Reviewing Year 3 of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 64)

BrainScience-logo1

Episode 64 of the Brain Science Podcast  is our Third Annual Review Episode.  It includes a review of some of the major ideas we talked about in 2009 and a look ahead to what I have planned for 2010.

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.

Main Books Discussed in 2009:

Guests who appeared on the Brain Science Podcast in 2009:

  • David Bainbridge, PhD: University Clinical Veterinary Anatomist from Cambridge University (BSP 63).
  • Stuart Brown, MD: retired psychiatrist and founder of the National Institute for Play (BSP 60).
  • Warren S. Brown, PhD: experimental psychologist from Fuller Theological Seminary (BSP 62).
  • Guy Caldwell, PhD: molecular biologist from the University of Alabama (BSP 59).
  • Patricia Churchland, PhD: neurophilosopher from University of California at San Diego (BSP 55).
  • Chris Frith, PhD: neuropsychologist from University College London (BSP 57).
  • Allan Jones, PhD: Chief Science Officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Research (BSP 61).
  • Eve Marder, PhD: neuroscientist from Brandeis University (BSP 56).
  • Michael Merzenich, PhD pioneer in neuroplasticity (BSP 54).
  • Alva Noë, Phd: philosopher from the University of California (BSP 58)

Reminders:

FacebookFanBSP

Join our Facebook Fan Page:

Send feedback to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

David Bainbridge on The Teenage Brain (BSP 63)

bainbridge-150

Episode 63 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with David Bainbridge, author of Teenagers: A Natural History.  Our focus is on how the brain changes during the teenage years.  Bainbridge teaches veterinary anatomy and reproductive biology at Cambridge University and has published several other popular science books, including Beyond the Zonules of Zinn: A Fantastic Journey Through Your Brain , which I discussed back in Episode 32.

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.

Links:

Announcements:

 

FacebookFanBSP

Join our Facebook Fan Page:

Send feedback to gincampbell at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

New iPhone App is Aimed at Brain Science Podcast Listeners

The new Brain Science Podcast application is now available in the iTunes Store. You will need an iPhone or an iPod Touch to use the application but it does offer several useful features:

  • Listen to any episode without downloading it via iTunes*
  • Read episode trancripts right on your iPhone or Touch
  • One click links to the website, email, and the new phone-in line at 206-984-0358.
  • Background play*

*Note: Streaming audio works best with a WiFi connection.

BSP-ad-200.1

"Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?" with Warren Brown (BSP 62)

Warren Brown and Nancey Murphy

Warren Brown and Nancey Murphy

Episode 62 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Warren Brown, PhD, co-author (with Nancey Murphy) of Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?: Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will.  This book was discussed in detail back in Episode 53, but this interview gave me a chance to discuss some of the book's key ideas with Dr. Brown.  We focused on why a non-reductive approach is needed in order to formulate ideas about moral responsibility that are consistent with our current neurobiological understanding of the mind.

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.

Additional Links and References:

FacebookFanBSP

Join our Facebook Fan Page

Allan Jones from the Allen Institute for Brain Research (BSP 61)

Allan Jones, PhD

Allan Jones, PhD

Episode 61 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Allan Jones, PhD, the Chief Science Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Research in Seattle, Washington.  The Allen Institute is a non-profit research organization founded by Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) and is best known for its Mouse Brain Map, which is being used by researchers around the world.  The Institute has several other on-going projects including a project to create a map of the human cortex that shows which genes are active in each area.

In this interview we discuss both the mouse brain project and the human cortex project, with an emphasis on the importance of these projects to neuroscience research.  All the maps created by The Allen Institute are freely available on the internet.  Dr. Jones also shares his own story and the challenges and rewards of pursuing a career in the non-profit biotech world.

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

AllenInst_Logo_300

Previous Episodes mentioned in this podcast:

  • BSP 59: Interview with Guy Caldwell, PhD who studies the dopamine neurons in C. elegans.
  • BSP 60: Interview with Stuart Brown, MD about the importance of play.  This is an excellent episode for new listeners.

