Language in the Brain (BS 144) with Angela Friederici

Language in the Brain  (BS 144) with Angela Friederici

BS 144 is an interview with Dr. Angela Friederici, author of Language in Our Brain: The Origins of a Uniquely Human Capacity. This is an extensive review of several decades of research, but this interview makes the field accessible to listeners of all backgrounds.

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John Medina on Aging Well (BS 138)

JMedina.jpg

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.

How to get this episode:

References

Announcements

What is Mind? (BS 131)

In part 2 or our 10 Anniversary Retrospective we consider the question What is Mind? I reflect back on books and guests who have appeared in the last 5 years, and consider how my take on this question has evolved over the 10 years I have been creating  Brain Science (formerly called the Brain Science Podcast.) Listener feedback is also included.

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Ten Year Anniversary Show, Part 1 - The Early Years

In this very special episode, we begin a two part celebration of the 10 year anniversary for Brain Science. The podcast began in December 2006, which makes it one of the longest running shows since the first podcasts were launched in 2004.

Ten years is a lot of ground to cover, so for this episode we are only focusing on the early years from 2006 to 2011. Learn why the podcast began and get a peek into the format changes the show has had over the years. This episode contains something that you rarely see in the show - listener feedback! You'll get to hear what listeners think about the show, how they use the show to help them with their work, and you'll even get to hear from a critic! So many of you have reached out over the years, and although there isn't room for all our feedback in this episode, please know that each and every email that has been received is appreciated!

In today's episode Dr. Campbell discusses:

  • how the brain makes us human is an endlessly fascinating topic

  • favorite shows from the first 5 years of Brain Science

  • BSP 47 provides the best summary of what we know about brain evolution

  • favorite guests from the first 5 years

  • some of the decisions about the podcast frequency and the reasons beind them

  • the book review that got the show started

  • the best way to access past episodes of the show

  • shows mentioned are tagged with the term Embodied Cognition, so search for them that way

In this show, we mentioned the best ways to listen to episodes from our first 5 years. Our episode archive is available to Premium subscribers for only $5/month.  The best way to access these episodes is via the FREE Brain Science mobile app, which is available for iOS, Android, and Windows phone.

How to get this episode:

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

  • Episode Transcript [Buy PDF for $1]

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

  • New episodes of Brain Science are ALWAYS FREE. All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free. See the individual show notes for links to the audio files.

Important Links

References

Announcements

  • Part 2 of our 10th Anniversary will be posted in January 2017

  • Please send your feedback to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

9th Annual Review of Neuroscience (BSP 125)

9th Annual Review of Neuroscience (BSP 125)

BSP 125 is our ninth annual review episode. We review some key ideas from each of the 10 episodes that were released in 2015, and then take a look ahead to 2016. Check out the show notes for a complete lists of this year's guests and the books we covered. The transcript for this episode is FREE.

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Dr. Ed Taub revolutionizes Stroke Rehab (BSP 119)

Dr. Ed Taub revolutionizes Stroke Rehab (BSP 119)

BSP 119 is the first half of a new interview with Dr. Edward Taub, inventor of Constraint Induced Movement Therapy, which is a revolutionary approach to rehabilitating people with brain injuries, such as stroke and trauma.

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Brain Science Podcast Celebrates 8 Years of Neuroscience

Ginger CampbeLL, host of the Brain Science Podcast (L>R: Greta, Rusty, & Jake)

Ginger CampbeLL, host of the Brain Science Podcast (L>R: Greta, Rusty, & Jake)

The first episode of the Brain Science Podcast appeared on December 5, 2006, which makes it one of the longest running shows in any genre, not just science or medicine. I am especially proud of the fact that we have reached listeners in 219 different countries. BSP 114 is our 8th annual review episode and as a part of our year-end celebration all previous annual review episodes have been added to the FREE feed that also includes our most recent 25 episodes.

The goal of our annual review episode is to highlight some of the key ideas that we have explored during the last years. For 2014 this included discussions of brain plasticity with Dr. Michael Merzenich, the integration of cognition and emotion with Dr. Luis Pessoa, the science of sleep with Dr. Penny Lewis, the hazards of neuromaniaconsciousness with Dr. Michael Graziano, exercise and the brain with Dr. John Ratey, neurobiology with Dr. Frank Amthor, and mirror neurons with Dr. Greg Hickok. We ended the year with highlights from the event "Neuroplasticity and Healing," which featured the Dalai Lama and three previous Brain Science Podcast guests.

