

The Art of Recovery: A Personal Perspective Todd and Linda Logan, Todd is a playwright and Board Member of NAMI-CCNS; Linda Logan, PhD is an artist and also editor of the NAI-CCNS newsletter “Newsline“.

Autism Spectrum Disorders Bennett Leventhal, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Illinois Medical Center; Director, The Center for Child Mental Health and Developmental Neuroscience Institute for Juvenile Research

Some Kind of Genius: The Extraordinary Journey of a Musical Savant Tony DeBlois, Pianist featured on “The Today Show” “Entertainment Tonight”, “Journey of the Heart”, in “Extraordinary People” by Darrold Treffert; Graduate, Berkley College of Music; plays 20 instruments; appears in concert halls from Dublin to Taipei to Washington DC’s Kennedy Center Janice DeBlois, mother and incomparable advocate, author with Antonia Felix of Some Kind of Genius: The Extraordinary Journey of Musical Savant, Tony DeBlois.

 A Return from Seizures: The Story of an Astonishing Musician Martha Curtis, Violinist and Lecturer, profiles by “60 Minutes”, “Today Show”, “Fantástico” Globo TV – Brazil.

The Arts and Mental Health Jacques d’Amboise, Founder, National Dance Institute, New York; Former Principal, New York City Ballet; HONORS: The Heinz Award, 2001; Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, The Julliard School, 2000; National Medal of Arts 1998, America’s highest national honor for cultural contribution; The Kennedy Center Honors, 1995; The Award for Distinguished Service to the Art from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, 1993; The MacArthur Fellowship, 1990 and many others. Jacques’ belief: the arts have a unique power to motivate individuals toward excellence.

Exploring Bridges Between Neuroscience and Personal Experience Stephen W. Porges, PhD, Director, Brain-Body Center, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Up coming event

To follow FHP’s previous work of inquiry, and in light of new evidence in brain plasticity, The Foundation for Human Potential has created a new Symposium Program, Inspirations: The Arts, the Brain, and Human Potential, which will take place on Friday, November 8, 2013 at the Chicago Cultural Center. This Symposium will gather experts from the fields of education, psychology, and neuroscience, as well as remarkable artists who through their craft and performances are redefining the word “limitation”. New scientific findings suggest that there is an urgent need for the creation and implementation of new educational models that support the growth and the development of a human being as a whole. It is FHP’s belief that through interdisciplinary work we can create an educational model that inspires our children as well as adults, to learn, therefore maximizing their full potential paving the path that leads to self actualization.


The Foundation For Human Potential wishes to thank and to acknowledge the School of The Art Institute of Chicago for their much appreciated support and contribution to the Foundation. The symposia was held at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago: Art and the Brain (1988); Music and the Brain(1992); Sports, Dance, Movement and the Brain (1995); Emotional Intelligence, Education and The Brain (1997); Learning and The Brain: Myths and Realities (2000); Passion on the Job: The Brain and Innovation in the Workplace (2002).

FHP also wishes to extend its gratitude to Northwestern University Medical School of Chicago, Department of Neurology, for supporting FHP’s last Symposium held at The Thorne Auditorium: Mental Health and The Brain: Implications for Lifelong Learning (2007).