Connectome Update (BSP 103)

Olaf Sporns, PhD (click photo to play mp3)

Olaf Sporns, PhD (click photo to play mp3)

The Human Connectome is a description of the structural connectivity of the human brain, but according to Olaf Sporns, author of Discovering the Human Connectome, this description  must include a description of the brain's dynamic behavior. I first talked with Sporns back in BSP 74, but BSP 103 gave us a chance to talk about recent progress in connectomics.

Sporns sees the study of the brain's connections as fundamental to understanding how the brain works.

"It will allow us to ask new questions that perhaps we couldn’t ask before. It will be a foundational data set for us, just like the genome is. We will not be able to imagine neuroscience going back to a time when we did not have the connectome, but it will not give us all the answers.”

In his first book, Networks of the Brain, Sporns described how Network Theory provides important tools for dealing with the large data sets that are created by studying complex systems like the human brain.  In BSP 103 we discuss both the challenges and the promise of Discovering the Human Connectome

How to get this episode:

  • FREE: audio mp3 (click to stream, right click to download)
  • Buy Transcript for $1.
  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • The most recent 25 episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are still FREE. See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

Sebastian Seung Explores the Brain's Wiring (BSP 85)

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Dr. Sebastian Seung

Dr. Sebastian Seung (MIT) is an ambitious young scientist; his goal is to unravel the entire wiring diagram of the human brain.  Considering that it took over a decade to determine the wiring diagram for the roundworm C elegans, which has a mere 302 neurons, it is clear that scientists can't leap directly to the 80 billion neuron human brain.  Even so, in his new book Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are, Seung makes a very good argument for the value of this long-term project.  In Episode 85 of the Brain Science Podcast I talked with Dr. Seung both about the challenges and potential benefits of this work.

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References and Links:

Send me feedback at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

Brain Networks with Olaf Sporns (BSP 74)

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Olaf Sporns, PhD

Networks of the Brain by Olaf Sporns is an excellent comprehensive introduction to the use of Network Theory to study both the brain and the nervous systems of invertebrates.

In Episode 74 of the Brain Science Podcast, I interviewed Dr. Sporns (Indiana University) about some of the key ideas in his book.  Network Theory is becoming increasingly important as a tool for dealing with the massive amounts of data being generated by current techniques, such as brain imaging.  It is also a valuable tool for dealing with the fact that nervous systems consist of multiple scales (from the molecular level up to billions of neurons), which can not be reduced to a single scale.

While Networks of the Brain will be of greatest interest to those working in neuroscience and to those with a background in fields like engineering, mathematics, and computer science, this interview provides an introduction for listeners of all backgrounds.

 

 

 

 

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REFERENCES:

RELATED EPISODES:

  • BSP 31: Interview with György Buzsáki, author of Rhythms of the Brain.
  • BSP 46: Discussion of Brain Imaging, including Diffusion Imaging.
  • BSP 56: Interview with Dr. Eve Marder about the use of circuit theory in neuroscience.
  • BSP 61: Mapping the Brain (and generating huge amounts of data).

 ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  • The Brain Science Podcast will be returning to a monthly schedule on July 1, 2011.
  • Please join the new Brain Science Podcast Discussion Forum at GoodReads.com.
  • Get show notes automatically via our Newsletter.
  • Dr. Campbell gave a talk in London last month entitled "Why Neuroscience Matters." (Available here.)
  • Dr. Campbell will be a speaker at The Amazing Meeting 9, July 14-17,2011 in Las Vegas, NV.
  • Don't forget to check out the Books and Ideas podcast and SCIENCEPODCASTERS.ORG.
  • The Brain Science Podcast app is available for iPhone, Android, and iPad. If you have purchased the iPhone version, it will now work on your iPad (no additional purchase needed). The iPad is the perfect device for reading episode transcripts, especially if you want to read along as you listen.
  • Send Dr. Campbell email at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

Allan Jones from the Allen Institute for Brain Research (BSP 61)

Allan Jones, PhD

Allan Jones, PhD

Episode 61 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Allan Jones, PhD, the Chief Science Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Research in Seattle, Washington.  The Allen Institute is a non-profit research organization founded by Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) and is best known for its Mouse Brain Map, which is being used by researchers around the world.  The Institute has several other on-going projects including a project to create a map of the human cortex that shows which genes are active in each area.

In this interview we discuss both the mouse brain project and the human cortex project, with an emphasis on the importance of these projects to neuroscience research.  All the maps created by The Allen Institute are freely available on the internet.  Dr. Jones also shares his own story and the challenges and rewards of pursuing a career in the non-profit biotech world.

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SHOW NOTES

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Previous Episodes mentioned in this podcast:

  • BSP 59: Interview with Guy Caldwell, PhD who studies the dopamine neurons in C. elegans.
  • BSP 60: Interview with Stuart Brown, MD about the importance of play.  This is an excellent episode for new listeners.

Announcements:

Send email feedback to Dr. Campbell at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

Review of Year 2 of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 52)

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Brain Science Podcast #52 is our Second Annual Review Episode.  We review some of the highlights from 2008.  I also discuss the various other on-line resources that I have created for listeners.  Then we look ahead to what I have planned for 2009. This episode is aimed at all listeners, including those who are new to the show.