How to get this episode:

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

  • Download FREE Episode Transcript

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

  • 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.

2014 Episodes:

 

 

Exercise Promotes Brain Plasticity (BSP 111)

John Ratey, MD Click picture to hear interview

John Ratey, MD
Click picture to hear interview

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

Download BSP 111

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

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

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

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

How to get this episode:

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

  • Buy Episode Transcript for $1.

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

  • 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

Related Episodes:

Announcements:

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

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

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

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

Consciousness as Social Perception (BSP 108)

Michal Graziano and Kevin (click image to play interview)

Michal Graziano and Kevin (click image to play interview)

In his latest book Consciousness and the Social Brain  Princeton neuroscientist Michael Graziano proposes a unique and compelling theory of consciousness. He proposes that the same circuits that the human brain uses to attribute awareness to others are used to model self-awareness. He emphasizes that his attention schema theory is only tentative, but it is testable and it does fit our current knowledge of brain function.

In a recent interview for the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 108), Graziano used the following clinical example to clarify his approach. A colleague had a patient who was convinced that he had a squirrel in his head. When confronted with the illogic of his claim the patient replied “Not everything can be explained by science.” In this example it is clear that the squirrel doesn’t really exist, so the question to be answered is HOW did his brain reach the conclusion that it does.

While imagining one has a squirrel in one’s head is thankfully rare, we also know that our subjective experiences of the world are not necessarily accurate. Our perception of the world is shaped by how our brain processes the sensory inputs it receives. For example, we perceive white light as an absence of color even though in reality it consists of all wavelengths.

Perception is something our brains do constantly and which we can not consciously control. In considering awareness (and by extension consciousness) perception-like Graziano is emphasizing several important features. The most important is probably the fact that it is only “quick and dirty model” of what is really going on, which means that our intuitions about consciousness are not necessarily reliable. In fact, humans have a strong tendency to over-attribute awareness to the world around us. This is part of the social circuitry that has made us the most successful species in the earth’s history, but it can also lead to amusing results (as anyone who has interacted with Siri on an iPhone has no doubt observed).

Another implication of considering awareness as a form of social perception is that it reverses the usual approach taken to understanding consciousness. Instead of asking how a physical brain can produce something subjective and non-physical called consciousness, we ask what kind of information processing leads to the conclusion that I (or anyone else) is conscious. As Graziano points out, this is a “mechanistic” model. Not only can it be tested but it has interesting implications. Dr. Graziano concluded that one of the key implications is "that awareness and consciousness are tools for information processing, and they are mechanistically understandable, and presumably can be engineered.”

I find the attention schema theory to be very compelling. Besides being testable, it has a simple elegance that I appreciate. It also explains why most humans experience a world filled with spirits, and are utterly convinced that their own consciousness is something special and non-physical.

How to get this episode:

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

  • Buy Episode Transcript for $1.

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

  • 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.

Related Episodes:

Since understanding consciousness is one of the deepest questions facing neuroscience, it has been explored on many previous episodes of the Brain Science Podcast. Rather than list all those episodes I want to mention just a few that I think are particularly relevant to this month’s episode. 

Announcements:

Sleep Science with Penny Lewis (BSP 107)

Penny Lewis (click image to play interview)

Penny Lewis (click image to play interview)

In The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest Dr. Penelope A. Lewis provides a highly readable account of the fascinating world of sleep research. Fascinating research is being carried out with animals as varied as fruit flies and rats, as well as with humans. I was surprised to learn that most people actually find it fairly easy to fall asleep in an fMRI scanner.

I have just posted an interview with Dr. Lewis (BSP 107) that includes a discussion of the role of sleep in memory as well as interesting findings about how synapses in the brain actually change during sleep. We still don't know exactly what sleep (and dreaming) are essential, but research in this field is growing. Dr. Lewis is excited about emerging research that suggests improving slow wave sleep may significantly improve learning and memory.

How to get this episode:

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

  • Buy Episode Transcript for $1.

