Paul Offit, MD on Vaccine Safety (Extra Podcast)

autismsfalseprophets

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 Prophetsto 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.

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Review: "Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?" (BSP 53)

 Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?

Episode 53 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?: Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will, by Nancey Murphy and Warren S. Brown.  This book challenges the widespread fear that neuroscience is revealing an explanation of the human mind that concludes that moral responsibility and free will are illusions created by our brains.

Instead, the authors argue that the problem is the assumption that a physicalistic/materialistic model of the mind must also be reductionist (a viewpoint that all causes are bottom-up).  In this podcast I discuss their arguments against causal reductionism and for a dynamic systems model.  We also discuss why we need to avoid brain-body dualism and recognize that our mind is more than just what our brain does. The key to preserving our intuitive sense of our selves as free agents capable of reason, moral responsibility, and free will is that the dynamic systems approach allows top-down causation, without resorting to any supernatural causes or breaking any of the know laws of the physical universe.  This is a complex topic, but I present a concise overview of the book's key ideas.

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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.

Additional Show Notes

References:

  • Books and Ideas #12 ("The Myth of Free Will")
  • Alice Juarrero, Dynamics in Action: Intentional Behavior as a Complex System.
  • Terence Deacon, The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain.
  • Terrence Deacon, "Three Levels of Emergent PHenomena," in Nancy Murphy and William R. Stoeger (eds.) Evolution, and Emergence: Systems, Organisms, Persons (OUP 2007) ch 4.
  • Alwyn Scott, "The Development of Nonlinear Science", Revista del Nuovo Cimento, 27/10-11 (2004) 1-115.
  • Roger W. Sperry, "Psychology's Mentalist Paradigm and the Religion/Science Tension," American Psychologist, 43/8 (1988), 607-13.
  • Donald T. Campbell, "'Downward Causation' in Hierarchically Organized Biological Systems." in F. J. Ayala and T. Dobzhansky (eds.) Studies in the Philosophy of Biology 179-186.
  • Steven Johnson, Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
  • Robert Van Gulick, "Who's in Charge Here? And Whose Doing All the Work?"In Heil and Mele (eds.) Mental Causation, 233-56.
  • George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought.
  • Ludwig Wiggenstein, Philosophical Investigations.

Other scientists mentioned in the episode:

  • Antonio Damasio: Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain.
  • Arthur Glenberg: interviewed in Episode 36.
  • Rolf Pfeifer: interviewed in Episode 25.
  • Leslie Brothers, Friday's Footprint: How Society Shapes the Human Mind.
  • Raymond Gibbs, Embodiment and Cognitive Science.
  • Andy Clark, Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again.
  • Gerald M.Edelmanand Guilo Tononi, A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination.

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

Review of Year 2 of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 52)

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Brain Science Podcast #52 is our Second Annual Review Episode.  We review some of the highlights from 2008.  I also discuss the various other on-line resources that I have created for listeners.  Then we look ahead to what I have planned for 2009. This episode is aimed at all listeners, including those who are new to the show.

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.

Highlights from 2008:

Early in the year (#30) I discussed language evolution.  My criticism of Noam Chomsky's claim that human language results from a Universal Grammar Module generated quite a bit of discussion.  My main purpose was to emphasize that current neuroscience does not support this hypothesis.  I discussed Chomsky's work in follow-up interviews with Dr. Michael Arbib (BSP 39) and linguist Alice Gaby (BSP 41).

It is my impression that, at least to some extent, this debate comes back to the age-old "nature versus nurture" controversy, which I discussed more explicitly way back in Episode 4.  The evidence seems to be mounting that human intelligence is a product of  both processes.

There is no doubt that the capacity for language is inherited, but brain plasticity appears to be equally important.  One piece of evidence for this is that the changes in the brain that occur when people learn to read are different between languages like English and German and those like Chinese and Japanese. (Episode 24 and Episode 29)

We had 17 guests on the Brain Science Podcast in 2008, so I can't mention them all here.

  • John Ratey, MD: In Episode 33 we talked about exercise and the brain, while in Episode 45 we talked about ADD.
  • Robert Burton, MD:  In Episode 43 talked about the implications of the discovery that our sense of knowing (feeling certain) is generated by parts of the brain that are outside our conscious control!
  • John Medina, PhD: In Episode 37 we considered the practical implications of neuroscience, such as the importance of getting enough sleep and why true multi-tasking is actually impossible.
  • Dr. Brenda Milner: In Episode 49 this pioneering neuroscientist shared highlights from her long career.

