John Medina on Aging Well (BS 138)

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Dr. John Medina has spent his career in bio-engineering, but he also has a deep interest in how the brain works. In his latest book Brain Rules for Aging Well: 10 Principles for Staying Vital, Happy, and Sharp, he presents our knowledge brain aging in an engaging manner that can be enjoyed by readers of all backgrounds.

In this month's episode of Brain Science (BS 138) we discuss some of the most important principles for nourishing brains as we age. He describes what he calls the "dopamine lollipop," which is the surge of dopamine created by activities such as teaching and physical activities like dancing. Some of his ideas reinforce what we have discussed in previous episodes, but there are new ideas that are relevant to listeners of all ages.

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Alzheimer's Disease with Dr. Peter Whitehouse (BSP 68)

Brain Science Podcast 68 is an interview with Dr. Peter Whitehouse, co-author (with Daniel George) ofThe Myth of Alzheimer's: What You Aren't Being Told About Today's Most Dreaded Diagnosis.  Alzheimer's Disease originally referred to a relatively rare form of premature dementia, but in recent decades the diagnosis has been expanded to include patients of all ages. This change is not based on science, and in this interview we talk about why being labeled with with Alzheimer's may be doing older patients more harm than good.

Dr. Whitehouse is one of the pioneering researchers in this field, but advocates devoting resources to helping elders with with a wide range of age-related brain changes.  This interview should be of interest to physicians, scientists, as well as patients and their families.  I will be posting a supplemental interview with Daniel George, the co-author of The Myth of Alzheimer's later this month.  (Learn more at http://booksandideas.com)

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.

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  • Subscribe to the Books and Ideas podcast to get the extra interview with Daniel George.
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The Wisdom of the Aging Brain (BSP 17)

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This week we discuss another book by Elkonon Goldberg, Ph.D.  I highly recommend this book to everyone, because it is an excellent review of many of the topics we have discussed over the last several months including memory, emotion, and neuroplasticity.   In this episode, we continue our discussion of the role of the pre-frontal lobes in intelligence, as well as what happens to our brain as we age.

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

I want to thank Matthew Lofton for pointing out to me that there is evidence that elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror.  This means I was wrong when I said (in #16) that only humans and some primates can do this. He referred us to "I, Elephant," by Kaspar Mossmanin in the February 2007 issue of Scientific American Mind.  The original article was "Self-recognition in an Asian elephant," by:Plotnik, Joshua M.; de Waal, Frans B. M.; Reiss, Diana. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 11/7/2006, Vol. 103 Issue 45, p17053-17057.  He posted this information as a comment, but I wanted to bring this to everyone's attention.

Episodes that are referred to in this episode:

 

Note: You should have no problem listening to Episode #17 first, but I have provided these references for those who want to review or go back for more details.

Definitions used in this episode:

  • Attractor: a cognitive template that enables pattern recognition. An attractor is thought to be a concise set of neurons with strong interactions among themselves. A unique and important quality of attractors is that a broad range of inputs activate the same set of neurons. This is thought to be the mechanism of pattern recognition.
  • Cognitive competence: the ability to relate the old to the new so as to recognize the similarities between a new problem and one that has been previously solved.
  • Cognitive wisdom: an enhanced capacity for problem solving
  • Generic memory: memory for patterns

Brief list of topics discussed in this episode:

    • Review of important ideas about the prefrontal lobes from #16.
    • An hypothesis about the differing roles of the right and left hemispheres.
    • How the brain changes in normal aging.
    • Mechanisms that protect the brain from degenerative changes:
    •      Generic memory-why this type of memory is more robust.
    •      Pattern expansion-how parts of the cortex expand with use.
    •      Effortless experts-why familiar tasks are less demanding.
    •      Why vigorous mental activity is important throughout life.

    For more links related to Dr. Goldberg's work see the show notes for Episode 16.