"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. 

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Consciousness as Social Perception (BSP 108)

Michal Graziano and Kevin (click image to play interview)

Michal Graziano and Kevin (click image to play interview)

In his latest book Consciousness and the Social Brain  Princeton neuroscientist Michael Graziano proposes a unique and compelling theory of consciousness. He proposes that the same circuits that the human brain uses to attribute awareness to others are used to model self-awareness. He emphasizes that his attention schema theory is only tentative, but it is testable and it does fit our current knowledge of brain function.

In a recent interview for the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 108), Graziano used the following clinical example to clarify his approach. A colleague had a patient who was convinced that he had a squirrel in his head. When confronted with the illogic of his claim the patient replied “Not everything can be explained by science.” In this example it is clear that the squirrel doesn’t really exist, so the question to be answered is HOW did his brain reach the conclusion that it does.

While imagining one has a squirrel in one’s head is thankfully rare, we also know that our subjective experiences of the world are not necessarily accurate. Our perception of the world is shaped by how our brain processes the sensory inputs it receives. For example, we perceive white light as an absence of color even though in reality it consists of all wavelengths.

Perception is something our brains do constantly and which we can not consciously control. In considering awareness (and by extension consciousness) perception-like Graziano is emphasizing several important features. The most important is probably the fact that it is only “quick and dirty model” of what is really going on, which means that our intuitions about consciousness are not necessarily reliable. In fact, humans have a strong tendency to over-attribute awareness to the world around us. This is part of the social circuitry that has made us the most successful species in the earth’s history, but it can also lead to amusing results (as anyone who has interacted with Siri on an iPhone has no doubt observed).

Another implication of considering awareness as a form of social perception is that it reverses the usual approach taken to understanding consciousness. Instead of asking how a physical brain can produce something subjective and non-physical called consciousness, we ask what kind of information processing leads to the conclusion that I (or anyone else) is conscious. As Graziano points out, this is a “mechanistic” model. Not only can it be tested but it has interesting implications. Dr. Graziano concluded that one of the key implications is "that awareness and consciousness are tools for information processing, and they are mechanistically understandable, and presumably can be engineered.”

I find the attention schema theory to be very compelling. Besides being testable, it has a simple elegance that I appreciate. It also explains why most humans experience a world filled with spirits, and are utterly convinced that their own consciousness is something special and non-physical.

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Related Episodes:

Since understanding consciousness is one of the deepest questions facing neuroscience, it has been explored on many previous episodes of the Brain Science Podcast. Rather than list all those episodes I want to mention just a few that I think are particularly relevant to this month’s episode. 

Announcements:

Sleep Science with Penny Lewis (BSP 107)

Penny Lewis (click image to play interview)

Penny Lewis (click image to play interview)

In The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest Dr. Penelope A. Lewis provides a highly readable account of the fascinating world of sleep research. Fascinating research is being carried out with animals as varied as fruit flies and rats, as well as with humans. I was surprised to learn that most people actually find it fairly easy to fall asleep in an fMRI scanner.

I have just posted an interview with Dr. Lewis (BSP 107) that includes a discussion of the role of sleep in memory as well as interesting findings about how synapses in the brain actually change during sleep. We still don't know exactly what sleep (and dreaming) are essential, but research in this field is growing. Dr. Lewis is excited about emerging research that suggests improving slow wave sleep may significantly improve learning and memory.

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"The Cognitive-Emotional Brain" (BSP 106)

Luiz Pessoa of the University of Maryland

Luiz Pessoa of the University of Maryland

In The Cognitive-Emotional Brain: From Interactions to Integration neuroscientist Luiz Pessoa argues that emotion and cognition are deeply intertwined throughout many levels of the brain. In a recent interview (BSP 106) Pessoa and I focused on recent discoveries about the amygdala and Thalamus that challenge traditional assumptions about what these structures do. The amygdala processes more than fear (and other negative stimuli) and the Thalamus is more than  a mere relay station.

This a fairly technical discussion but Pessoa did a good job of making the material accessible to all listeners. The reason I think these concepts matter is that not only do they challenge overly simplistic notions of how the brain works, but they also challenge our tendency to see emotion and cognition as separate and often opposing processes.