Another highlight was our first live podcast, which was recorded at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia on August 31.

In the fall I returned to the subject of evolution with a three part series on the evolution of the brain.

  • Episode 47, Episode 48, and Episode 51.
  • Episode 51 is an outstanding interview with Dr. Seth Grant in which we discuss the surprising discovery that synapse complexity seems to have evolved BEFORE larger more complex brains.

Online Resources for Listeners:

  • I encouraged listeners to frequent this website and to subscribe to the RSS feed so as to receive information between posts.
  • I encouraged listeners to explored the sidebars and tabs on the website for links to other sites of interest.
  • I reminded listeners that this website includes a complete listing of previous episodes as well as a list of all the guests that have been on the show.
  • It is now possible to support the Brain Science Podcast  via both PayPal and by direct mail.
  • I encouraged listeners to participate in our Discussion Forum and to post pictures to our Flickr Group.
  • I invited listeners to contribute content to the Brain Science Podcast Room on FriendFeed and the new Neuroscience News Network on SocialMedian.
  • I reminded listeners that my personal blog is now at http://gingercampbellmd.com.  This site includes abridged show notes for the Brain Science Podcast as well as the complete show notes for Books and Ideas.
  • Listeners are encouraged to continue to post reviews on iTunes™, Podcast Pickle, Podcast Alley, Digg, and similar sites. All blog posts and tweets are greatly appreciated.

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

 

Surprising Discoveries about Synapse Evolution with Seth Grant (BSP 51)

Episode 51 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Dr. Seth Grant from Cambridge University, UK.  Dr. Grant's work focuses on the proteins that make up the receptors within synapses.  (Synapses are the key structures by which neurons send and receive signals.)  By comparing the proteins that are present in the synapses in different species, Dr. Grant has come to some surprising conclusions about the evolution of the synapse and the evolution of the brain.

In this interview, Dr. Grant explains how his research team has uncovered the identity ofsynapse proteins in a variety of species including yeast, fruit flies, and mice.  Our discussion is centered on the paper he published in Nature Neuroscience in June 2008.  Dr. Grant's team has made several surprising discoveries.  First, he has discovered that some proteins associated with neuron signaling are actually found in primitive unicellular organisms like yeast. He has also discovered that the protein structure of the synapse becomes more complex as one moves from invertebrates like fruit flies to vertebrates like mice, but that most of the complexity seems to have arisen early on in vertebrates.

According to Dr. Grant:

The origins of the brain appear to be in a protosynapse, or ancient set of proteins found in unicellular animals; and when unicellular animals evolved into metazoans, or multicellular animals, their protosynaptic architecture was co-opted and embelished by the addition of new proteins onto that ancient protosynaptic set; and that set of new molecules was inserted into the junctions of the first neurons, or the synapse between the first neurons in simple invertebrate animals.  When invertebrates evolved into vertebrates, around a billion years ago, there was a further addition, or enhancement of the number of these synaptic molecules, and that has been conserved throughout vertebrate evolution, where they have much larger numbers of synaptic molecules.  The large complex synapses evolved before large anatomically complex brains.

The discovery that there are significant differences between the synapses in vertebrates and non-vertebrates is significant, because it has long been assumed that synapses were essentially identical between species, and that brain and behavioral complexity was based on having more neurons and bigger brains.  Instead, Dr. Grant proposes an alternative hypothesis:

The first part of the brain to ever evolve was the protosynapse. In other words, synapses came first.
When this big synapse evolved, what the vertebrate brain then did, as it grew bigger and evolved afterwards; it exploited the new proteins that had evolved into making new types of neurons in new types of regions of the brain. In other words, we would like to put forward the view that the synapse evolution has allowed brain specialization, regionalization, to occur.

How to get this episode:

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Addition Show Notes and Links

References:

Blog posts and other links:

Learn more about Dr. Grant's work:

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

Transcript Now Available for Episode 8 (Neurotransmitters)

Episode 8 of the Brain Science Podcast was a detailed discussion of how neurons communicate via neurotransmitters. Many listeners found the material challenging, so I am happy to announce that I have just posted a transcript of Episode 8. Jenine Johns did an excellent job.

If you haven't had a chance to listen to Episode 8, I highly recommend doing so because the material will be relevant to next week's episode of the Brain Science Podcast.

Note: A transcript for Episode 42, the discussion of Robert Burton's book, On Being Certain is also available.

Highlights from Neuroscience 2008 (BSP 50)

Episode 50 of the Brain Science Podcast is a change of pace from our usual format.  In this episode I share a few highlights from this year's Neuroscience 2008, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, which just concluded in Washington, DC.

