"Neuroplasticity and Healing" (BSP 113)

Click to play BSP 113

Click to play BSP 113

The Dalai Lama's first visit to Alabama included several large public gatherings but I was invited to attend "Neuroplasticity and Healing," which was the scientific symposium he hosted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The featured neuroscientists were Dr. Edward Taub and Dr. Michael Merzenich. The moderator was Dr. Norman Doidge.

The Dalai Lama has a long-standing interest in science and he told the rapt audience that his four areas of interest are cosmology, physics, neurobiology, and psychology.

He is very interested in neuroplasticity and his visit to Alabama was actually prompted by a desire to see the work of Dr. Edward Taub who has pioneered a revolutionary approach to stroke rehabilitation. During this event Dr. Taub and Dr. Merzenich both shared how their work in brain plasticity is being used to help people with a variety of neurological challenges, but Dr. Merzenich also emphasized that these same principles can be applied by everyone. He explained that brain plasticity "is a two way process," which means that the choices we make are important. The Dalai Lama noted that Eastern practices like Meditation "work from the inside out," which is why he feels that Buddhist psychology and modern neuroscience can inform each other.

Episode 113 of the Brain Science Podcast includes audio excerpts from "Neuroplasticity and Healing" as well as my summary of the key ideas. Extras for the Mobile app include a free download of BSP 26 with Dr. Norman Doidge.

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Related Episodes of the Brain Science Podcast:

  • BSP 10: Introduction to Brain Plasticity (Discussion of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain)
  • BSP 26: Norman Doidge, MD, author of The Brain That Changes Itself
  • BSP 28: Edward Taub, PhD: applies brain plasticity to Stroke Rehab  
  • BSP 54: Michael Merzenich, pioneer of Neuroplasticity
  • BSP 105: Michael Merzenich talks about Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life


  • Next month's episode will be our 8th Annual Review Episode.

  • The most recent 25 episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE. Older episodes and episode transcripts are available for $1 each. Premium subscribers have unlimited access to all 100+ episodes and transcripts.

  • Reminder: The Brain Science Podcast mobile app is now FREE for iOS, Android and Windows Mobile.  Check newer episodes for extra free content!

  • 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+.

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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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.

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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.

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    Neuroscience Highlights for 2012 (BSP 92)


    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)
    • 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.


    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.


    Ways to Support the BSP:

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    The Origin of Emotions with Jaak Panksepp (BSP 91)


    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.

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    Related Episodes:


    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.

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


    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.

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    Disgust with Rachel Herz (BSP 86)


    Disgust is an universal emotion, but unlike emotions like fear and anger, disgust must be learned.  This is the main conclusion of Dr. Rachel Herz's latest book, That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion.  In a recent interview (BSP 86), Dr. Herz told me why she spent the last several years studying this rather unusual subject.  We also discussed what the study of disgust can tell us about how our brains process emotion.

    This is Dr. Herz's second visit to the Brain Science Podcast.  Back in BSP 34 we talked about her first book, The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell.

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    "Mind and Brain" with William Uttal (BSP 83)


    William Uttal, PhD

    There is nothing more exciting than the mind/brain problem" according to Dr. William Uttal, author of Mind and Brain: A Critical Appraisal of Cognitive Neuroscience.  In the latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast  (BSP 83) I talked with Dr. Uttal about why he feels that brain imaging can not solve this mystery.

    First, there is the problem that brain imaging represents the wrong level of analysis because every spot you see on a brain scan actaully represents thousands of neurons.  This means that the activity and interaction between individual neurons has been lost. Then there is the problem of reproducibility, with divergent results between studies.

    The evidence is accumulating that "much of the brain responds to any stimulus, and every area of the brain participates in multiple functions."  This means that asking where a given function occurs may be the wrong question.

    BSP 83 represents an on-going discussion of these issues, so I have included links to related episodes in the show notes. 

    How to get this episode:


    Related Podcasts:  


    Send me feedback at gincampbell at mac dot.com.

    Cognitive Dissonance (BSP Extra)


    I am putting Episode 43 of Books and Ideas into the Brain Science Podcast feed because it should be of interest to BSP fans. This episode is an interview with psychologist Carol Tavris.



    We talk about the relationship between psychology and neuroscience as well as cognitive dissonance, which is the subject of Dr. Tavris's recent book Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts.


    Post your comments in the thread on the BSP Discussion Forum in Goodreads or send me feedback at gincampbell at mac dot com.

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


    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:

    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).



    • 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:

    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?


    • 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.


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

    Send comments to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

    "SuperSense": Bruce Hood on Believing the Unbelievable

    Episode 34 of Books and Ideas  is an interview with Bruce M Hood, author of SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable .

    Dr. Hood is a developmental psychologist with a long-standing interest in why people believe weird things.  In SuperSense, he argues that innate cognitive structures (how we think without being taught) give people a natural tendency toward belief in the supernatural.  Our intuitive sense of how the world works is often at odds with the findings of modern science.

    In this interview we discuss the evidence for these conclusions and their implications.

    Click here for detailed show notes and to learn more about more free episodes of Books and Ideas.

    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.

    How to get this episode:

    Scientists mentioned in the podcast:

    Books about Play and Related Topics:

    Useful Links:

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

    How our Brain Creates Our World with Chris Frith, PhD (BSP 57)


    Episode 57 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with neuropsychologist, Dr. Chris Frith, author of Making up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World.   Our brain processes information about the world outside us (via our senses) in the same way that it processes information from within our bodies and from our own mental world.  In this interview.  Dr. Frith and I explore the implications from recent discoveries about how our brain generates our mental world.

    How to get this episode:

    Useful Links:

    Selected References:*

    *These references are from Making up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World by Chris Frith.

    Send feedback to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

    All in the Mind: Is the Adolescent Mind a Myth?

    natasha_mitchell The March 28th episode of All in the Mind is an excellent discussion of the controversy surrounding the meaning of adolescence. While some researchers point to the growing evidence that parts of the brain (such as the frontal lobe and its connections) do not mature until early adulthood as evidence that the adolescent brain is different, some writers, like Dr. Robert Epstein, argue that the problems of adolenscence are created by Western culture not changes in the brain. The episode includes a several distinguished guests with different view points. One of the guests was David Bainbridge, whose book Beyond the Zonules of Zinn: A Fantastic Journey Through Your Brain was discussed in Episode 32 of the Brain Science Podcast. I am looking forward to reading his new book Teenagers: A Natural History when it is released in the United States (August, 2009).
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    ISDP Celebrates 40 years of Neuroscience Research

    I am in Washington, DC to cover Neuroscience 2008, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience; but yesterday, thanks to Kathleen Burke, PhD, of USC, I also had the opportunity to visit a poster session at the International Society of Developmental Psychobiology (ISDP), which is celebrating it 40th year.  The focus of the ISDP is on the relationship between brain developmental and behavior.  This is an area of research that has many practical applications.

    For example, it is well-known that excessive alcohol consumption in pregnancy can cause the devastating condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome.  Researchers are trying to uncover the mechanisms of this damage.  They are also trying to determine whether there are any countermeasures, such as iron-supplementation, that really help prevent the damage.

    The research topics are quite diverse.  They range from questions about how babbling relates to language development to questions about adolescent brain.  Jack Turman, PhD, arranged for me to talk to numerous researchers, and I hope to have some of them on a future episode of the Brain Science Podcast.  You can learn more about ISDP at http://www.isdp.org/


    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:

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

    Additional Links:

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

    Brain Imaging: Recorded LIVE at Dragon*Con 2008 (BSP 46)

    Dragon*Con 2008

    Dr. Campbell at Dragon*Con 2008

    Brain Science Podcast #46 is a discussion of brain imaging with Dr. Shella Keilholz and Dr. Jason Schneiderman.  The focus of our discussion is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which is revolutionizing neuroscience.  We talked about both the strengths and weaknesses of this technique.  Both of my guests agree that mainstream coverage of this technique tends to exaggerate what we can actually tell from this kind of brain scan.  An important principle is that the scan of any single individual can vary greatly from day to day, which means that valid conclusions require data from a large number of people.

    Since this episode was recorded LIVE in the Podcasting Track at Dragon*Con 2008, it includes audience questions at the end, which helped bring out additional ideas.  I have posted an edited version (but there is still some noise from the room next door).  If you are interested in hearing the raw unedited version, click here.  I also want to thank Swoopy from Skepticality for all the work she did to make the podcasting track a great success.

    How to get this episode:

    More about my guests:

    Shella Keilholz, PhD, is an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineeering at Georgia Tech and the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA.  She is doing studies that involve correlating fMRI scans with the reading from electrodes placed in rat brains.  This work is fundamental to improving the correlation between fMRI scans, which reflect brain activity only indirectly, and what is actually happening in the neurons of the brain.

    Jason Schneiderman, PhD studied psychology before earning his PhD in neuroscience.  His dissertation involved the use of diffusion tensor imaging, which is a new method of scanning that is being used to track the axonal connections in the brain.  He is currently doing a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, where his team is trying to determine if the connections in the brains of young schizophrenics are different from normal.  The goal is to improve early diagnosis because early intervention makes a big difference.

    Some recent discussions of fMRI:

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    Send email feedback to Ginger Campbell, MD 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:

    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™).


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


    Donations and Subscriptions are appreciated