Neuroscience Highlights for 2012 (BSP 92)

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The Brain Science Podcast recently passed 4 million downloads and it remains entrenched at or near the top of the iTunes rankings for Science and Medicine. So now it's time for our 6th Annual Review Episode. The purpose of this year-ending podcast is to review some of the year's highlights and key ideas. As I reviewed the transcripts of this year's episodes, I was struck by the fact that although each episode stands alone, they also inform one another. One unifying theme was the importance of taking an evolutionary approach to understanding how the human brain generates complex features like mind and consciousness.

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.

 

Interviews have become an outstanding feature of the Brain Science Podcast. This year I interviewed 10 scientist, including five who have appeared in past podcasts.

Scientists Interviewed in 2012:

#Indicates returning guest. See Guest List for previous episode.

*See the Bibliography page for books featured on the Brain Science Podcast.

In addition to discussing the books by these guests, I also reviewed Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brainby Michael S. Gazzaniga, and Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brainby Antonio Damasio.

Related Episodes: 

  • BSP 32: Brief Introduction to brain anatomy.
  • BSP 47: Basics of brain evolution.
  • BSP 57: Chris Frith, author of Making up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World.
  • BSP 67: Thomas Metzinger, author of The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self.

Announcements:

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The Origin of Emotions with Jaak Panksepp (BSP 91)

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Dr. Jaak Panksepp

In his new book, The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human EmotionsJaak Panksepp set out to make his life's work more accessible to a general audience.  To be honest, reading this book requires a significant commitment, but I think he does a wonderful job of updating his classic textbook, Affective Neuroscience.  Anyone who is interested in this field will definitely want this book as a reference.

The other strength of Archeology of Mind is its evolutionary approach.  The primary emotional processes that Panksepp has spent his career studying have their origins in the ancient parts of the brain that are shared by all mammals.  This contradicts longstanding assumptions in neuroscience, but it has important implications for both humans and other animals.

In Episode 91 of the Brain Science Podcast, Dr. Panksepp and I talked about some of the new information contained in Archaeology of Mind, with a particular focus on FEAR, which, contrary to what many researchers claim, does NOT begin in the amygdala, but begins much lower.  We do talk briefly about the experimental evidence, but this was covered in more detail during Dr. Panksepp's previous appearance on the Brain Science Podcast in BSP 65.

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:

Related Episodes:

Announcements:

NMX - I'll Be There

The earliest episodes of the Brain Science Podcast  are now disappearing from iTunes but they remain freely available here.  They are also available within the Brain Science Podcast  app for mobile devices.  By the way, the mobile app has been updated, and I need users to post new reviews.

Don't forget to get your copy of my eBook, Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certaintyfrom Amazon.com.  You can also buy the PDF version HERE.

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.

Next month's Brain Science Podcast  will be our annual review episode. Meanwhile don't forget to check out my other podcast, Books and Ideas.  The most recent episode is an interview with Emily Reese from Minnesota Classical Radio.

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 gincampbell at mac dot com.

To get show notes automatically and never miss an episode of the Brain Science Podcast sign up for the BSP Newsletter.

Review of "Self Comes to Mind" by Antonio Damasio (BSP 90)

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Episode 90 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of Self Comes To Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain, by Antonio Damasio. Damasio's book focuses on the answer to two key questions: How does the brain generate the Mind? and, How does the Brain generate Consciousness? His approach is unusual because many scientists and writers treat the Mind and Consciousness as identical. In contrast, Damasio argues that Mind precedes Consciousness. Listen to this podcast to learn how the Mind becomes Conscious.

ow 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:

Related Episodes of the Brain Science Podcast: 

  • BSP 21 and BSP 23 How the Brain Creates Maps of the Body
  • BSP 65: Jaak Panksepp talks about the subcortical origins of emotions
  • BSP 89: Evan Thompson talks about his book, Mind in Life

Announcements:

  • Next month's Brain Science Podcast will be a return interview with Jaak Panksepp to talk about his new book, The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions.
  • Please check out my other podcast, Books and Ideas.
  • The earliest episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are no longer available from iTunes but you can get them here or by buying the Brain Science Podcast  app, which is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
  • Get my eBook, Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty, from Amazon.com for only $3.99.
  • Social Websites for the Brain Science Podcast: Discussion Forum on Goodreads, Facebook Fan Page, Google+ page.
  • Don't forget to get some high quality Brain Science Podcast Logo gear from Printfection.
  • Sign up for the Brain Science Podcast  Newsletter so you never miss a new episode.