Announcements:

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

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:

  • 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.

Scientists mentioned in the podcast:

Books about Play and Related Topics:

Useful Links:

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

Using C. elegans in Neuroscience with Guy Caldwell, PhD (BSP 59)

Episode 59 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with molecular biologist, Guy Caldwell, PhD, from the University of Alabama.  We talk about the role of the tiny worm C. elegans in neuroscience research.  Dr. Caldwell is collaborating with other leading researchers (including his wife, Kim Caldwell, PhD) in work that may lead to a cure for movement disorders like dystonia and Parkinson's Disease.

Kim and Guy Caldwell

Kim and Guy Caldwell

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:

During this interview, Dr. Caldwell emphasized the importance of collaboration.  His work involves tagging the dopamine neurons in C. elegans with green florescent protein (GFP).  His work depends on the pioneering work of many scientists (some of whom I list below).  He also collaborate with researchers who are doing similar work in yeast, mice, and human cell cultures.

Scientists mentioned in this interview:

  • Martin Chalfie (Columbia University): Caldwell's mentor won the Nobel Prize in 2008 for his work with using Green Florescent Protein (GFP) to tag specific cells inside C. elegans.  Dr. Chalfie was interviewed on Futures in Biotech: Episode 37 and Episode 38.
  • Susan Lindquist (MIT): a leading geneticist who is using to take human alph-synuclein protein and place it into yeast to study the effects of protein clumping due to misfolding. (Futures in Biotech #1)
  • Sydney Brenner (Salk Institute): a leader in C. elegans research.
  • John Sulston (University of Manchester): pioneer in C. elegans research.
  • Robert Horvitz (MIT): well-researcher in the field of worm biology.
  • Cynthia Kenyon (University of California-San Francisco): is studying aging in C. elegans.
  • John White (University of Wisconsin): worked with John Sulston to determing the complete "wiring diagram" for C. elegans (which has only 302 neurons).
  • Jeff Becker (University of Tennessee): Caldwell's mentor in graduate school.
  • Chris Rochet (Purdue University): his study of mid brain cultures of rat neurons allows Caldwell to validate his findings in mammalian neurons.
  • Richard Myers (Boston University): human geneticist who has done important work in Parkinson patient genotyping.
  • Rudolph Jaenisch (MIT): expert at reprogramming skin cells into pleuripotent stem cells. This technique shows great promise for the treatment/cure of diseases like Parkinson's.
  • Xandra Breakefield (Harvard): discovered the torsin gene in 1997.

Three recent Nobel Prizes have been awarded to researchers working on C. elegans.

Announcements:

 

  • Dr. Campbell is the guest speaker at the July 18 meeting of Skeptics in the Pub in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Dr. Campbell was interviewed on Episode 96 of Brains Matter.
  • Transcripts are now available for all past episodes of the Brain Science Podcast.
  • Please join our new Brain Science Podcast Fan Page on Facebook.
  • Donations of $25 or more qualify you for the new monthly book give away.
discussionforum

Join our Discussion Forum:

Send feedback to Dr. Campbell at gincampbell at mac.com.

Transcripts Are Now Available for ALL Episodes of BSP

I am happy to announce that thanks to the combined efforts of Diane Jacobs, Jenine John and Lori Wolfson transcripts are now available for Episodes 1-58 of the Brain Science Podcast.  Click here to find your favorite episode.

Thanks to the rapid turn around by Lori Wolfson, future episodes should appear in the show notes as new episodes are posted.  Lori is also working to transcribe past and future episodes of Books and Ideas.

Listener donations help make these transcripts possible.

The next project will be to make it easier for you to find older episodes. I hope to get to work on that after I get back from Alaska on June 20, 2009.

