What Do Mirror Neurons Really Do? (BSP 112)

Greg Hickok, PhD (Click on photo to hear his interview)

Greg Hickok, PhD (Click on photo to hear his interview)

Ever since their chance discovery back in 1992 mirror neurons have captured the imagination of both scientists and nonscientists, but their actual role remains mostly speculative. In The Myth of Mirror Neurons: The Real Neuroscience of Communication and Cognition Dr. Gregory Hickok (UC-Irvine) explains why the most popular theory is probably wrong. He also provides a fascinating account of how science is really done and the sobering lesson that scientists can fall prey to the same cognitive biases (and tendencies toward laziness) that plague all humans.

I first discussed the discovery of mirror neurons back in BSP 35 when I featured  Mirrors in the brain: How our minds share actions, emotions, and experience (2008) by Giacomo Rizzolatti and Corrado Sinigaglia. At that time what I found most fascinating was that since mirror neurons fire both when a subject (usually a monkey) performs an action and when a similar action is observed, this proves that single neurons are not necessarily purely motor or purely sensory. This surprising discovery seems to have been overshadowed in the rush to use mirror neurons to explain everything from autism to language evolution.

The latest Brain Science Podcast  (BSP 112) features an interview with Dr. Gregory Hickok. BSP 35 is also available for FREE via the Brain Science Podcast Mobile APP.

 

How to get this episode:

References and Links

Related Episodes:

  • BSP 35: introduction to Mirror Neurons (free as an episode extra if you use the BSP mobile app)
  • BSP 39: Dr. Michael Arbib on the possible role of mirror neurons in language evolution (note this interview doesn't represent his current views)

Announcements:

  • Next month's episode will provide exclusive coverage of "Neuroplasticity and Healing" an event being hosted by the Dalai Lama at the UAB School of Medicine.

  • 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+.

Exercise Promotes Brain Plasticity (BSP 111)

John Ratey, MD
Click picture to hear interview

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

Download BSP 111

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

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

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

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

How to get this episode:

References and Links

Related Episodes:

Announcements:

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

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

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

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

"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. 

How to get this episode:

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

Reference and Links:

Announcements:

John Ratey Returns

Richard Manning and John Ratey (click on photo to hear Dr. Ratey's interview)

Richard Manning and John Ratey (click on photo to hear Dr. Ratey's interview)

Back in 2008 I interviewed Dr. John Ratey twice: first about his then new book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (BSP 33) and then later about his work with ADHD (BSP 45). Dr. Ratey was one of my favorite guests so I was eager to interview him about his new book Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind. This latest book explores the science behind the current movement to embrace a more healthy lifestyle based on lessons learned from our hunter gatherer ancestors. Since the topic doesn't quite fit on the Brain Science Podcast I recorded Dr. Ratey's latest interview for my other show Books and Ideas, but I am including the mp3 as a free download in the BSP feed.

Avoiding "Neuromania" (BSP 109)

I have spent the last 7 1/2 years sharing and promoting neuroscience and while it has been encouraging to see the field grow in popularity, there has also been a disturbing trend toward increased hype. One goal of the Brain Science Podcast is to provide accurate information that helps the average listener enjoy the science and avoid pseudoscience. BSP 109 was inspired by several excellent books that have documented the hazards of what some writers are calling "neuromania" or neurocentrism, which is the tendency to see the brain as the only path to understanding.

How to get this episode:

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

This episode is based on:

Additional References:

Announcements:

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.

How to get this episode:

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.

How to get this episode:

References:

Announcements:

"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.

How to get this episode:

References and Additional Reading

Related Episodes

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:

  • 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 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:

BSP launches Premium Subscription

Today I am launching the new Premium Subscription program for the Brain Science Podcast. This subscription will provide unlimited access to the entire library of Brain Podcast episodes and transcripts for only $5 per month. Individual episodes and transcripts are also available for sale here.

All new episodes of the Brain Science Podcast will continue to be FREE as will the most recent 25 episodes. This represents about two years of free content. I am hopeful that this combination of free and premium content will allow me to continue to produce the Brain Science Podcast for many years to come.

The first 500 people who sign up can get a 50% discount by using the coupon code:

BSP-500

Click here to Subscribe

 

 

Mobile Apps are now free:

Both Free and Premium content are easily accessible via our free Mobile apps that are now Free for iOS and Android Devices. (The Windows 8 app currently supports only free content). Premium content will also be accessible via any web browser.

I expect we will have a few growing pains over the next few days, but please send me feedback at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

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:

  • 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.

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:

  • 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.

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:

  • 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.

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:

    • 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: 

    • 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)
    • 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.

    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)
        • 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.

        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. 

          claimtoken-52111a410ebf3

          "The Autistic Brain" by Temple Grandin (BSP 98)

           The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum  by Temple Grandin (with Richard Panek), is a tremendous gift, not just to patients and their families, but also to teachers, mentors, friends, and everyone who is interested in understanding how our brains make us who we are.

          I think that this is a book everyone should read because as we come to appreciate the fact that the strengths and challenges of autism occur across a broad spectrum, we may also realize that some of these issues actually affect people who aren't considered autistic.  It is not the label that matters.  What does matter is recognizing that each of us has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, but thanks to brain plasticity, we all have the potential to nurture our strengths and, when necessary, accommodate our weaknesses.

           

          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 and Related Episodes:

          Announcements: 

          • I am still trying to schedule an interview with Dr. Temple Grandin, but there is a possibility that the next episode of the Brain Science Podcast will not come out until August 2013.
          • The Deadline for listener submissions to Episode 100 is August 1, 2013.
          • Several products are not available directly on this website including the PDF version of Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty by Ginger Campbell, MD and a zip file contain BSP 1-10. Click here to learn more.
          • Be sure to sign up for the Brain Science Podcast Newsletter so that you can receive show notes automatically and NEVER miss a new episode. (But there was a glitch last month, so if you did not get the show notes for BSP 97, please click here.

          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)
          • 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

          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)
          • 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 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.

          Understanding Pain (BSP 95)

          In Understanding Pain: Exploring the Perception of Pain,  Dr. Fernando Cervero does a wonderful job of condensing his 40+ years of research and immersion in the field of pain research into a concise but readable account.  It's a great introduction, and it's bound to inspire a new generation of physicians and researchers.

          I interviewed Dr. Cervero in BSP 93, and this month's podcast (BSP 95) is the promised second part of our discussion of pain.  I focus on some of the topics that Dr. Cervero and I did not have time to discuss, including a look at how the mechanisms of acute pain differ significantly from those of chronic pain.  The growing appreciation of these differences offers hope to the millions of people around the world who suffer from chronic pain, but the ongoing efforts of researchers like Dr. Cervero also offer hope of improved pain relief for everyone.

          Unfortunately, for those of you who love audiobooks, Understanding Pain, is not available in audio; but it is a relatively short book (under 200 pages) that I recommend to everyone.  

          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 and Links:

          Announcements: