Explore the Synaptome with Seth Grant (BS 150)

Explore the Synaptome with Seth Grant (BS 150)

BS 150 is our 4th interview of Seth Grant, the molecular biologist who has uncovered the fascinating evolution of synapse complexity. In this interview we learn about the first whole brain mapping of the mouse brain synaptome. We discuss the implications of the surprising level of diversity found in synapses in different brain areas. Dr Grant introduces us to a new theory of perception and memory recall.

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Neuropsychology and the Study of Memory - Dr. Brenda Milner (BS 129)

Neuropsychology and the Study of Memory - Dr. Brenda Milner (BS 129)

BS 129 features pioneering neuroscientist Brenda Milner. Dr. Milner is best known for work work on memory including key discoveries she made while working with the famous patient HM. She also made important discoveries about the differences between the brain's hemispheres by studying the so-called "split brain" patients. This interview was recorded in 2008 when Dr. Milner was 90, but I am glad to report that she is still going strong at age 98.

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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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References:

Announcements:

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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  • 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.

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:

Celebrating 4 Years of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 71)

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The latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 71) is our 4th annual review episode.  As usual, I review highlights from this year's interviews, but this year I added a new feature: my personal reflections on how the Brain Science Podcast has impacted my life.  This episode also contains a special announcement for UK listeners.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
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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.

Major Topics from Season 4:

  • Emotions with Jaak Panksepp (BSP 65).
  • Memory with Randy Gallistel (BSP 66).
  • Consciousness with Thomas Metzinger (BSP 67).
  • Alzheimer's Disease with Peter Whitehouse (BSP 68 and Books and Ideas 36).
  • Glia Cells with R. Douglas Fields (BSP 69).
  • Pop Psychology Myths with Scott Lilienfeld (BSP 70).

References:

Announcements:

  • The Brain Science Podcast app is now available for both iPhone and ANDROID (NEW!)
  • Be sure to subscribe to my Books and Ideas podcast. The next episode will come out in December.
  • The next episode of the Brain Science Podcast will come out in January 2010. 
  • Sign up for our Newsletter so that you won't miss any episodes.

Send me feedback at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

Pop Psychology Myths with Scott Lilienfeld (BSP 70)

The latest Brain Science Podcast (BSP 70) is an interview with Dr. Scott Lilienfeld, co-author of 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior.  This episode was recorded live at Dragon*Con 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  We focused our conversation on the fact that scientific reasoning and critical thinking do NOT come naturally; instead, we all tend to make similar errors, such as mistaking correlation for causation.  Dr. Lilienfeld shared his experiences, and an extensive question and answer session with the live audience allowed him to explore additional examples.

How to get this episode:

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Detailed Show Notes:

This episode includes an extensive Q and A between Dr. Lilienfeld and the live audience. Here is a list of some of the questions:

  • A mother asked for advice for being pressured to have her child subjected to treatment approaches that may not be evidence-based.
  • Is hypnosis an effective treatment?
  • Another woman asks for Dr. Lillienfeld to give some examples of practices that were popular in the 90's, which caused him concern.
  • Myths about anger management.
  • Problems with validity of self-evaluations.
  • Claims about changing your brain and bringing it into balance esp with regards to elementary education.
  • Problems with staff in mental health institutions believing in pseudoscience.
  • Problems with portrayal of psychological issues in movies and TV.
  • What about IQ tests and theories of Multiple intelligence?

References:

  • 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior, by Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, Barry L. Beyerstein.
  • What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought, by Keith E. Stanovich.
  • Rotton, J, & Kelly, I. W. (1985). Much ado about the full moon: A meta-analysis of lunary-lunacy research. Psychological Bulletin, 97, 286-306.
  • Dunning, D., Heath, C., & Suls, J.M. (2004) Flawed Self-Assessment: Implications for Health, Education, and the Workplace. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, (5.3) 69-106.
  • Delmonico, L.M., & Romancyzk, R.G. (1995). Facilitated Communication: A critique. Behavior Therapist, 18, 27-30.
  • Jacobson, J.W., Mullick, J.A., & Schwarz, A.A. (1995) A history of facilitated communication: Science, pseudoscience, and antiscience. American Psychologist, 50,750-765.

Links:

  • Scott Lilienfeld, PhD (Emory University).
  • Dr. Lilienfeld's book has an extensive list of recommended websites.

Send comments to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

Memory: Challenging Current Theories with Randy Gallistel, PhD (BSP 66)

Episode 66 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Randy Gallistel, PhD, Co-Director of the Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science and co-author (with Adam Philip King) of Memory and the Computational Brain: Why Cognitive Science Will Transform Neuroscience.

We discuss why read/write memory is an essential element of computation, with an emphasis on the animal experiments that support the claim that brains must possess read/write memory.  This is significant because current models, such as neural nets, DO NOT incorporate read/write memory in their assumptions about how brains work.  It is not necessary to have any background in information theory or computation to appreciate the experiments that are discussed in this episode.

Episode 3 and Episode 12 of the Brain Science Podcast  providebackground information for this episode.

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References and Links:

Announcements:

Send feedback to gincampbell at mac dot com or leave voice mail at 205-202-0663.

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Michael Merzenich Talks About Neuroplasticity (BSP 54)

Brain Science Podcast #54 is an interview with Dr. Michael Merzenich, one of the pioneers of neuroplasticity.  We talk about how the success of the cochlear implant revealed unexpected plasticity in adult brains and about how brain plasticity can be tapped to improve a wide variety of problems including dyslexia, autism, damage from disease and injury.  Healthy people of all ages can also tap the resource of brain plasticity to help maintain and improve their mental functions.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
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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.

Links and References

Previous Episodes on Brain Plasticity

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

Dr. Brenda Milner: Pioneer in Memory Research (BSP 49)

Brain Science Podcast #49 is an interview with pioneering neuroscientist, Brenda Milner, PhD.  Dr. Milner is known for her contributions to understanding memory and her work with split-brain patients.  Her work as an experimental psychologist has been fundamental to the emergence of the field of cognitive neuroscience.

This interview is a follow-up of Dr. Milner's recent interview with Dr. Marc Pelletier on Futures in Biotech.  I highly recommend listening to both interviews.

How to get this episode:

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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.

Listen to Dr. Milner on Futures in Biotech (Episode33)

Additional Links:

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

"On Being Certain": Interview with Robert Burton, MD (BSP 43)

BSP 43 is an interview with Robert A Burton, MD, author of On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're NotThis is a follow up to BSP 42.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
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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.

Other scientists/writers mentioned in this episode:

Other terms mentioned in the interview:

  • Cotard's Syndrome: when the patient believes they do not exist or that they are dead
  • Cognitive dissonance: a mismatch between what one believes and what the evidence supports

Previous Episodes of the Brain Science Podcast:

  • Episode 42: Part 1 of our discussion of On Being Certain.
  • Episode 13: Unconscious Decisions-featuring Blink, by Malcom Gladwel.l
  • Episode 15: Interview with Read Montague about unconscious decisions.

Donations and Subscriptions are appreciated

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

Don't Miss Neuroscience Pioneer, Dr. Brenda Milner, on Futures in Biotech

In Episode 33 Futures in Biotech  host Marc Pelletier, PhD, interviews pioneering researcher, Dr. Brenda Milner from the Montreal Neurological Institute.  Dr. Milner is best known for her work with HM, the patient that she worked with for many decades.  Her work helped neuroscientists appreciate the role of the hippocampus in memory and the fact that there are multiple types of memory, some of which do not require the hippocampus.

One of the things that makes this interview special is that Dr. Milner gives us the inside story on some of the pioneering work that we now take for granted.  She emphasizes how the work fit into the context of its time, giving an unique glimpse into the history of how science really unfolds.

Click here to learn more.

Futures in Biotech is a valuable contributor to SCIENCEPODCASTERS.ORG.

Review: "On Being Certain" (BSP 42)

Episode 42 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not, by Robert Burton, MD.  This Part 1 of a two-part discussion of the unconscious origins of what Dr. Burton calls "the feeling of knowing."  In Episode 43 I will interview Dr. Burton. Today's episode provides an overview of Dr. Burton's key ideas.