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Highlights from 2008:

Early in the year (#30) I discussed language evolution.  My criticism of Noam Chomsky's claim that human language results from a Universal Grammar Module generated quite a bit of discussion.  My main purpose was to emphasize that current neuroscience does not support this hypothesis.  I discussed Chomsky's work in follow-up interviews with Dr. Michael Arbib (BSP 39) and linguist Alice Gaby (BSP 41).

It is my impression that, at least to some extent, this debate comes back to the age-old "nature versus nurture" controversy, which I discussed more explicitly way back in Episode 4.  The evidence seems to be mounting that human intelligence is a product of  both processes.

There is no doubt that the capacity for language is inherited, but brain plasticity appears to be equally important.  One piece of evidence for this is that the changes in the brain that occur when people learn to read are different between languages like English and German and those like Chinese and Japanese. (Episode 24 and Episode 29)

We had 17 guests on the Brain Science Podcast in 2008, so I can't mention them all here.

  • John Ratey, MD: In Episode 33 we talked about exercise and the brain, while in Episode 45 we talked about ADD.
  • Robert Burton, MD:  In Episode 43 talked about the implications of the discovery that our sense of knowing (feeling certain) is generated by parts of the brain that are outside our conscious control!
  • John Medina, PhD: In Episode 37 we considered the practical implications of neuroscience, such as the importance of getting enough sleep and why true multi-tasking is actually impossible.
  • Dr. Brenda Milner: In Episode 49 this pioneering neuroscientist shared highlights from her long career.

Another highlight was our first live podcast, which was recorded at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia on August 31.

In the fall I returned to the subject of evolution with a three part series on the evolution of the brain.

  • Episode 47, Episode 48, and Episode 51.
  • Episode 51 is an outstanding interview with Dr. Seth Grant in which we discuss the surprising discovery that synapse complexity seems to have evolved BEFORE larger more complex brains.

Online Resources for Listeners:

  • I encouraged listeners to frequent this website and to subscribe to the RSS feed so as to receive information between posts.
  • I encouraged listeners to explored the sidebars and tabs on the website for links to other sites of interest.
  • I reminded listeners that this website includes a complete listing of previous episodes as well as a list of all the guests that have been on the show.
  • It is now possible to support the Brain Science Podcast  via both PayPal and by direct mail.
  • I encouraged listeners to participate in our Discussion Forum and to post pictures to our Flickr Group.
  • I invited listeners to contribute content to the Brain Science Podcast Room on FriendFeed and the new Neuroscience News Network on SocialMedian.
  • I reminded listeners that my personal blog is now at http://gingercampbellmd.com.  This site includes abridged show notes for the Brain Science Podcast as well as the complete show notes for Books and Ideas.
  • Listeners are encouraged to continue to post reviews on iTunes™, Podcast Pickle, Podcast Alley, Digg, and similar sites. All blog posts and tweets are greatly appreciated.

Send email feedback to Ginger Campbell, MD at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com

 

Brain Anatomy: Illustrations for BSP 32

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I have posted  the illustrations I  promised last week when I released Episode 32 of the Brain Science Podcast.  Except for the colored diagram of the lobes of the brain, these illustrations come from Beyond the Zonules of Zinn: A Fantastic Journey Through Your Brainand have been used with the permission of the author, David Bainbridge.

Click here to see thumbnails of all the illustrations, along with the approximate time they were discussed during the episode.  (Note: because of the automatic ad insertion process the times may be off by up to 67 seconds.) http://brainsciencpodcast.wordpress.com/episodes/figures-for-episode-32-a-whirlwind-tour-of-brain-anatomy/

Here is a link to the enhanced version of the podcast, which includes the illustrations but not the captions.  Unfortunately, due to some technical issues with Libsyn's ad-server software, I am currently unable to put the enhanced version into the regular feed.

A review of "The Executive Brain" (BSP 16)

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Brain Science Podcast #16 is a discussion of The Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind (2002), by Elkhonon Goldberg.

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Show Notes

This episode is an introduction to the role of the pre-frontal lobes in decision-making, and the other "executive" functions of our brain.  The functions of the pre-frontal lobes are not only the keys to what makes us human, but also the keys to our individual personality.

In this episode, using Dr. Goldberg's book, we discuss how the frontal lobes relate to the other structures of the brain.  We also, discuss some ideas about why the left and right sides of the brain differ, as well as several important ways in which the cortex, and especially the pre-frontal lobes differ from some of the older parts of the brain.

We discuss briefly the vulnerability of the frontal lobes to damage and disease, and we consider the implications of frontal lobe dysfunction.  Questions are introduced that will be considered in more detail in future podcasts.

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"Why Choose this Book?" with Read Montague (BSP 15)

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Show Notes

 

Episode #15 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Dr. Read Montague of the Baylor School of Medicine.  We discuss his recent book, Why Choose this Book? How we Make Decisions (2006).

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Here are some of the questions we discussed:

  • What is computational neuroscience?
  • What is the computational theory of the mind (CTOM)?
  • How is  the objection that the CTOM doesn't account for meaning answered ?
  • What about choice and responsibility?
  • Is there room for free will in this model?