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.

Show Notes and Links:

Scientists featured in this episode:

  • Eve Marder (Brandeis University)-current president of SfN.
  • Tom Carew (UC-Irvine)-incoming president of SfN.
  • Michael Bate (Cambridge University): his talk about the study of the development of movement in fruit flies is featured in this episode.

References:

Announcements:

  • Books and Ideas #23: Interview with Nobel physicist, Dr. Frank Wilczek.

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

Dr. Brenda Milner Swamped by Admirers

Neuroscience pioneer, Dr. Brenda Milner gave a memorable lecture on the history of memory research yesterday afternoon at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.  Before her talk, she was greeted by old colleagues, including Nobel Laureate, Dr. Eric Kandel.  (I was able to talk with Dr. Kandel briefly and he has agreed to come on the Brain Science Podcast in 2009!)

After her talk, Dr. Milner was swamped by young admirers who were eager to have their pictures taken with this amazing pioneer.  Dr. Milner’s talk included a discussion of her work with the famous patient HM, but she was very meticulous about crediting the work of others including Dr. Sue Corkin of MIT, who was also in the audience.  Readers who missed the lecture can get a feel for the story Dr. Milner shared by listening to her recent interviews on Futures in Biotech and the Brain Science Podcast.

Since I recently interviewed Dr. Milner for Episode 49 of the Brain Science Podcast,  I was grateful to have the chance to meet her in person and to give her a Brain Science Podcast t-shirt.

Listen to Dr. Milner on the Brain Science Podcast

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

Share your comments on the Discussion Forum

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From Neuroscience 2008: BSP Listener wins Travel Award

Mary Petrosko from Dominican University was one of several students honored last night at a reception for winners of the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN) Travel Awards, held as a part of this year’s Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, which is being held through tomorrow in Washington, DC. Mary was one of several students who received travel awards from the Grass Foundation. The event included a poster session where undergraduate neuroscience students presented their research. Mary Petrosko’s research involved exposing Aplysia to gingko and measuring its effects on learning.  (Apylsia has been a key experimental animal for unraveling learning at a fundamental level.) Petosko’s work showed that gingko had no measurable effect on Aplysia learning. While this does not prove that it is also ineffective in humans, it does support the findings of other researchers who have found no effect in normal human learning. Also, it raises the question of what the mechanism of gingko’s action would be, since we know that the fundamental elements of learning, such as LTP (long term potentiation), are shared across species. Mary told me that when she first started to work in her lab she listened to the Brain Science Podcast to “get up to speed.” I want to congratulate Mary on her award and also thank all the students who have written to me in the last 2 years. Your feedback helps keep me going.
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Neuroscience 2008: Emerging Themes

30,000 scientists are attending the annual meeting of the Society of Neuroscience in Washington DC. To a neophyte attendee (like me) there seem to be at least that many lectures and posters to choose from. Yesterday I focused on attending several press events and I also enjoyed a featured lecture by Dr. Michael Bate, from Cambridge University (UK). At the press events several themes emerged. As I mentioned in a previous post the leadership of the Society for Neuroscience is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of public awareness of neuroscience. Yesterday they announced Neuroscience Core Concepts, which they described as a “practical resource” about how the brain works. Click here to learn more. Besides emphasizing the importance of public education, during the press briefing with various leaders from NIH, the importance of basic research was highlighted. A recent politician’s attack on fruit fly research has made scientists painfully aware that even people in leadership positions remain dangerously unaware that seemingly esoteric research can lead to important advances. The fruit’s fly’s essential role in genetic research is taken for granted by most scientists, but it is also important in neuroscience research that is not explicitly genetic in nature. Later today I will try to post a brief description of Michael Bate’s lecture. It is a perfect example of this principle since it involves using fruit fly larvae to study motor development. Even thought the fruit fly lacks a true brain it has a surprisingly complex nervous system.
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Neuroscience 2008: Incoming President of SfN Emphasizes Public Outreach

At Saturday's Brain Awareness Campaign Event at Neuroscience 2008, Tom Carew, President-Elect of the Society for Neuroscience described his commitment to public outreach. The emphasis of the Brain Awareness Week campaign is on K-12 educational outreach. Dr. Carew and the other speakers noted that today's youngsters are tomorrow's neuroscientists. Also, public education is essential to on-going support of science research. It is also becoming increasingly important in helping citizens make decisions about their own health. Barbara Gill from the Dana Alliance announced that they will be updating their website for the 2009 campaign, and Dr. Carew outlined his plans to increase collaboration among scientists and educators. Since the Society for Neuroscience is the most important international organization of neuroscientists, I think it is very important that they are becoming more active in public outreach. As the public becomes more aware of neuroscience there is an important need for accurate sources of information.
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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/