Send me feedback at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter (@docartemis).

"Mind in Life" with Evan Thompson (BSP 89)

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Evan Thompson, PhD

Embodied Cognition is a movement within cognitive science that argues that the mind is inseparable from the fact that the brain is embedded in a physical body. This means that everything that the brain does, from the simplest perception to complex decision-making, relies on the interaction of the body with its environment.  Evan Thompson's book, Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind, is an in-depth look at what he calls the "enactive" approach to embodied cognition. The enactive approach was pioneered by Thompson's mentor Francisco Varela, and it emphasizes the importance of the body's active engagement with its environment.

In a recent interview (BSP 89) I talked with Thompson about some of the key ideas in Mind in Life. Unlike most episodes of the Brain Science Podcast, this is not really a stand-alone episode. It is part of my ongoing exploration of both embodied cognition and the controversial topic of emergence. It is also intended as a follow-up to my recent interview with Terrence Deacon.

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:

Related Episodes: 

  • BSP 5: A bried introduction to philosphy of mind
  • BSP 25: Embodied Intelligence with Rolf Pfeifer
  • BSP 36: Art Glenberg on Embodied Cognition
  • BSP 53: Discussion of Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? (emergence and free will)
  • BSP 62: Warren Brown, co-author of Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?
  • BSP 73: Lawrence Shapiro, author of Embodied Cognition.
  • Books and Ideas #47: Terrence Deacon, author of Incomplete Nature.

Announcements:

  • Continuing education credit is now available for selected episodes of the Brain Science Podcast. Click here to learn more.
  • I will be in Philadelphia, PA October 16-21 to attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Please contact me if you would like to get together.
  • My eBook Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty is on sale for only $2.99. Please post your review.
  • Next month's Brain Science Podcast will be a discussion of Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain by Antonio Damasio. Self Comes to Mind is also available from our sponsor Audible.com.
  • Please visit the Brain Science Podcast on Facebook or Google+, or join the BSP  Discussion Forum at Goodreads.com.
  • Never miss an episode of the Brain Science Podcast!  Sign up for the Newsletter.
  • Send me (Dr. Campbell) email at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter (@docartemis).

"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:

Brain Aging Research with Dr. Pamela Greenwood (BSP 87)

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Pamela Greenwood, PhD

Nuturing the Older Brain and Mind, by Pamela M. Greenwood and Raja Parasuaman provides a comprehensive review of the current research in cognitive aging.  In the latest Brain Science Podcast (BSP 87)Dr. Greenwood explains that brain aging and cognitive aging are not the same thing; the typical brain changes that are associated with normal brain aging (such as shrinkage) are not reliable predictors of cognitive decline. Fortunately, even though normal brain aging is still not well understood, the discovery of brain plasticity is shifting the focus of research. Not only does brain plasticity offer new hope for people who suffer strokes and other brain injuries, it also suggests that life style choices influence cognitive function at all ages.

Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind is intended for an academic audience but it is accessible to everyone. This month's interview with Dr. Greenwood (BSP 87) focuses on dispelling the most stubborn myths about brain aging. We also talk about the practical steps we can all take to help maintain our cognitive performance.

How to get this episode:

Related Episodes:

  • BSP 10: Introduction to Brain Plasticity.
  • BSP 26: Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science.
  • BSP 28: Edward Taub: applying brain plasticity to stroke rehabilitation.
  • BSP 68: Peter Whitehouse on dementia versus normal brain aging.

References:

  • Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind, by Pamela M. Greenwood and Raja Parasuraman (2012).
  • The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, by Norman Doidge.
  • Greenwood, P. M. (2007) Functional Plasticity in Cognitive Aging: Review and Hypothesis. Neuropsychology  21(6) 657–673.
  • Greenwood, P. M., and Parashauraman, R. (2010) Neuronal and cognitive plasticity: A neurocognitive framework for ameliorating cognitive aging. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 2: 150.
  • Gould, E. and Gross, C.G. (2002) Neurogenesis in adult mammals: Some progress and problems. Journal of Neuroscience 22 (3): 619-623.
  • Taub, E., Uswatte, G., and Elbert, T. (2002) New treatments in neurorehabilitation founded on basic research. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 3 (3): 228-236.
  • Grady, C. L., McIntosh, A.R., and Craik, F.I. (2003) Age-related differences in the functional connectivity of the hippocampus during memory encoding. Hippocampus 13 (5): 572-586.
  • Colcombe, S.J., A.F. Kramer, K.I. Erickson, P. Scalf, E. McAuley, N.J. Cohen, A. Webb, et al.,
  • Cardiovascular fitness, cortical plasticity, and aging. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2004. 101(9): p. 3316-21.
  • Hertzog, C., Kramer, A. F., Wilson, R. S. and Lindenberger, U. (2009) Enrichment effects on adult cognitive development: Can the functional capacity of older adults be preserved and enhanced? Psychological Science in the Public Interest 9 (1): 1-65.
  • Kramer, A.F., Larish, J. F.,  and Strayer, D. L. (1995) Training for attentional control in dual tasking settings: A comparison of young and older adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 1: 50-76.
  • Nagamatsu, L.S., Handy, T. C., et. al. 2012. Resistance Training Promotes Cognitive and Functional Brain Plasticity in Seniors With Probable Mild Cognitive Impairment.Archives of Internal Medicine 172 (8) 666-668.
  • Liu-Ambrosea, T.,  Nagamatsua, L.S., Vosse, M.W.,  Khanc, K.M., and. Handy, T. C. (2012) Resistance training and functional plasticity of the aging brain: a 12-month randomized controlled trial. Neurobiology of Aging 33: 1690 –1698.
  • Willis, S.L. et. al (2006) Long-term effects of cognitive training on everyday functional outcomes in older adults. Journal of the American Medical Association 296 (23): 2805-2814.
  • For more references: see Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind and the free transcript of BSP 87.

Announcements:

Terrence Deacon (Podcast Interview)

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In his new book, Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter, Terrence Deacon writes that his goal is to “demonstrate how a form of causality depending specifically on absent features and unrealized potential can be compatible with our best science.” (page 16).  But in a recent interview (Books and Ideas #47) he also contends that his book "grew out of a dissatisfaction with the systems theory approach."

He feels strongly that "to understand the origin of end-directed phenomena, representational phenomena, or mental phenomena, you need to take one further step; you need to figure out what’s beyond self-organization that needs to be explained to account for these things."  Thus, his ambitious goal is to find a place for meaning within science.

Incomplete Nature is a dense but compelling book, and the goal of this interview is to introduce listeners to the idea that life and meaning are compatible with a scientific world view. 

Disgust with Rachel Herz (BSP 86)

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Disgust is an universal emotion, but unlike emotions like fear and anger, disgust must be learned.  This is the main conclusion of Dr. Rachel Herz's latest book, That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion.  In a recent interview (BSP 86), Dr. Herz told me why she spent the last several years studying this rather unusual subject.  We also discussed what the study of disgust can tell us about how our brains process emotion.

This is Dr. Herz's second visit to the Brain Science Podcast.  Back in BSP 34 we talked about her first book, The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell.

How to get this episode:

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Announcements:

"Are You Sure?" Hits Kindle today!

I have just published my first eBook: Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty.  It is available for the Kindle now, and will be out for iBooks and Nook shortly.  This is based on two of my favorite episodes of the Brain Science Podcast.

A free PDF version is available to anyone who sends me a copy of their Amazon receipt.

This is Volume 1 of a new series called Brain Talk: Conversations with Neuroscientists, which I hope will bring the content of the Brain Science Podcast to a broader audience.

I have also started a newsletter for people who only want news about my writing, but who don't want to get podcast announcements.

Sebastian Seung Explores the Brain's Wiring (BSP 85)

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Dr. Sebastian Seung

Dr. Sebastian Seung (MIT) is an ambitious young scientist; his goal is to unravel the entire wiring diagram of the human brain.  Considering that it took over a decade to determine the wiring diagram for the roundworm C elegans, which has a mere 302 neurons, it is clear that scientists can't leap directly to the 80 billion neuron human brain.  Even so, in his new book Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are, Seung makes a very good argument for the value of this long-term project.  In Episode 85 of the Brain Science Podcast I talked with Dr. Seung both about the challenges and potential benefits of this work.

