I am including the latest episode of my Books and Ideas Podcast (Episode 25) in the feed for the Brain Science Podcast because I think it may be the most important interview I have ever recorded. My guest was Dr. Paul Offit, author of Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. This book examines the history of on-going controversy about whether vaccines cause autism.
I recommend Dr. Offit’s book, Autism’s False Prophets, to everyone because of its thorough examination of the vaccine-autism controversy. He examines the evidence from both sides, while showing compassion for why parents are easily confused and frightened by claims that physicians and scientists have dismissed. The book is unlikely to dissuade those who are convinced by the tactics of vaccine opponents, but it will be a valuable resource to parents who want a clear explanation that includes a sober account of the risks of not vaccinating their children. Physicians and scientists will also benefit from reading this book because it provides an important case study in how lack of scientific literacy can threaten public health.
Recently Natasha Mitchell did an excellent two-part All in the Mind podcast about brain plasticity. In Part 1, she interviewed Jeffrey Schwartz, MD and Norman Doidge, MD. Dr. Schwartz is the author of The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, and Dr. Doidge wrote the recent bestseller,The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science.
In Part 2, Mitchell interviews Dr. Doidge further. One of the topics they explore is the "dark side" of plasticity. Since neuroplasticity is a dynamic, competitive process, it is actually a factor in how we form our habits, both good and bad . This interview is an excellent follow-up to the interview Dr. Doidge did for the Brain Science Podcast back in Episode 26.
You can listen to the podcasts and get transcripts at the All in the Mind website.
Dr. Michael Britt of The Psych Files podcast has just completed an excellent two-part discussion of the so-called Mozart Effect. With his guest, Dr. Kenneth Steele, he examines the origins of this popular idea, as well as the fact that no one has replicated the original research that suggested such an effect might exist. If you have ever wondered whether listening to classic music could make you (or your baby) smarter, you will want to listen to this podcast. Also, check out his blog for a full list of references.
I recently started listening to The Psych Files , and I think the style and content of The Psych Files compliments the Brain Science Podcast. For that reason, I have just added the feed from Dr. Britt's blog to our new Brain Science Podcast room in FriendFeed.
I have to admit that addiction is a subject in which I have little personal interest, but obviously addiction to smoking effects millions of people. I highly recommend this podcast to everyone who smokes or loves some who does.
Be sure to go to the site for both the show's transcript and links to everyone featured on the show.
The March 22 episode is actually hosted by Volkart Wildermuth, from Germany. He interviews several of the world's leading primate researchers. You will learn some of the recent discoveries about primate intelligence and culture, and also hear an excellent discussion of what makes humans different. Go to the website not just to hear the show, but to get a transcript and to see the extensive links.
The March 29 episode is a fascinating interview with Dan Ariely from MIT, who is the author the new bestseller Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, which describes his experiments in what is called behavioral economics. His work has shown that people often do not make economic decisions in a logical manner. He is an extremely likable guest who shares stories from his own life as well as some of the highlights of his work. The show notes include extensive references.
Brains Matter is a podcast about science from Australia. It was one of the shows on my ill-fated Podango™ Science channel, and it is now one of the charter members of SCIENCEPODCASTERS.ORG. Unfortunately, I don't have a chance to listen to it on a regular basis, but I want to recommend the most recent episode, which is a discussion of robotics in history and in fiction. The guest is Adam Parker, who is studying for a PhD in Robotics in Australia. He has a surprising knowledge of the history of the field and brings that perspective to the conversation . I think that that is one of the things that makes the interview interesting. This is not a technical conversation, but one that everyone can enjoy. As I said on Digg™, if you liked Blade Runner, you will enjoy this interview.
So far, I found the discussion of the evolution of morality with Marc Hauser and several other scientists to very interesting. One issue that was raised was whether the utility of a theory depends on its ability to generate testable hypotheses. Listen and let me know what you think.
Since Episode 30, I have been on the lookout for linguistics related news, which is why the following item in ScienceDaily.com caught my eye: Linguistics professor, Jackson T. Gandour, presented information from several of his pitch processing studies entitled "Brain Basis of Speech."