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References and Additional Reading

Related Episodes

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Brain Plasticity with Michael Merzenich (BSP 105)

                              Michael Merzenich

                              Michael Merzenich

If you have read anything about brain plasticity you have seen the name Michael Merzenich. Dr. Merzenich is one of the pioneers in this field, having spent over 30 years documenting that the human brain (and that of other mammals) continues to change throughout life. I interviewed Dr. Merzenich several years ago (BSP 54), but the publication of his first book Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life gave us another opportunity to talk about how we can apply these discoveries in our daily lives.

According to Dr. Merzenich, "No matter how much you've struggled, no matter where you've been in your life, you're in charge of your life going forward.  And you have the capacity; you have the resources to change things for the better—always have that capacity.  And that's what the book is trying to emphasize. “ (BSP 105)

I found Soft-wired very compelling because it combines a clear explanation of the science with many stories about real people facing a wide variety of cognitive challenges. The overall tone of the book is very optimistic even though it also considers the way bad choices can contribute to cognitive decline. 

How to get this episode:

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  • The most recent 25 episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are still FREE. See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

Related Episodes:

  • BSP 10: Introduction to Brain Plasticity.
  • BSP 17: Discussion of The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older by Elkhonon Goldberg.
  • BSP 28: Interview with Dr. Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself.
  • BSP 33: Interview with Dr. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.
  • BSP 54: Interview with Dr. Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-wired.
  • BSP 87: Interview with Dr. Pam Greenwood, co-author of Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind.

Further Reading:

2013 Neuroscience Highlights (BSP 104)

Ginger Campbell with Rusty and Greta

Ginger Campbell with Rusty and Greta

Its time for the Brain Science Podcast's seventh annual review episode. In 2013 we had the chance to talk with ten scientists, including three returning guests. We also celebrated our 100th episode and passed 5 million downloads.

BSP 104 is a review of some of the key ideas we explored in 2013. I also announced the launch of a new Premium Subscription program. Beginning around December 30 the twenty-five most recent episodes will remain free while the rest of the 100+ podcasts and transcripts will be available either by subscription or for individual purchase. 

Click here to learn more about our new Premium Content.

How to get this episode:

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  • 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.

2013 Episodes and Books

Announcements

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

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:

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Dangers of Diagnostic Inflation (BSP 102)

Allen Frances, MD  Click picture to play mp3

Allen Frances, MD 

Click picture to play mp3

Americans are spending billions of dollars on psychiatric medications, but according to Dr. Allen Frances (Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life) "We are ignoring the people who have severe psychiatric illness; so that, one-third of people with severe depression see a mental health clinician, two-thirds don't.  Two-thirds of people with severe depression get no treatment at all.  At the same time, we're way over-diagnosing people who have milder problems that would get better on their own."

Meanwhile, the drug companies push the prescribing of expensive new medications, while at least a million Americans are receiving their mental health care via the prison system. Allen argues "It shouldn't be that we deliver our psychiatric services to patients after we make them prisoners.  We should be getting the kind of community care and housing that's common in the rest of the world.  We're barbaric; we've gone back two hundred years, imprisoning psychiatric patients."

In BSP 102 Dr. Frances and I talk about the various factors that are driving these disturbing trends, including the over prescribing of psychotropic medications to young people without regard to the long term consequences. These are issues that concern us all, so I encourage you to listen to this interview and check out the additional references I have included below.

How to get this episode:

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Links and References: 

Announcements: 

    Synapse Evolution with Seth Grant (BSP 101)

    Seth Grant (click photo to hear interview)

    Seth Grant (click photo to hear interview)

    Early in his career Seth Grant helped develop the transgenic mice that Eric Kandel used in his studies of how memory works. Since then he has combined his skill in genetics with his work on isolating the proteins that form the functional components of the synapse. (The synapse is a key component in the nervous systems of all multi-cellular animals.) When we last talked back in BSP 51 I was particularly struck by how many of these proteins actually evolved with single celled life--long before the arrival of nervous systems.

