"Neurobiology for Dummies" (BSP 110)

 Frank Amthor, PhD: Click image to play BSP 110

Frank Amthor, PhD: Click image to play BSP 110

Frank Amthor's latest book Neurobiology for Dummies isn't just for readers who are new to neuroscience. In this excellent follow-up to his Neuroscience for Dummies Dr. Amthor discusses a wide variety of brain-related topics. Since I have known Frank for several years it was a special treat to interview him for BSP 110. We talked about a wide variety of ideas ranging from what makes neurons special to how brains differ from current computers. 

How to get this episode:

  • FREE: audio mp3 (click to stream, right click to download)
  • Buy Episode Transcript for $1.
  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

Reference and Links:

Announcements:

More on BDNF: "Miracle Grow" for the Brain

In Episode 33 of the Brain Science Podcast, Harvard's Dr. John Ratey introduced us to brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which he described as "Miracle Grow for the Brain" because it actually stimulates the grow of new neurons in the brain.  The emphasis in our discussion was on the importance of exercise in stimulating the release of BDNF.

If you are interested in checking out some further references on BDNF, you may want to check out Charles Daney's Science and Reason Blog.  Daney also does a good job of explaining exactly what a neurotropic factor is and does.

Exercise and the Brain (BSP 33)

johnpic_profile.jpg

John J. Ratey, M.D.

Episode 33 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Harvard physician, Dr. John Ratey, about his new book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

We explore the exciting evidence about how exercise helps the brain.  It stimulates the release of a number of different neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, but probably more importantly, it helps keeps these compounds balanced.  We consider why exercise is so important in dealing with stress, in treating a wide range of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder.  There is also evidence that exercise improves our ability to learn and our ability to avoid the loss of mental agility associated with aging.

We explore the exciting evidence about how exercise helps the brain.  It stimulates the release of a number of different neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, but probably more importantly, it helps keeps these compounds balanced.  We consider why exercise is so important in dealing with stress, in treating a wide range of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder.  There is also evidence that exercise improves our ability to learn and our ability to avoid the loss of mental agility associated with aging.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • Buy mp3 for $1.
  • Buy Transcript for $1.
  • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE. All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

This episode contains information that everyone can use.  I hope you will share it with your friends and family.

Links and References:

 

spark-ratey.jpg
brainsciencestore.gif

A Clue To Why Tobacco Is So Addictive

Nancy Yanes-Hoffman sent me this review of an article just published in the Journal of Neuroscience:

That was good!" "Do it again."
This is what the brain says when people use tobacco, as well as ‘hard drugs’ such as heroin.  New research published in the February 13 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience indicates that the effects of nicotine and opiates on the brain's reward system are equally strong in a key pleasure-sensing areas of the brain – the nucleus accumbens.
"Testing rat brain tissue, we found remarkable overlap between the effects of nicotine and opiates on dopamine signaling within the brain’s reward centers," says Daniel McGehee, Associate Professor in Anesthesia & Critical Care at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
McGehee and colleagues are exploring the control of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in reward and addiction.  Dopamine is released in areas such as the nucleus accumbens by naturally rewarding experiences such as food, sex, some drugs, and the neutral stimuli or ‘cues’ that become associated with them.
Nicotine and opiates are very different drugs, but the endpoint, with respect to the control of dopamine signaling, is almost identical.  “There is a specific part of the nucleus accumbens where opiates have been shown to affect behavior, and when we tested nicotine in that area, the effects on dopamine are almost identical,” says McGehee.
This research is important to scientists because it demonstrates overlap in the way the two drugs work, complementing previous studies that showed overlapping effects on physiology of the ventral tegmenal area, another key part of the brain’s reward circuitry.  The hope is that this study will help identify new methods for treating addiction – and not just for one drug type.
"It also demonstrates the seriousness of tobacco addiction, equating its grip on the individual to that of heroin.  It reinforces the fact that these addictions are very physiological in nature and that breaking away from the habit is certainly more than just mind over matter," says McGehee.
This work is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, T32GM07839 and F31DA023340 to JPB, DA015918 and DA019695 to DSM.
    • Jonathan P. Britt and Daniel S. McGehee, "Presynaptic Opioid and Nicotinic Receptor Modulation of Dopamine Overflow in the Nucleus Accumbens,"The Journal of Neuroscience, February 13, 2008 • 28(7):1672–1681

      Visit Nancy's blog at

      writingdoctorsblog.jpg

      Year-end Review for 2007 (BSP 27)

      brainscience-logo1.jpg

      Episode 27 is a look back on the first 26 episodes of the Brain Science Podcast.

      I look back on some of the main topics that we have explored including memory, consciousness, emotions, decision-making, body maps, and plasticity.  Then I talk a little about what I hope to do in the covering year.  This episode is a little more personal than most, and will mainly be of interest to regular listeners.  It includes some ideas about how you can help the Brain Science Podcast grow and prosper.