"Everyone has a brainstem, but it's tuned differently depending on what sounds are behaviorally relevant to a person; for example, the sounds of his or her mother tongue," Gandour said.
Jackson T. Gandour is a researcher in neurophonetics at Purdue University. The complete article, "Linguist Tunes In To Pitch Processing In Brain" is available at the Science Daily website.
This is a point I have emphasized repeatedly. Inman observes that approaches liked embodied artificial intelligence (which we discussed with Rolf Pfeifer in Episode 25) are really based on a different philosophy of mind that "good old-fashioned AI."
His paper, Philosophy of Mind Using a Screwdriver, is available as a PDF.
Proust was a Neuroscientist is a valuable contribution to the current exploration of the relevance of neuroscience to everyday life. It can be easily read in a few sittings or savored one artist at a time.
Natasha Mitchell is an excellent interviewer because she always asks interesting and probing questions. (I think of her as the Australian Terry Gross.). All in the Mind is an excellent compliment to the Brain Science Podcast.
Mitchell has recently begun an All in the Mind blog and there is a new All in the Mind group on Facebook.
I just listened to the February 6, episode of Science Talk, the podcast from Scientific American. Steve Mirsky talks with linguist Alice Gaby, from the University of California-Berkeley, about the relationship between language, culture, cognition and perception. This is very relevant to Episode 30 of the Brain Science Podcast (due out on February 8), which is about the evolution of language.
In response to listener requests, I recently interviewed Dr. Steven Novella from the Skeptics Guide to the Universe. This has been posted as Episode 16 of Books and Ideas , my other podcast. The details are available in the show notes on the Books and Ideas website. I hope you will consider subscribing to the podcast, but if you just want to hear the interview,
The Philosopher's Zone is one of the excellent Australian podcasts that I listen to regularly. The episode of January 12, 2007, is especially relevant to our recent discussion of embodied intelligence. Host Alan Saunders interviews Matt Carter , author of Minds and Computers: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence.
Their conversation is a good brief introduction to some of the issues of philosophy of mind, the relevance of the computational theory of the mind (introduced in Brain Science Podcast #15), and the importance of embodiment to the field of artificial intelligence.
If anyone has already read this book, I would love to hear your feedback and impressions.
Books and Ideas Podcast #15 is an interview with Robert Schleip, PhD, from the University of Ulm in Germany. Dr. Schleip is an experienced practitioner of the body work method known as Rolfing, but several years ago he went back and earned his PhD in Biology and began a second career as a research scientist.
In our interview, we discuss some of the recent discoveries that may revolutionize the way we look at the connective tissue that is commonly called fascia. We also talk about the importance of applying the scientific method to the evaluation of alternative and complimentary healing methods (CAM). Dr. Schleip's enthusiasm for science made this a very enjoyable interview.
References and Links:
Dr. Schleip recommends the Wikipedia entry on fascia if you would like to learn the basics.
The First International Congress International Research Congress was held in October, 2007 in Boston, MA.
You can find some of the scientists Dr. Schleip mentions on this speaker page.
Click here for more references, including those written in German.
Nature recently relaunched its neuroscience podcast under the new name: Neuropod with host Keri Smith. The show is supposed to come out once a month, and while there is some overlap in content with the main Nature Podcast, the focus on neuroscience allows them to expand the coverage of related topics.
I got an email from Keri Smith today that said there is a special episode available on the website that is devoted to coverage of the recent Society for Neuroscience meeting that was held in San Diego. I have enjoyed all the episodes so far and look forward to more.
Meanwhile, if you don't already listen to Books and Ideas I hope you will check out the new episode that I posted this week. It is an conversation with Dr. Pamela Gay of the Astronomy Cast.
Listen to Dr. Gay's interview now
If you prefer blogs, you might want to check out Action Potential (also from the editors of Nature). I am not very good at keeping my blogroll up-to-date, but another site worth checking out (suggested to me by Adam Rutherford at Nature) is Mind Hacks.
As always, remember that you can submit your favorite podcasts, blogs, and other neuro-related websites at the Brain Science Podcast Discussion Forum.