    Recently Grant's work has focused on the discovery that the vertebrate synapse is actually much more complex than the one present in invertebrates. For BSP 101 we got together to talk about two papers he and his collegues recently published in Nature Neuroscience. These papers explore how small changes in the synapse proteins effect learning in measurable ways.

    Grant has a special gift for making complex ideas clear, which means that this interview can be enjoyed by all listeners, even those who are new to the Brain Science Podcast and neuroscience. 

    Download MP3

    How to get this episode:

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    • The most recent 25 episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are still FREE. See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

    References: 

    • S.G.N. Grant, T. J. O'Dell, K. A. Karl, P. L. Stein, P. Soriano, and E. R. Kandel, "Impaired long-term potentiation, spatial learning, and hippocampal development in fyn mutant mice." Science 258 (1992):1903-10.
    • Emes RD, Pocklington AJ, Anderson CN, Bayes A, Collins MO, Vickers CA, Croning MD, Malik BR, Choudhary JS, Armstrong JD, Grant SG, "Evolutionary expansion and anatomical specialization of synapse proteome complexity." Nature Neuroscience 11 (2008) 799-806.
    • Nithianantharajah, J., Komiyama, N., McKechanie, A., Johnstone, M., Blackwood, D. H., Clair, D. S., Emes, R. D., van de Lagemaat, L. N., Saksida, L. M., Bussey, T. J. & Grant, S. G. N. “Synaptic scaffold evolution generated components of vertebrate cognitive complexity.” Nature Neuroscience 16 (2013) 16-24. doi:10.1038/nn.3276
    • Ryan, T. J., Kopanitsa, M. V., Indersmitten, T., Nithianantharajah, J., Afinowi, N. O., Pettit, C., Stanford, L. E., Sprengel, R., Saksida, L. M., Bussey, T. J., O'Dell, T. J., Grant, S. G. N. Komiyama, N. “Evolution of GluN2A/B cytoplasmic domains diversified vertebrate synaptic plasticity and behavior.” Nature Neuroscience 16 (2013) 25-32. doi:10.1038/nn.3277 
    • List of research papers by Seth Grant
    • See FREE transcript for more links and references
    • More episodes about brain evolution: BSP 47, BSP 48, and BSP 51

    Announcements: 

    Leave feedback here or visit the Brain Science Podcast discussion group at Goodreads.com, our Fan Page on Facebook or our page on Google+.

    Brain Fitness with Alvaro Fernandez (BSP 100)

    Alvaro Fernandez of SharpBrains

    Alvaro Fernandez of SharpBrains

    I have been using the SharpBrains website as a source of information and ideas since the early days of my Brain Science Podcast, so it seemed fitting to invite SharpBrains co-founder Alvaro Fernandez to be my guest for Episode 100.   We talked about the second edition of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age, which he co-authored with Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg (BSP 18). The goal of this book is to give people from all backgrounds a practical guide for evaluating the current science and establishing their own "brain fitness" regimen, much in the way that each of us must choose a physical fitness that meets our individual needs and lifestyle.

    Brain Fitness should not just be a concern for older people, it should become a key component of a healthy lifestyle at any age. The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness is a great first step.

    How to get this episode:

     

    • FREE: audio mp3 (click to stream, right click to download)
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    • The most recent 25 episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are still FREE. See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

    Links and References: 

    Celebrating BSP 100

    To celebrate Episode 100 of the Brain Science Podcast I invited listeners to contribute audio to the show. I couldn't use everything, but I want to thank everyone who submitted content.  The following listeners are featured:  

    •  "I Got a Brain" Written and Performed by Dr. Jay Einhorn
    • Interview with Darryl Ferges
    • "Mindfire" (new theme music) by Tony Cotraccia
    • Audio comments:  Leon Mcgahee, MD., Eric Lindley, Julio Dantos, Hamish Kebb, and Adelia Moore, PhD
    • Email from Jana Johnson

    Send Feedback to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com. 