How to get this episode:

References and Links:

Send me feedback at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

Update on Consciousness Research with Christof Koch (BSP 84)

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Christof Koch, PhD

he scientific study of consciousness was once viewed with skepticism, but this has changed dramatically in recent years.   According to pioneering neuroscientist, Christof Koch, "the great thing is we’re not condemned to just sort of philosophical speculation, but we can make some predictions, and then go out and measure them.  And those are the things I talk about in this book, Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist." In Brain Science Podcast  #84, Koch reflects on the progress that has been made since I interviewed him back in 2007 (BSP 22), and he also talks about the latest initiatives at the Allen Institute for Brain Research, where he as recently become the chief science officer. 

How to get this episode:

  • Buy Audio (mp3) for $1.
  • 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:

Announcements:

"Mind and Brain" with William Uttal (BSP 83)

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William Uttal, PhD

There is nothing more exciting than the mind/brain problem" according to Dr. William Uttal, author of Mind and Brain: A Critical Appraisal of Cognitive Neuroscience.  In the latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast  (BSP 83) I talked with Dr. Uttal about why he feels that brain imaging can not solve this mystery.

First, there is the problem that brain imaging represents the wrong level of analysis because every spot you see on a brain scan actaully represents thousands of neurons.  This means that the activity and interaction between individual neurons has been lost. Then there is the problem of reproducibility, with divergent results between studies.

The evidence is accumulating that "much of the brain responds to any stimulus, and every area of the brain participates in multiple functions."  This means that asking where a given function occurs may be the wrong question.

BSP 83 represents an on-going discussion of these issues, so I have included links to related episodes in the show notes. 

How to get this episode:

References: 

Related Podcasts:  

Reminders:

Send me feedback at gincampbell at mac dot.com.

How Mind Emerges from Brain (BSP 82)

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In his latest book, Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain, respected neuroscientist, Michael S. Gazzaniga, explores how the discoveries of neuroscience impact how we see ourselves as human beings.  After providing a brief review of 20th century neuroscience, and even some of the work from the past decade, Dr. Gazzaniga concludes that nothing neuroscience has discovered changes the fact that "we are personally responsible agents and are to be held accountable for our actions."

Gazzaniga's position contrasts with those who think that recent discoveries show that the brain creates the mind in solely "upwardly causal" way, and who argue that since much of what our brain does is outside our conscious awareness or control, we should not be held responsible for our actions.  Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain presents what I think is a convincing argument against this common position.

In the latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 82) I present a detailed discussion of Dr. Gazzaniga's book.

How to get this episode:

References:

Related Episodes:

  • Links to episodes of the Brain Science Podcast that are mentioned in BSP 82.
  • BSP 81: Interview with Patricia Churchland about the brain and morality.
  • BSP 53: Discussion of Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?: Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will by Nancey Murphy, Warren S. Brown.  (Also BSP 62)
  • BSP 35: Discussion of Mirror Neurons.
  • BSP 66: For more on scrub jays.
  • BSP 3: Memory and the use of animal models.
  • BSP 38: Interview with Jeff Hawkins.
  • BSP 47: Brain Evolution.
  • BSP 74: "Small world architecture" in brain networks (Olaf Sporns).
  • BSP 75: Interview with David Eagleman (arguments for legal reform).
  • BSP 76: "Choking" with Dr. Sian Beilock.
  • BSP 56: Interview with Eve Marder (implications of muliple realizability in neuronal circuits).

Announcements:

Send feedback to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

Patricia Churchland on Neuroscience and Morality (BSP 81)

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Patricia Churchland (photo by Nines Minquez)

 

BSP 81 marks the return of philosopher Patricia Churchland, who I first interviewed back in Episode 55.  Our recent conversation focuses on her latest book, Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality.  We discuss the historical background and contrast Churchland's approach to that of Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape.  Then Professor Churchland discusses how recent discoveries in neuroscience are shedding light on the evolutionary origins of morality.

It's a fascinating conversation that you won't want to miss. 

 

 

 

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References:

Links: 

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Brain Science Podcast Turns Five Years Old (BSP 80)

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Original Logo from 2006

I launched the Brain Science Podcast in December 2006, so to celebrate I am posting my Fifth Annual Review Episode (BSP 80).  This podcast includes a review of the highlights from this year's episodes along with my reflections on what we have learned about brain health over the last few years.  I also take a look ahead to 2012 when I hope to continue to produce a Brain Science Podcast every month.