Interview with Philosopher Alva Noë (BSP 58)

noe-crop

Episode 58 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with philosopher, Alva Noë, whose book, Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness, argues persuasively that our minds are MORE than just our brains.  He says that "the brain is necessary but not sufficient" to create the mind.     

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:

Important scientists mentioned in the interview:

  • Paul Bach-y-Rita: pioneering studies in sensory substitution using tactile stimuli to substitute for vision.
  • Held and Hein: experiments with cats showing that development of normal vision requires motor-sensory feedback.

References:

  • Brain Mechanisms in Sensory Substitution by Paul Bach-y-Rita, 1972.
  • Bach-y-Rita, P "Tactile-Vision Substitution: past and future", International Journal of  Neuroscience 19, nos. 1-4,  29-36, 1983.
  • Held, R and Hein, "Movement-produced stimulation in the development of visually guided behavior." Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology. 56(5), 872-876, 1963.
  • Held, R.  "Plasticity in sensory-motor systems." Scientific American. 213(5) 84-91, 1965.

Announcements:

  • Special thanks to Diane Jacobs, Jenine John and Lori Wolfson for transcribing all the episodes of the Brain Science Podcast.
  • Don't forget to post your reviews in iTunes®. Your word of mouth helps us find new listeners.
  • The Brain Science Podcast is supported by listener donations.

Please send your feedback to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

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

frith

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:

  • 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.

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.

Are You Having Problems Subscribing?

Recently some listeners have had problems subscribing with other podcatchers (besides Zune™ and iTunes™). This problem appears to be related to the recent takeover of Feedburner™ by Google™.

For now the simplest solution appears to be to by-pass Feedburner (which you get automatically if you choose the RSS icon on this website) and subscribe directly with the feed coming from the site that hosts my audio files.

To do this just plug the address below into your podcatcher or RSS reader: http://brainsciencepodcast.libsyn.com/rss.

Interview with Neuroscience Pioneer Eve Marder, PhD (BSP 56)

evemarder2

Episode 56 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with neuroscientist, Eve Marder, PhD.  Dr. Marder has spent 35 years studying the somatogastric ganglion of the lobster.  In this interview we talk about how she got into neuroscience during its early days, her recent tenure as president of the Society for Neuroscience, and how some of her key discoveries have implications for studying more complex nervous systems.

How to get this episode:

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).
Read More

Does the Limbic System Exist?

A few days ago I received an email from a listener asking me: Does the Limbic System Exist?

The term limbic system was made popular in the late 1970's by Carl Sagan's Pulitzer Prize winning book,The Dragons of Eden; but in recent years, many neuroscientists have come to regard the term as misleading, or worse.  In this essay I will provide a brief historical overview and discuss the scientific objections to the term limbic system.

History

The highly regarded textbook, Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain (3rd edition, edited by Bear, et. al.) provides a brief overview of the history of the "limbic system concept."  It notes that the term "limbic lobe" was introduced back in 1878 by the French neurologist Paul Broca.  Broca was describing the area of the medial brain that surrounds the brain stem and corpus callosum.  By the 1930's, the evidence suggested that many of the structures in this region were involved in emotion.  One expression of this hypothesis was the so-called "Papez circuit" (named after neurologist James Papez).  In 1952, James Maclean introduced the term "limbic system," and in 1973, he proposed his famous "triune theory" of brain evolution, which was later popularized in The Dragons of Eden.

In 1998, Jaak Panksepp made extensive use of the "triune brain" model in his groundbreaking book, Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions.  Panksepp emphasized that primates (including humans) share similar emotional circuitry.  This principle has inspired much valuable research into the role of emotion in our mental lives, so that we now recognize that proper functioning of our emotional circuitry is essential to our health.

Thus, the term "limbic system" actually includes two main ideas: the idea that there is a discrete part of the brain that generates mammalian emotions, and the idea that this area evolved as a separate area only in mammals.  In the triune theory of brain evolution, primates (including humans) are seen as having inherited three successive brain structures: the reptilian brain, the limbic system, and the neocortex.