        Interview: Temple Grandin (BSP 99)

        photo by Rosalie Winward  (Click photo to play mp3)

        photo by Rosalie Winward  (Click photo to play mp3)

        Last month I posted a detailed discussion of Temple Grandin's latest book The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum (with Richard Panek), so I am pleased to share a follow interview with Dr. Grandin (BSP 99). This interview is different from the typical Brain Science Podcast because our focus is on the practical issues that face people who are dealing with autism. Of course, as Dr. Grandin emphasized, autism occurs across a wide spectrum ranging from those who can never learn to speak to high functioning professionals exemplified by Temple Grandin herself.  Dr. Grandin speaks from personal experience grounded in her own scientific curiosity.

        How to get this episode:

        • FREE: audio mp3 (click to stream, right click to download)
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        • 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.

        Links and References:

          Announcements: 

          • The Brain Science Podcast mobile app is now available for Windows 8 devices.
          • Deadline for listener submissions for BSP 100 is August 1, 2013
          • Unfortunately Mensana has closed down, so CEU's are not currently available for the Brain Science Podcast. I am looking for a new vendor. 
          • Don't forget to sign up for the BSP Newsletter so that you can get episode show notes automatically, and never miss a new episode. 

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          Neuroanthropolgy: What Is It and WHY Should You Care? (BSP 97)

          You may be tired of seeing the prefix "neuro" used to describe every new fad, but The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology [2012] edited by Daniel H. Lende and Greg Downey makes an impassioned argument for why neuroscience and anthropology should be working together to unravel the ongoing mystery of how our brains make us who we are.  The latest Brain Science Podcast  (BSP 97) is a thought-provoking conversation with Downey and Lende.  After explaining that anthropology can offer neuroscience field data about "brains in the wild," we explore two case studies that demonstrate the promise of this new partnership.

          How to get this episode:

          • FREE: audio mp3 (click to stream, right click to download)
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          • The most recent 25 episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are still FREE. See the individual show notes for links the audio files

          Subscribe to the Brain Science Podcast or listen on the BSP Mobile app.

          References and Links:

          Announcements:

          • he Brain Science Podcast is nearing episode 100! I want to include listener comments. Send your emails and mp3 files to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com or click here to learn more.
          • The Brain Science Podcast Newsletter has moved to Mailchimp. Click here for the new sign-up form.
          • Please nominate the Brain Science Podcast as one of the best science podcasts on the web at http://www.thesciencestudio.org.
          • Keep an eye out for the latest BSP News!

          Robert Burton's "Skeptic's Guide to the Mind" (BSP 96)

          Robert Burton, MD

          Robert Burton, MD

          In On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not, Robert Burton showed that the feeling of certainty, which is something we all experience, has its origin in brain processes that are both unconscious and inaccessible to consciousness . Now in his new book, A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves, he extends these ideas to other mental sensations such as our feeling of agency and our sense of causation.  The idea that much of what our brain does is not accessible to our conscious awareness is NOT new, but Dr. Burton considers the implications for our understanding of the MIND.

          When we talked recently (BSP 96), Dr. Burton explained that his new book has two main parts.  In the early chapters, he extends the principles he developed in On Being Certain to other mental sensations. We tend to take things like our feeling of certainty, agency, and causation for granted, but he points out that these are generated in parts of the brain that we can neither access or control.  What makes A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind stand out is that Burton then explores the implications of this reality. He argues that while we can become ever more knowledgeable about how our brain works, the MIND, which is something that we each experience subjectively, is much more elusive.

          The fact that we are trying to study the MIND with the MIND has inherent limitations and I think that Dr. Burton is right when he says our response should be HUMILITY.

          How to get this episode:

          • FREE: audio mp3 (click to stream, right click to download)
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          • 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.

          References:

          Related Episodes:

          • BSP 42: A discussion of On Being Certain
          • BSP 43: Interview with Robert Burton about On Being Certain
          • BSP 67: Interview with Thomas Metzinger, author of The Ego Tunnel  
          • BSP 85: Interview with Sebastian Seung, author of Connectome.

          Send me feedback at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

          Pain is a Complex Emotional and Sensory Experience (BSP 93)

          FC4.gif

          Dr. Fernando Cervero  

           

          Dr. Fernando Cervero of McGill University has been studying pain since the beginning of his career back in the 1960s.  These decades have seen tremendous advances in our neuroscientific understanding of what causes different types of pain, as well as changing attitudes.  Pain was once regarded as something that most people had to endure, but now most of us demand adequate pain relief, sometimes even to the point of not tolerating minor pain.  Dr. Cevero's new book, Understanding Pain, provides an accessible account of both the history of pain research and a thoughtful consideration of the challenges facing the field.