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

  • 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:

Announcements:

"The Cognitive-Emotional Brain" (BSP 106)

Luiz Pessoa  of the University of Maryland

Luiz Pessoa of the University of Maryland

In The Cognitive-Emotional Brain: From Interactions to Integration neuroscientist Luiz Pessoa argues that emotion and cognition are deeply intertwined throughout many levels of the brain. In a recent interview (BSP 106) Pessoa and I focused on recent discoveries about the amygdala and Thalamus that challenge traditional assumptions about what these structures do. The amygdala processes more than fear (and other negative stimuli) and the Thalamus is more than  a mere relay station.

This a fairly technical discussion but Pessoa did a good job of making the material accessible to all listeners. The reason I think these concepts matter is that not only do they challenge overly simplistic notions of how the brain works, but they also challenge our tendency to see emotion and cognition as separate and often opposing processes.

How to get this episode:

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

  • Buy Episode Transcript for $1.

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

  • 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 Additional Reading

Related Episodes

Announcements

Brain Plasticity with Michael Merzenich (BSP 105)

Michael Merzenich

Michael Merzenich

If you have read anything about brain plasticity you have seen the name Michael Merzenich. Dr. Merzenich is one of the pioneers in this field, having spent over 30 years documenting that the human brain (and that of other mammals) continues to change throughout life. I interviewed Dr. Merzenich several years ago (BSP 54), but the publication of his first book Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life gave us another opportunity to talk about how we can apply these discoveries in our daily lives.

According to Dr. Merzenich, "No matter how much you've struggled, no matter where you've been in your life, you're in charge of your life going forward.  And you have the capacity; you have the resources to change things for the better—always have that capacity.  And that's what the book is trying to emphasize. “ (BSP 105)

I found Soft-wired very compelling because it combines a clear explanation of the science with many stories about real people facing a wide variety of cognitive challenges. The overall tone of the book is very optimistic even though it also considers the way bad choices can contribute to cognitive decline. 

How to get this episode:

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

  • Buy Transcript for $1.

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

  • 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.

Related Episodes:

  • BSP 10: Introduction to Brain Plasticity.

  • BSP 17: Discussion of The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older by Elkhonon Goldberg.

  • BSP 28: Interview with Dr. Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself.

  • BSP 33: Interview with Dr. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

  • BSP 54: Interview with Dr. Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-wired.

  • BSP 87: Interview with Dr. Pam Greenwood, co-author of Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind.

Further Reading:

BSP launches Premium Subscription

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

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

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

BSP-500

Click here to Subscribe 

 

Mobile Apps are now free:

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

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

Synapse Evolution with Seth Grant (BSP 101)

Seth Grant (click photo to hear interview)

Seth Grant (click photo to hear interview)

Early in his career Seth Grant helped develop the transgenic mice that Eric Kandel used in his studies of how memory works. Since then he has combined his skill in genetics with his work on isolating the proteins that form the functional components of the synapse. (The synapse is a key component in the nervous systems of all multi-cellular animals.) When we last talked back in BSP 51 I was particularly struck by how many of these proteins actually evolved with single celled life--long before the arrival of nervous systems.

Recently Grant's work has focused on the discovery that the vertebrate synapse is actually much more complex than the one present in invertebrates. For BSP 101 we got together to talk about two papers he and his collegues recently published in Nature Neuroscience. These papers explore how small changes in the synapse proteins effect learning in measurable ways.

Grant has a special gift for making complex ideas clear, which means that this interview can be enjoyed by all listeners, even those who are new to the Brain Science Podcast and neuroscience. 

How to get this episode:

References: 

  • S.G.N. Grant, T. J. O'Dell, K. A. Karl, P. L. Stein, P. Soriano, and E. R. Kandel, "Impaired long-term potentiation, spatial learning, and hippocampal development in fyn mutant mice." Science 258 (1992):1903-10.

  • Emes RD, Pocklington AJ, Anderson CN, Bayes A, Collins MO, Vickers CA, Croning MD, Malik BR, Choudhary JS, Armstrong JD, Grant SG, "Evolutionary expansion and anatomical specialization of synapse proteome complexity." Nature Neuroscience 11 (2008) 799-806.