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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:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
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Listen to Dr. Milner on Futures in Biotech (Episode33)

Additional Links:

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

Brain Evolution with Gary Lynch, PhD (BSP 48)

Gary Lynch

Gary Lynch

Episode 48 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Gary Lynch, PhD, co-author (with Richard Granger) of Big Brain: The Origins and Future of Human Intelligence.  Dr. Lynch has spent decades studying memory at the level of the synapse.  His work with computer simulations based on how the brain really works led him to a fascination with the question of how our brains got so large.  Are humans smart because we have big brains or because are brains are different?

Dr. Lynch argues that the unique features of the human brain are a natural result of increased brain size.  He also argues against the conventional view that increasing brain size resulted from selection pressures during the millions of years of primate evolution that proceeded the emergence of homo sapiens.  We talk about the evidence supporting this radical position during the interview.

We also talk about another radical theory that Dr. Lynch has proposed, which is the idea that the olfactory cortex formed the template for the evolution of the cortex in mammals and primates.  This intriguing theory brings a new perspective to the fact that the olfactory system has unique access to important brain systems including the frontal lobes, the amygdala (which is involve in emotion), and the hippocampus (which is essential to long-term memory.

In addition to discussing the evidence that led him to his controversial theories, Dr. Lynch discusses the challenges facing scientists interested in pursuing research questions about brain evolution.

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.

References and Links:

The figure below is used with the permission of the author and the artist (Cheryl Cotman).

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

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Review: "Principles of Brain Evolution" (BSP 47)

Episode 47 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of Principles of Brain Evolution by Georg F. Striedter.  My goal is to highlight the main ideas of this complicated and often controversial subject.  Understanding the principles of brain evolution is an important element in our multidisciplinary attempt to understand how our brains make us who we are.

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Show Notes and Links:

Important terms:

  • homologues: characteristics with shared ancestry.
  • neurocladistics: a rigorous method for classifying neural structures based on their ancestry.
  • small-world network: a mathematical graph where most nodes connect to nearby nodes but almost any two can be connect in relatively small number of steps (the famous six-degrees of separation).
  • Boskop man: an extinct hominid that is thought to have had a larger brain than modern humans.

People and scientists discussed:

Announcements:

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"All in the Mind" Looks at Brain Plasticity

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.

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:

  • 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.

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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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:

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

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™).

Links:

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

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Meditation and the Brain with Daniel Siegel, MD (BSP 44)

Daniel Siegel, M.D.

In Episode 44 of the Brain Science Podcast I talk with Daniel Siegel, MD about meditation and the brain.  Dr. Siegel is the author of several books including The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being.  In this interview, we review the scientific evidence about how mindfulness meditation changes the brain, both in terms of short term activity and in terms of long-term structural changes.  The evidence is convincing that a regular mindfulness practice can be an important element of brain health.

How to get this episode:

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

Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.:

Scientists and writers mentioned in Episode 44:

More information about meditation:

Note: Insight Meditation is based of vipassana meditation, the mindfulness practices of Theravada, the oldest branch of Buddhism.  Insight Meditation is easily adapted to secular purposes because it not based on beliefs or dogmas.  The most well-known secular form is called mindfulness meditation, which begins with a focus on breath awareness and then advances to developing compassion for oneself and others.

Researchers are studying people who practice other types of mediation also. Richard Davidson has focused his work on the study of Tibetan Buddhist monks.  Their practice emphasizes the development of compassion.

*I discussed the therapeutic use of mediation with Delany Dean, PhD, in Episode 20 of Books and Ideas.

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From SharpBrains: Neurogenesis and Brain Plasiticity

In her latest post for SharpBrains Laurie Bartels reviews some of the principles of brain plasticity.  One principle that she mentions that I think deserves more attention is the importance of learning new things.

Adults may have a tendency to get set in their ways – I’ve been doing it this way for a long time and it works, so why change?  Turns out, though, that change can be a way to keep aging brains healthy.  At the April Learning & the Brain conference, the theme of which was neuroplasticity, I attended several sessions on adult learning. (Click here to read Laurie's post.)

She goes on to review the highlights of the Learning and Brain Conference.  You can read the full post at: http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/08/07/neurogenesis-and-brain-plasticity-in-adult-brains/

"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.

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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.

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