          The latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast  (BSP 93) is an interview with Dr. Cervero.  This is Part 1 of a planned two-part series.

          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.

          References:

          Meet Dr. Campbell in Person:

          • Downtown Atlanta, Georgia February 19-21, 2013.
          • South by SouthWest: March 7-10, 2013 (Austin, TX, USA).
          • Johannesburg, South Africa April 8,9 2013.

          I would love to some listener meetups, so please drop me an email at gincampbell at mac dot com, if you will be at any of these places on the right days.

          Other Announcements:

          Reminders:

          • Don't forget to get your copy of my eBook, Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty, from Amazon.com.  If you don't have the Kindle app, just send me your Amazon receipt and I will send you the PDF.
          • The Brain Science Podcast is supported by listener donations.  It also relies on your word of mouth, so don't forget to share it with others.
          • Join the Brain Science Podcast  Fan Page on Facebook, Google+, and share your thoughts in our Discussion Forum on Goodreads.  Of course, you can also send me email at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.
          • To get show notes automatically and never miss an episode of the Brain Science Podcast, sign up for the BSP Newsletter.

          Neuroscience Highlights for 2012 (BSP 92)

          2012-bama-crop.jpg

          The Brain Science Podcast recently passed 4 million downloads and it remains entrenched at or near the top of the iTunes rankings for Science and Medicine. So now it's time for our 6th Annual Review Episode. The purpose of this year-ending podcast is to review some of the year's highlights and key ideas. As I reviewed the transcripts of this year's episodes, I was struck by the fact that although each episode stands alone, they also inform one another. One unifying theme was the importance of taking an evolutionary approach to understanding how the human brain generates complex features like mind and consciousness.

          How to get this episode:

          • FREE: audio mp3 (click to stream, right click to download)
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          • 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.

           

          Interviews have become an outstanding feature of the Brain Science Podcast. This year I interviewed 10 scientist, including five who have appeared in past podcasts.

          Scientists Interviewed in 2012:

          #Indicates returning guest. See Guest List for previous episode.

          *See the Bibliography page for books featured on the Brain Science Podcast.

          In addition to discussing the books by these guests, I also reviewed Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brainby Michael S. Gazzaniga, and Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brainby Antonio Damasio.

          Related Episodes: 

          • BSP 32: Brief Introduction to brain anatomy.
          • BSP 47: Basics of brain evolution.
          • BSP 57: Chris Frith, author of Making up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World.
          • BSP 67: Thomas Metzinger, author of The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self.

          Announcements:

          Ways to Support the BSP:

          Tell me what you think:

          To get show notes automatically and never miss an episode of the Brain Science Podcast sign up for the BSP newsletter.

          The Origin of Emotions with Jaak Panksepp (BSP 91)

          Jaak-crop.jpg

          Dr. Jaak Panksepp

          In his new book, The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human EmotionsJaak Panksepp set out to make his life's work more accessible to a general audience.  To be honest, reading this book requires a significant commitment, but I think he does a wonderful job of updating his classic textbook, Affective Neuroscience.  Anyone who is interested in this field will definitely want this book as a reference.

          The other strength of Archeology of Mind is its evolutionary approach.  The primary emotional processes that Panksepp has spent his career studying have their origins in the ancient parts of the brain that are shared by all mammals.  This contradicts longstanding assumptions in neuroscience, but it has important implications for both humans and other animals.

          In Episode 91 of the Brain Science Podcast, Dr. Panksepp and I talked about some of the new information contained in Archaeology of Mind, with a particular focus on FEAR, which, contrary to what many researchers claim, does NOT begin in the amygdala, but begins much lower.  We do talk briefly about the experimental evidence, but this was covered in more detail during Dr. Panksepp's previous appearance on the Brain Science Podcast in BSP 65.

          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.