Objections

In Neuroscience, the authors observe that, although the evidence certainly supports the the fact that some of the structures in this region are involved in emotion, the Papez circuit is no longer seen as an accurate description.  More importantly, they state "The critical point seems to be conceptual, concerning the definition of an emotional system.  Given the diversity of emotions we experience, there is no compelling reason to think that only one system--rather than several--is involved.  Conversely, solid evidence indicates that some structures involved in emotions are also involved in other functions..." (page 571).  Thus, they question applying the term limbic system to the emotional system, because it can not accurately be described as a discrete system of components, such as one would describe the visual system.

The second objection to the term limbic system is that it represents a model of primate brain evolution that has largely been discarded.  In Principles of Brain Evolution, Georg Striedter observed that Maclean's "triune brain" theory was "clearly derived" from the work of Ludwig Edinger (1908), who observed that that the forebrain of various vertebrates seemed to differ dramatically, while the lower brain structures appeared to be highly conserved.  The key underlying assumption of the "triune brain" theory is that major brain areas were added on as mammals evolved, but this essentially 19th century viewpoint has been supplanted by modern work in neuroanatomy.

Striedter explains how the idea that "brains evolved by the sequential addition of parts was toppled."   He concludes "By the 1990's, most comparative neuroanatomists believed that all vertebrate brains are built according to a common plan that varies only in its details."  His textbook describes the evidence in support of this "conservative revolution" in great detail. (Streitder, page 35)  Note: Striedter's book was discussed in Episode 47.

Conclusions

The term "limbic system" is clearly falling into disuse among neuroscientists, but seems destined to live on the popular imagination.  The "triune brain" popularized by Sagan and Maclean has an undeniable appeal, partly because it presents a clear and understandable model that corresponds to our intuitive sense of our place in the world.  The problem is that it represents an oversimplified, and possibly misleading picture.  Our brains are much more like those of other mammals than this model suggests.  Also, the emotional system is much more complex and deeply integrated into the other systems of the brain.

Scientists have a strong preference for precise language.  Thus, as described above, the limbic system does not exist, because there is no one clearly defined emotional system in the human brain.  Many neuroscientists (especially those involved in comparative neuroanatomy) also avoid the term because of its association with an outmoded view of vertebrate brain evolution.
 

References

Neurophilosophy with Patricia Churchland (BSP 55)

pchurcland

Episode 55 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with highly respected philosopher Patricia Churchland.  Churchland is the author of Neurophilosophy and Brain-Wise.  She is currently on the faculty of the University of California at San Diego, and she was a featured speaker at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in 2008.

In this interview, we talked about neurophilosophy, which is an approach to philosophy of mind that gives high priority to incorporating the empiric findings of neuroscience.   We also talk about the evolving relationship between philosophy and neuroscience.   Churchland shares her enthusiasm for how the discoveries of neuroscience are changing the way we see ourselves as human beings.  We also talked a little about the issues of reductionism that I first brought up in Episode 53.

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.

Recommended Reading:

Related Episodes of the Brain Science Podcast

  • Episode 5: Introduction to philosophy of mind and the question of consciousnes.
  • Episode 22: Interview with Christof Koch about consciousness.
  • Episode 53: Discussion of Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? a defense of free will.

More Episode Transcripts Are Now Available

Thanks to Lori Wolfson, Jenine John, and Diane Jacobs we are gradually increasing our library of Brain Science Podcast tanscripts.  The transcripts are available as PDF downloads.

transcripts1

If you don't see the episode you want please let me know. I hope to have all back episodes transcribed by the end of 2009, but I am giving priority to episodes that are requested by listeners.

Michael Merzenich Talks About Neuroplasticity (BSP 54)

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

How to get this episode:

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

Links and References

Previous Episodes on Brain Plasticity

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