In past episodes I have discussed the role of unconscious decision-making.  On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not ,by Robert Burton, MD, takes this topic to a new level.  First, Dr. Burton discusses the evidence that the "feeling of knowing" arises from parts of our brain that we can neither access or control.  Then he discusses the implications of this finding, including the fact that it challenges long-held assumptions about the possibility of purely rational thought.

How to get this episode:

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References and Links:

Other scientists mentioned in this episode:

  • Leon Festinger-proposed the theory of cognitive dissonance in 1957.
  • Joseph Ledoux-research with rats and the role of the amygdala in the fear response.
  • Michael Merzenich-showed how the auditory cortex in young rats is affected by experience.

Donations and Subscriptions are appreciated

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

Taking Tests Might Help Your Memory!

There is an interesting paper in this week's Science magazine that suggests that being tested might be an essential component of making what we study part of longterm memory.  In the study, students had memorize Swahili-English word pairs.  According to the authors,"Repeated studying after learning had no effect on delayed recall, but repeated testing produced a large positive effect."

"The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning," by Jeffrey D. Karpicke and Henry L. Roediger, III2, Science 15 February 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5865, pp. 966 - 968

Year-end Review for 2007 (BSP 27)

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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:

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Eric Kandel Talks About Memory on Futures in Biotech

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The latest episode of Futures in Biotech (FiB 20) is an interview with Dr. Eric Kandel, who won a Nobel Prize in 2000 for his discoveries about how memory works.  I think you will enjoy listening to Dr. Kandel's interview.

I discussed Dr. Kandel's book, In Search of Memory, in Episode 3 of the Brain Science Podcast.  I also discussed his textbook, Memory: From Mind to Molecules in Episode 12.

For anyone who would like to go back and listen to these episodes, I have provided direct links to the audio files below:

#3: In Search of Memory

#12: Memory: From Mind to Molecules

The Wisdom of the Aging Brain (BSP 17)

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This week we discuss another book by Elkonon Goldberg, Ph.D.  I highly recommend this book to everyone, because it is an excellent review of many of the topics we have discussed over the last several months including memory, emotion, and neuroplasticity.   In this episode, we continue our discussion of the role of the pre-frontal lobes in intelligence, as well as what happens to our brain as we age.

How to get this episode:

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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.

Show Notes

I want to thank Matthew Lofton for pointing out to me that there is evidence that elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror.  This means I was wrong when I said (in #16) that only humans and some primates can do this. He referred us to "I, Elephant," by Kaspar Mossmanin in the February 2007 issue of Scientific American Mind.  The original article was "Self-recognition in an Asian elephant," by:Plotnik, Joshua M.; de Waal, Frans B. M.; Reiss, Diana. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 11/7/2006, Vol. 103 Issue 45, p17053-17057.  He posted this information as a comment, but I wanted to bring this to everyone's attention.

Episodes that are referred to in this episode:

 

Note: You should have no problem listening to Episode #17 first, but I have provided these references for those who want to review or go back for more details.

Definitions used in this episode:

  • Attractor: a cognitive template that enables pattern recognition. An attractor is thought to be a concise set of neurons with strong interactions among themselves. A unique and important quality of attractors is that a broad range of inputs activate the same set of neurons. This is thought to be the mechanism of pattern recognition.
  • Cognitive competence: the ability to relate the old to the new so as to recognize the similarities between a new problem and one that has been previously solved.
  • Cognitive wisdom: an enhanced capacity for problem solving
  • Generic memory: memory for patterns

Brief list of topics discussed in this episode:

    • Review of important ideas about the prefrontal lobes from #16.
    • An hypothesis about the differing roles of the right and left hemispheres.
    • How the brain changes in normal aging.
    • Mechanisms that protect the brain from degenerative changes:
    •      Generic memory-why this type of memory is more robust.
    •      Pattern expansion-how parts of the cortex expand with use.
    •      Effortless experts-why familiar tasks are less demanding.
    •      Why vigorous mental activity is important throughout life.

    For more links related to Dr. Goldberg's work see the show notes for Episode 16.

      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.

      How to get this episode:

      • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
      • Buy mp3 for $1.
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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.

      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.

      Links:

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

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      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.

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      • Transcripts: BSP 1-14
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      "Memory: From Mind to Molecules" (BSP 12)

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      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.
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      • 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.