          References:

          Related Episodes:

          Announcements:

          NMX - I'll Be There

          The earliest episodes of the Brain Science Podcast  are now disappearing from iTunes but they remain freely available here.  They are also available within the Brain Science Podcast  app for mobile devices.  By the way, the mobile app has been updated, and I need users to post new reviews.

          Don't forget to get your copy of my eBook, Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certaintyfrom Amazon.com.  You can also buy the PDF version HERE.

          The Brain Science Podcast is supported by listener Donations.  It also relies on your word of mouth, so don't forget to share it with others.

          Next month's Brain Science Podcast  will be our annual review episode. Meanwhile don't forget to check out my other podcast, Books and Ideas.  The most recent episode is an interview with Emily Reese from Minnesota Classical Radio.

          Join the Brain Science Podcast Fan Page on Facebook, Google+, and share your thoughts in our Discussion Forum on Goodreads.  Of course, you can also send me email at gincampbell at mac dot com.

          To get show notes automatically and never miss an episode of the Brain Science Podcast sign up for the BSP Newsletter.

          "Mind in Life" with Evan Thompson (BSP 89)

          Evan-crop.jpg

          Evan Thompson, PhD

          Embodied Cognition is a movement within cognitive science that argues that the mind is inseparable from the fact that the brain is embedded in a physical body. This means that everything that the brain does, from the simplest perception to complex decision-making, relies on the interaction of the body with its environment.  Evan Thompson's book, Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind, is an in-depth look at what he calls the "enactive" approach to embodied cognition. The enactive approach was pioneered by Thompson's mentor Francisco Varela, and it emphasizes the importance of the body's active engagement with its environment.

          In a recent interview (BSP 89) I talked with Thompson about some of the key ideas in Mind in Life. Unlike most episodes of the Brain Science Podcast, this is not really a stand-alone episode. It is part of my ongoing exploration of both embodied cognition and the controversial topic of emergence. It is also intended as a follow-up to my recent interview with Terrence Deacon.

          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.

           

          References:

          Related Episodes: 

          • BSP 5: A bried introduction to philosphy of mind
          • BSP 25: Embodied Intelligence with Rolf Pfeifer
          • BSP 36: Art Glenberg on Embodied Cognition
          • BSP 53: Discussion of Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? (emergence and free will)
          • BSP 62: Warren Brown, co-author of Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?
          • BSP 73: Lawrence Shapiro, author of Embodied Cognition.
          • Books and Ideas #47: Terrence Deacon, author of Incomplete Nature.

          Announcements:

          • Continuing education credit is now available for selected episodes of the Brain Science Podcast. Click here to learn more.
          • I will be in Philadelphia, PA October 16-21 to attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Please contact me if you would like to get together.
          • My eBook Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty is on sale for only $2.99. Please post your review.
          • Next month's Brain Science Podcast will be a discussion of Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain by Antonio Damasio. Self Comes to Mind is also available from our sponsor Audible.com.
          • Please visit the Brain Science Podcast on Facebook or Google+, or join the BSP  Discussion Forum at Goodreads.com.
          • Never miss an episode of the Brain Science Podcast!  Sign up for the Newsletter.
          • Send me (Dr. Campbell) email at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter (@docartemis).

          "The Self Illusion" with Bruce Hood (BSP 88)

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          Bruce Hood, PhD

           

          The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity, by Bruce Hood, is a fascinating look at how our brains create both our experience of the world and our sense of being a single, coherent self.  As the word "illusion" in the title indicates, neither is exactly what it seems.  When I interviewed Dr. Hood (BSP 88), he explained that The Self Illusion is a broad introduction to this somewhat surprising idea. The  Self Illusion was written with a general audience in mind.  For those already familiar with the topic, he also puts a new emphasis on the role of development.  All readers should come away with a new appreciation for the critical role social interactions play through out human life.

          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.

          Related Podcasts:

          Additional References:

          Announcements:

          Brain Aging Research with Dr. Pamela Greenwood (BSP 87)

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          Pamela Greenwood, PhD

          Nuturing the Older Brain and Mind, by Pamela M. Greenwood and Raja Parasuaman provides a comprehensive review of the current research in cognitive aging.  In the latest Brain Science Podcast (BSP 87)Dr. Greenwood explains that brain aging and cognitive aging are not the same thing; the typical brain changes that are associated with normal brain aging (such as shrinkage) are not reliable predictors of cognitive decline. Fortunately, even though normal brain aging is still not well understood, the discovery of brain plasticity is shifting the focus of research. Not only does brain plasticity offer new hope for people who suffer strokes and other brain injuries, it also suggests that life style choices influence cognitive function at all ages.

          Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind is intended for an academic audience but it is accessible to everyone. This month's interview with Dr. Greenwood (BSP 87) focuses on dispelling the most stubborn myths about brain aging. We also talk about the practical steps we can all take to help maintain our cognitive performance.

          How to get this episode:

          Related Episodes:

          • BSP 10: Introduction to Brain Plasticity.
          • BSP 26: Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science.
          • BSP 28: Edward Taub: applying brain plasticity to stroke rehabilitation.
          • BSP 68: Peter Whitehouse on dementia versus normal brain aging.

          References:

          • Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind, by Pamela M. Greenwood and Raja Parasuraman (2012).
          • The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, by Norman Doidge.
          • Greenwood, P. M. (2007) Functional Plasticity in Cognitive Aging: Review and Hypothesis. Neuropsychology  21(6) 657–673.
          • Greenwood, P. M., and Parashauraman, R. (2010) Neuronal and cognitive plasticity: A neurocognitive framework for ameliorating cognitive aging. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 2: 150.
          • Gould, E. and Gross, C.G. (2002) Neurogenesis in adult mammals: Some progress and problems. Journal of Neuroscience 22 (3): 619-623.
          • Taub, E., Uswatte, G., and Elbert, T. (2002) New treatments in neurorehabilitation founded on basic research. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 3 (3): 228-236.
          • Grady, C. L., McIntosh, A.R., and Craik, F.I. (2003) Age-related differences in the functional connectivity of the hippocampus during memory encoding. Hippocampus 13 (5): 572-586.
          • Colcombe, S.J., A.F. Kramer, K.I. Erickson, P. Scalf, E. McAuley, N.J. Cohen, A. Webb, et al.,
          • Cardiovascular fitness, cortical plasticity, and aging. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2004. 101(9): p. 3316-21.
          • Hertzog, C., Kramer, A. F., Wilson, R. S. and Lindenberger, U. (2009) Enrichment effects on adult cognitive development: Can the functional capacity of older adults be preserved and enhanced? Psychological Science in the Public Interest 9 (1): 1-65.
          • Kramer, A.F., Larish, J. F.,  and Strayer, D. L. (1995) Training for attentional control in dual tasking settings: A comparison of young and older adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 1: 50-76.
          • Nagamatsu, L.S., Handy, T. C., et. al. 2012. Resistance Training Promotes Cognitive and Functional Brain Plasticity in Seniors With Probable Mild Cognitive Impairment.Archives of Internal Medicine 172 (8) 666-668.
          • Liu-Ambrosea, T.,  Nagamatsua, L.S., Vosse, M.W.,  Khanc, K.M., and. Handy, T. C. (2012) Resistance training and functional plasticity of the aging brain: a 12-month randomized controlled trial. Neurobiology of Aging 33: 1690 –1698.
          • Willis, S.L. et. al (2006) Long-term effects of cognitive training on everyday functional outcomes in older adults. Journal of the American Medical Association 296 (23): 2805-2814.
          • For more references: see Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind and the free transcript of BSP 87.

          Announcements:

          Terrence Deacon (Podcast Interview)

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          In his new book, Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter, Terrence Deacon writes that his goal is to “demonstrate how a form of causality depending specifically on absent features and unrealized potential can be compatible with our best science.” (page 16).  But in a recent interview (Books and Ideas #47) he also contends that his book "grew out of a dissatisfaction with the systems theory approach."

          He feels strongly that "to understand the origin of end-directed phenomena, representational phenomena, or mental phenomena, you need to take one further step; you need to figure out what’s beyond self-organization that needs to be explained to account for these things."  Thus, his ambitious goal is to find a place for meaning within science.

          Incomplete Nature is a dense but compelling book, and the goal of this interview is to introduce listeners to the idea that life and meaning are compatible with a scientific world view. 

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