      However, in preparing this episode, I went back over the past year's episodes, and I have prepared a list of all the episodes so far and the main topics.  This should help both new listeners and regulars to find episodes that pertain to particular topics.

      How to get this episode:

      • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
      • Buy mp3 for $1.
      • Buy Transcript for $1.
      • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.
      brainsciencestore.gif

      "The Female Brain" with Dr. Louann Brizendine (BSP 20)

      femalebrain-small

      Episode 20 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Dr. Louann Brizendine of the Women's Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California at San Francisco.   Her book, The Female Brainwas just released in paperback, and it is on the New York Times Bestseller list.

      We explore how hormones and neurotransmitters effect our brains, and how these effects are different in men and women.  This episode has interesting stuff for listeners of both sexes.

      If you would like to learn more, visit Dr. Brizendine's website at http://louannbrizendine.com.

      How to get this episode:

      • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
      • Buy mp3 for $1.
      • Buy Transcript for $1.
      • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

      Brain Science Podcast's First Six Months (BSP 14)

      brainscience-logo1.jpg

      Although the first full episode of the Brain Science Podcast appeared on December 15, 2006, I went live with an introductory podcast around December 1, 2006.  (I have deleted episode 0 from the feed).  At any rate, I decided it was time to look back over the first six months and reflect on some of the topics we have covered.

      This is one of the shorter episodes, but I hope it will bring some of the key ideas back to mind (and encourage new listeners to go back and get the older episodes).  It will also give you a glimpse of what we will be discussing in the next few months.

      As always, I welcome comments and suggestions.

      How to get this episode:

      • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
      • Buy mp3 for $1
      • Transcripts: BSP 1-14
      • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

       

      "Memory: From Mind to Molecules" (BSP 12)

      memory-frommindtomolecules-crop.jpg

      This episode of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of memory based on the book, Memory: From Mind to Molecules (2000), by Larry R. Squire, and Eric R. Kandel.

      How to get this episode:

      • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
      • Buy mp3 for $1
      • Transcripts: BSP 1-14
      • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

      Show Notes

      I highly recommend that you get this book for yourself if you want to read the details of the experiments.  The book contains excellent illustrations.

      Some of the experimental animals mentioned in this episode include Aplysia (giant sea snails), drosophila (fruit flies), and mice.

      Mechanisms of memory formation and storage seem to be shared from the simplest non-vertebrates up through humans.

      Types of Memory:    declarative and non-declarative. Non-declarative memory is generally NOT subject to conscious awareness or control.

      There are many different types of non-declarative memory including:

      Declarative memory, which seems to be unique to animals that have a hippocampus and cerebral cortex, includes short-term (immediate and working memory) and long-term memory.  Much research has been devoted to discovering how and where long-term memory occurs.  The answer may surprise you.

      This episode includes a discussion of some of the unanswered questions in memory research.

      How Neurons Communicate: A Detailed Introduction (BSP 8)

      fromneurontobrain.jpg

      When I started preparing for this week's episode I realized that before I could discuss neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) I would need to discuss some basic information about how neurons work. Thus this episode is rather long and technical, but hopefully understandable to those who are new to the field. I am including more detailed show notes than I usually do, along with the approximate times for the main sections, in case there is a particular topic you want to go back and review.

      How to get this episode:

      • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
      • Buy BSP 1-10 (zip file of mp3 files)
      • Transcripts: BSP 1-14
      • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

      The main source for this episode was the textbook, From Neuron to Brain: A Cellular and Molecular Approach to the Function of the Nervous System, Fourth Edition (2001)

      Topic Outline:

      2:39-11:33 Neuronal signaling-the basics of electrical and chemical signaling types of signaling-electrical and chemical introducing the synapse the importance of membrane proteins

      11:55 - 13:03   A bried discussion of how the brain differs from a  digital computer

      13:3 3-13:50   Definition of neurotransmitters-

      13:56 -22:10   How neurotransmitters interact with receptors in the synapse

      -direct and indirect  chemical synapses-why they are important

      -neuromuscular junction-an example of a direct chemical synapse

      -the importance of synaptic delay

      -the role of second messengers in indirect chemical synapses

      -release and recycling of neurotransmitters

      22:25 -29:42 Types of Neurotransmitters and how they work-with examples

      -how neuropeptides differ from low molecular weight neurotransmitters

      -a little about how drugs work

      29:58 - 41:54  How Neurotransmitters function in the Central Nervous System-with examples

      -Glutamate is the key excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain

      -an aside about Nutrasweet™ (30:33)

      -glycine and GABA are inhibitatory

      -acetycholine (33:32-34:34)

      -discussion of Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert (35:30-36:55)

      -serotonin

      -histamine

      -dopamine and Parkinson's disease

      42:07 - 43:36  Closing Summary