U.S. researcher promoting neuroscience as new Taiwan citizen

Professor Timothy Lane. (Photo courtesy of CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Timothy Lane (藍亭), a neuroscience researcher from the United States who recently gained Taiwan citizenship, said that he hopes his field of study can flourish in Taiwan and eventually become a source of pride for the country.

Lane, the founder of the Brain and Consciousness Research Center at Taipei Medical University (TMU), is one of eight foreign professionals who were recently granted Taiwan citizenship without having to give up their own.

In an interview with CNA, Lane said he first visited Taiwan in the 1980s to find participants in a study for his PhD thesis.

Lane said he wanted to study the brainwaves of people who believed that an external force was speaking through them, in order to prove a theory on consciousness proposed by Princeton University professor Julian Jaynes.

At a friend’s suggestion, Lane said, he decided to come to Taiwan to study jitongs — spirit mediums who claim to be possessed by deities.

When he first arrived in Taiwan, he said, he faced many challenges such as the language barrier and obtaining the expensive equipment needed for his research. He said he also realized that not all jitongs were open to working with him.

“It was very difficult to persuade the jitongs to participate in these experiments, so I had to find those who were younger, more open, and curious about what was happening to them,” Lane said.

Professor Timothy Lane (left)./Photo courtesy of CNA

After a long research process, Lane eventually finished his thesis and obtained his PhD in the U.S. In the 1990s, he decided to return to Taiwan to teach, and has remained since then, he said.

Over the years, Lane said, he has had the valuable experience of witnessing Taiwan’s transformation into a democratic country where people enjoy freedom of speech and value human rights.

As a professor at TMU, Lane said, he hopes to continue his research and encourage more young people to join the field, with the goal of making neuroscience a point of pride for Taiwan.

Since December 2016, when a law revision was passed in Taiwan to allow dual nationality in special cases, 141 foreign nationals have gained Republic of China (Taiwan) citizenship without relinquishing their own, according to the Ministry of the Interior.