John Medina on Aging Well (BS 138)

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Dr. John Medina has spent his career in bio-engineering, but he also has a deep interest in how the brain works. In his latest book Brain Rules for Aging Well: 10 Principles for Staying Vital, Happy, and Sharp, he presents our knowledge brain aging in an engaging manner that can be enjoyed by readers of all backgrounds.

In this month's episode of Brain Science (BS 138) we discuss some of the most important principles for nourishing brains as we age. He describes what he calls the "dopamine lollipop," which is the surge of dopamine created by activities such as teaching and physical activities like dancing. Some of his ideas reinforce what we have discussed in previous episodes, but there are new ideas that are relevant to listeners of all ages.

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Brain Science Podcast Celebrates 8 Years of Neuroscience

 Ginger CampbeLL, host of the Brain Science Podcast  (L>R: Greta, Rusty, & Jake)

Ginger CampbeLL, host of the Brain Science Podcast  (L>R: Greta, Rusty, & Jake)

The first episode of the Brain Science Podcast appeared on December 5, 2006, which makes it one of the longest running shows in any genre, not just science or medicine. I am especially proud of the fact that we have reached listeners in 219 different countries. BSP 114 is our 8th annual review episode and as a part of our year-end celebration all previous annual review episodes have been added to the FREE feed that also includes our most recent 25 episodes.

The goal of our annual review episode is to highlight some of the key ideas that we have explored during the last years. For 2014 this included discussions of brain plasticity with Dr. Michael Merzenich, the integration of cognition and emotion with Dr. Luis Pessoa, the science of sleep with Dr. Penny Lewis, the hazards of neuromaniaconsciousness with Dr. Michael Graziano, exercise and the brain with Dr. John Ratey, neurobiology with Dr. Frank Amthor, and mirror neurons with Dr. Greg Hickok. We ended the year with highlights from the event "Neuroplasticity and Healing," which featured the Dalai Lama and three previous Brain Science Podcast guests.

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Exercise Promotes Brain Plasticity (BSP 111)

John Ratey, MD
Click picture to hear interview

According to psychiatrist Dr. John Ratey the best way to improve brain plasticity is by exercise.  I spoke to him shortly after he published his best-seller Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (2008). He commented that even compared to drugs "Exercise is the champ."

Download BSP 111

Since then Dr. Ratey has been traveling the world promoting the value of exercise for people of all ages, but his main focus has been on young people and on trying to restore and invigorate physical education programs in the schools. In Spark he provided some of the preliminary evidence that vigorous exercise promotes better academic performance, but that evidence had continued to mount.

Besides improving academic performance regular exercise also helps over all mental health. Exercise is especially effective for problems like depression and ADHD. Our brains rely on a complex mixture of neuroactive chemicals (neurotransmitters, etc.), but since our understanding of these is still very primitive, treatment with drugs can be unpredictable. Dr. Ratey feels that medications can be an important part of treating problems like ADHD, but that exercise should be included as an essential element.

Of course, even those of us who don't struggle with mental illnes are concerned with keeping our brains healthy as we age. Here again Dr. Ratey argues that exercise is essential. He speculates that exercise tricks your brain "into thinking that you're younger and that you still need to grow, as opposed to being stationary and having atrophy occur." Also, when you keep on learning (new things) your brain continues to respond and build new pathways. This is very similar to what Dr. Michael Merzenich (one of the pioneers of brain plasticity) told us in BSP 105.

Dr. Ratey is working on a new book that will be an update on the science that has been done since Spark was published, but his 2008 interview remains one of my favorites. That's why I just released an updated version of this interview as BSP 111. 

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  • 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.

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Announcements:

  • Reminder: The Brain Science Podcast mobile app is now FREE for iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. Click here to learn more.

  • This is the first time I have reposted an older episode. I need listener suggestions about what other older episodes you would like me to share with new listeners.

  • Don't forget to check out my other podcast Books and Ideas.

  • Please share your feedback about this episode by sending email to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com or going to the Brain Science Podcast Discussion Forum at http://brainscienceforum.com. You can also post to our fan pages on Facebook or Google+.

Affective Neuroscience with Jaak Panksepp (BSP 65)

Episode 65 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Jaak Panksepp, PhD, author of Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions.   Dr. Panksepp has done pioneering work on the neural origins of emotions.   In this interview, we discuss how his work challenges some of the common assumptions about emotions and some of the important implications of his discoveries.  New listeners may want to go back and listen to Episode 11 for an introduction to the neuroscience of emotion.

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Why Play is Essential to Brain Health with Dr. Stuart Brown (BSP 60)

In Episode 60 of the Brain Science Podcast, Ginger Campbell, MD, interviews Dr. Stuart Brown, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul Our focus is on the importance of play for normal mental development and psychological health. We also explore the importance of play in adults.

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

John Ratey, MD Discusses ADD (BSP 45)

John J. Ratey, M.D.

Have you ever wondered why a child with ADD can play videos games for hours, but can't concentrate on his homework for a few minutes?  This is one of the paradoxes of attention-deficit disorder that John J Ratey, MD, co-author of, Driven To Distraction : Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood, explains in Episode 45 of the Brain Science Podcast.

During this interview, Dr. Ratey discusses the latest findings about the biological basis of what he calls "attention variability disorder."  He also offers practical advice for patients and parents dealing with ADD/ADHD.  One very important, and somewhat surprising, fact that he shares is that patients who are treated with medications during adolescence have a significantly lower risk of developing problems with addiction and drug abuse later on compared to those who are not treated.  Also, successful "ADD-ers" like Michael Phelps show that "having a mission" makes a huge difference.

Dr. Ratey's most recent book is Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, which he discussed with me (Dr. Campbell) in Episode 33.

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.

Detailed Show Notes

Topics discussed:

  • Why our current cyber-culture  exacerbates symptoms.
  • The genetic component.
  • The role of dopamine and epinephrine.
  • The relationship between ADD and addiction.
  • Why ADD effects all the brain systems including memory.
  • The importance of strengthening executive (frontal lobe) function.

Successful people with ADD:

  • Michael Phelps-winner of 8 Gold Medals for Swimming in 2008 Olympics.
  • Rick Warren-founder of The Purpose Driven Church.

Practical Advice:

  • the need for a mission.
  • environmental changes.
  • the role of meditation and exercise.
  • why stimulant medication helps.
  • training the cerebellum.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Dr. Ratey recommends OmegaBrite™).

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

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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)

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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.

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