Pain is a Complex Emotional and Sensory Experience (BSP 93)

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Dr. Fernando Cervero  

 

Dr. Fernando Cervero of McGill University has been studying pain since the beginning of his career back in the 1960s.  These decades have seen tremendous advances in our neuroscientific understanding of what causes different types of pain, as well as changing attitudes.  Pain was once regarded as something that most people had to endure, but now most of us demand adequate pain relief, sometimes even to the point of not tolerating minor pain.  Dr. Cevero's new book, Understanding Pain, provides an accessible account of both the history of pain research and a thoughtful consideration of the challenges facing the field.

The latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast  (BSP 93) is an interview with Dr. Cervero.  This is Part 1 of a planned two-part series.

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:

Meet Dr. Campbell in Person:

  • Downtown Atlanta, Georgia February 19-21, 2013.
  • South by SouthWest: March 7-10, 2013 (Austin, TX, USA).
  • Johannesburg, South Africa April 8,9 2013.

I would love to some listener meetups, so please drop me an email at gincampbell at mac dot com, if you will be at any of these places on the right days.

Other Announcements:

Reminders:

  • Don't forget to get your copy of my eBook, Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty, from Amazon.com.  If you don't have the Kindle app, just send me your Amazon receipt and I will send you the PDF.
  • The Brain Science Podcast is supported by listener donations.  It also relies on your word of mouth, so don't forget to share it with others.
  • Join the Brain Science Podcast  Fan Page on Facebook, Google+, and share your thoughts in our Discussion Forum on Goodreads.  Of course, you can also send me email at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.
  • To get show notes automatically and never miss an episode of the Brain Science Podcast, sign up for the BSP Newsletter.

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

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Bruce Hood, PhD

 

The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity, by Bruce Hood, is a fascinating look at how our brains create both our experience of the world and our sense of being a single, coherent self.  As the word "illusion" in the title indicates, neither is exactly what it seems.  When I interviewed Dr. Hood (BSP 88), he explained that The Self Illusion is a broad introduction to this somewhat surprising idea. The  Self Illusion was written with a general audience in mind.  For those already familiar with the topic, he also puts a new emphasis on the role of development.  All readers should come away with a new appreciation for the critical role social interactions play through out human life.

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 Podcasts:

Additional References:

Announcements:

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

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The latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 71) is our 4th annual review episode.  As usual, I review highlights from this year's interviews, but this year I added a new feature: my personal reflections on how the Brain Science Podcast has impacted my life.  This episode also contains a special announcement for UK listeners.

How to get this episode:

Major Topics from Season 4:

  • Emotions with Jaak Panksepp (BSP 65).
  • Memory with Randy Gallistel (BSP 66).
  • Consciousness with Thomas Metzinger (BSP 67).
  • Alzheimer's Disease with Peter Whitehouse (BSP 68 and Books and Ideas 36).
  • Glia Cells with R. Douglas Fields (BSP 69).
  • Pop Psychology Myths with Scott Lilienfeld (BSP 70).

References:

Announcements:

  • The Brain Science Podcast app is now available for both iPhone and ANDROID (NEW!)
  • Be sure to subscribe to my Books and Ideas podcast. The next episode will come out in December.
  • The next episode of the Brain Science Podcast will come out in January 2010. 
  • Sign up for our Newsletter so that you won't miss any episodes.

Send me feedback at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

Exploring Glial Cells with R. Douglas Fields (BSP 69)

Recent research has discovered that glial cells (the non-neuronal cells that make up about 85% of the cells in the human nervous system) actually do more than just support neurons.  In Episode 69 of the Brain Science Podcast, I explore some of these recent discoveries with pioneering researcher, R. Douglas Fields, PhD.  Dr. Fields is the author of The Other Brain: From Dementia to Schizophrenia, How New Discoveries about the Brain Are Revolutionizing Medicine and Science.  The Other Brain provides a compelling introduction to this exciting new field.  It is aimed at general readers, but it should also be on the must-read list for all students of neuroscience.

How to get this episode:

Donations are appreciated

References:

  • The Other Brain: From Dementia to Schizophrenia, How New Discoveries about the Brain Are Revolutionizing Medicine and Science, by R. Douglas Fields (2010).
  • Glial Neurobiology: A Textbook, by Alexei Verkhratsky and Arthur Butt (2007).
  • Bullock, T. H., Bennett, M. V., Johnston, D., Josephson, R., Marder, E., Fields, R. D. "Neuroscience. The neuron doctrine, redux." Science 310. 5749 (2005): 791-3.
  • Perspectives.
  • Bullock, T. H. (2004) The Natural History of Neuroglia: an agenda for comparative studies. Neuron Glial Biology 1:97-100.
  • Fields, R. D. (2006) Beyond the Neuron Doctrine. Scientific American Mind June/July 17:20-27.

Links:

  • The Other Brain website.
  • R. Douglas Fields: Chief and Senior Researcher of the Section on Nervous System Development and Plasticity at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is part of NIH.
  • Dr. Ichiji Tasaki; worked at NIH for over 50 years and was a pioneering researcher of nerve conduction. (See the episode transcript for links to the other researchers that were mentioned in this episode.)

Related Episodes of the Brain Science Podcast:

  • BSP 8: How Neurons Communicate.
  • BSP 56: Interview with Dr. Eve Marder

Announcements:

  • The Brain Science Podcast application for iPhone/Touch now contains transcripts for all episodes.  Your reviews are greatly appreciated.
  • The next new episode of the Brain Science Podcast will come out in September, 2010.
  • Be sure to check out my other podcast Books and Ideas.
  • For more science podcasts go to http://sciencepodcasters.org.
  • Stay informed by subscribing to the BSP Newsletter.
  • Correction: Barbara Strauch is the author of The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind.  (Note the correct spelling of STRAUCH)
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Affective Neuroscience with Jaak Panksepp (BSP 65)

Episode 65 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Jaak Panksepp, PhD, author of Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions.   Dr. Panksepp has done pioneering work on the neural origins of emotions.   In this interview, we discuss how his work challenges some of the common assumptions about emotions and some of the important implications of his discoveries.  New listeners may want to go back and listen to Episode 11 for an introduction to the neuroscience of emotion.

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References:

Scientists Mentioned in this Episode:

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

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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:

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:

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David Bainbridge on The Teenage Brain (BSP 63)

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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:

Links:

Announcements:

 

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"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.

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Why Play is Essential to Brain Health with Dr. Stuart Brown (BSP 60)

In Episode 60 of the Brain Science Podcast, Ginger Campbell, MD, interviews Dr. Stuart Brown, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul Our focus is on the importance of play for normal mental development and psychological health. We also explore the importance of play in adults.

How to get this episode:

Scientists mentioned in the podcast:

Books about Play and Related Topics:

Useful Links:

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

Interview with Philosopher Alva Noë (BSP 58)

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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.     

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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)

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Neurophilosophy with Patricia Churchland (BSP 55)

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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.

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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.

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:

Links and References

Previous Episodes on Brain Plasticity

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

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.

How to get this episode:

 

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.

Donations and Subscriptions are appreciated

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:

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 of  synapse 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.

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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.

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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

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.

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References and Links:

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

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