  • Nithianantharajah, J., Komiyama, N., McKechanie, A., Johnstone, M., Blackwood, D. H., Clair, D. S., Emes, R. D., van de Lagemaat, L. N., Saksida, L. M., Bussey, T. J. & Grant, S. G. N. “Synaptic scaffold evolution generated components of vertebrate cognitive complexity.” Nature Neuroscience 16 (2013) 16-24. doi:10.1038/nn.3276

  • Ryan, T. J., Kopanitsa, M. V., Indersmitten, T., Nithianantharajah, J., Afinowi, N. O., Pettit, C., Stanford, L. E., Sprengel, R., Saksida, L. M., Bussey, T. J., O'Dell, T. J., Grant, S. G. N. & Komiyama, N. “Evolution of GluN2A/B cytoplasmic domains diversified vertebrate synaptic plasticity and behavior.” Nature Neuroscience 16 (2013) 25-32. doi:10.1038/nn.3277

  • List of research papers by Seth Grant

  • See FREE transcript for more links and references

  • More episodes about brain evolution: BSP 47, BSP 48, and BSP 51

Announcements: 

Leave feedback here or visit the Brain Science Podcast discussion group at Goodreads.com, our Fan Page on Facebook or our page on Google+.

Brain Fitness with Alvaro Fernandez (BSP 100)

Alvaro Fernandez of  SharpBrains

Alvaro Fernandez of SharpBrains

I have been using the SharpBrains website as a source of information and ideas since the early days of my Brain Science Podcast, so it seemed fitting to invite SharpBrains co-founder Alvaro Fernandez to be my guest for Episode 100.   We talked about the second edition of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age, which he co-authored with Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg (BSP 18). The goal of this book is to give people from all backgrounds a practical guide for evaluating the current science and establishing their own "brain fitness" regimen, much in the way that each of us must choose a physical fitness that meets our individual needs and lifestyle.

Brain Fitness should not just be a concern for older people, it should become a key component of a healthy lifestyle at any age. The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness is a great first step.

How to get this episode:

 

  • Buy Episode mp3 for $2

  • Buy Transcript for $2.

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

  • 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: 

Celebrating BSP 100

To celebrate Episode 100 of the Brain Science Podcast I invited listeners to contribute audio to the show. I couldn't use everything, but I want to thank everyone who submitted content.  The following listeners are featured:  

  • "I Got a Brain" Written and Performed by Dr. Jay Einhorn

  • Interview with Darryl Ferges

  • "Mindfire" (new theme music) by Tony Cotraccia

  • Audio comments: Leon Mcgahee, MD., Eric Lindley, Julio Dantos, Hamish Kebb, and Adelia Moore, PhD

  • Email from Jana Johnson

Send Feedback to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com. 

Interview: Temple Grandin (BSP 99)

photo by Rosalie Winward

photo by Rosalie Winward

Last month I posted a detailed discussion of Temple Grandin's latest book The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum (with Richard Panek), so I am pleased to share a follow interview with Dr. Grandin (BSP 99). This interview is different from the typical Brain Science Podcast because our focus is on the practical issues that face people who are dealing with autism. Of course, as Dr. Grandin emphasized, autism occurs across a wide spectrum ranging from those who can never learn to speak to high functioning professionals exemplified by Temple Grandin herself.  Dr. Grandin speaks from personal experience grounded in her own scientific curiosity.

How to get this episode:

Links and References:

Announcements: 

  • The Brain Science Podcast mobile app is now available for Windows 8 devices.

  • Deadline for listener submissions for BSP 100 is August 1, 2013

  • Unfortunately Mensana has closed down, so CEU's are not currently available for the Brain Science Podcast. I am looking for a new vendor.

  • Don't forget to sign up for the BSP Newsletter so that you can get episode show notes automatically, and never miss a new episode.

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

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

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

 

How to get this episode:

  • Buy Transcript for $1.

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

  • 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 Related Episodes:

Announcements: 

  • I am still trying to schedule an interview with Dr. Temple Grandin, but there is a possibility that the next episode of the Brain Science Podcast will not come out until August 2013.

  • The Deadline for listener submissions to Episode 100 is August 1, 2013.

  • Several products are not available directly on this website including the PDF version of Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty by Ginger Campbell, MD and a zip file contain BSP 1-10. Click here to learn more.

  • Be sure to sign up for the Brain Science Podcast Newsletter so that you can receive show notes automatically and NEVER miss a new episode. (But there was a glitch last month, so if you did not get the show notes for BSP 97, please click here.