How to get this episode:

This Year's Episodes:

  • BSP 72:  Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde, authors of Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions.
  • Extra: Books and Ideas  with Dr. Paul Offit, author of Deadly Choices: How The Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All.
  • BSP 73: Lawrence Shapiro, author of Embodied Cognition.
  • BSP 74: Olaf Sporns, author of Networks of the Brain.
  • BSP 75: David Eagleman, author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain.
  • BSP 76: Sian Beilock, author of Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.
  • BSP 77: Fabrizio Benedetti, author of Placebo Effects and The Patient's Brain
  • Extra: Books and Ideas with Carol Tavris, co-author of Mistakes were Made (But Not By Me).
  • BSP 78: Review of Beyond Boundaries: The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains with Machines---and How It Will Change Our Lives by Miguel Nicolelis.
  • BSP 79: Interview with Miguel Nicolelis.

Announcements:

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

Miguel Nicolelis, MD, PhD (BSP 79)

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Dr. Miguel Nicolelis

iguel Nicolelis at Duke University is pioneering brain-machine interfaces.  In his book, Beyond Boundaries: The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains with Machines---and How It Will Change Our Lives, he puts his groundbreaking work into an historical context.  I discussed his book briefly in BSP 78, but I have now posted an in-depth interview.  The focus of our conversation is on why his work challenges longstanding assumptions about the primacy of the single neuron in brain function.

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References:

Announcements:

Brain Machine Interfaces (BSP 78)

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In his book Beyond Boundaries: The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains with Machines---and How It Will Change Our Lives neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis puts his recent work with brain machine interfaces into historical context and explains why this work should change the way we understand how brains work.

Nicolelis challenges several long-standing assumptions including the primacy of the single neuron and strict localization, which is the idea that each area of the brain has a relatively fixed function.

Episode 78 of the Brain Science Podcast is a brief discussion of the key ideas presented in Beyond Boundaries, including a look at the implications of experiments such as the wide publicized work that culminated in demonstrating that a monkey in Nicolelis' lab at Duke (North Carolina, USA) could control a robot arm in Japan using only its brain. 

How to get this episode:

References:

Related Episodes:

Announcements:

Cognitive Dissonance (BSP Extra)

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I am putting Episode 43 of Books and Ideas into the Brain Science Podcast feed because it should be of interest to BSP fans. This episode is an interview with psychologist Carol Tavris.

 

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We talk about the relationship between psychology and neuroscience as well as cognitive dissonance, which is the subject of Dr. Tavris's recent book Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts.

 

Post your comments in the thread on the BSP Discussion Forum in Goodreads or send me feedback at gincampbell at mac dot com.

Neurobiology of Placebos with Fabrizio Benedetti (BSP 77)

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Fabrizio Benedetti, MD 

r. Fabrizio Benedetti is one of the world's leading researchers of the neurobiology of placebos.  In a recent interview (BSP 77) he explained to me that he believes that "today we are in a very good position to describe, from a biological and from an evolutionary approach, the doctor-patient relationship, and the placebo effect, itself."

To appreciate Dr. Benedetti's work, one must first realize that his approach differs from that of the typical clinical trial.  As he observed, "To the clinical trialist, a placebo effect means any improvement which may take place after placebo administration.  To the neurobiologist, a placebo response, or placebo effect means only something active in the brain happening after placebo administration: learning, anxiety reduction, activation of reward mechanisms."

In contrast, he explains, "The real placebo response, the real placebo effect is a psychobiological phenomenon.  It is something active happening in the brain after placebo administration: like learning, like anxiety reduction, and such like." Brain Science Podcast #77 provides an introduction to this complex, but fascinating topic

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References

  • Benedetti F, Mayberg HS, Wager TD, Stohler CS, Jon-Kar Zubieta J (2005) Neurobiological Mechanisms of the Placebo Effect. The Journal of Neuroscience, 25,10390-10402. (Full article)
  • Benedetti F (2009) Placebo Effects: Understanding the mechanisms in health and disease. Oxford University Press.
  • Benedetti F (2011) The Patient's Brain: The neuroscience behind the doctor-patient relationship. Oxford University Press.
  • Levine JD, Gordon NC and Fields, HL (1978) The mechanisms of placebo analgesia. Lancet, 2, 654-7. (Abstract)
  • Levine JD, Gordon NC and Fields, HL (1978) “The mechanisms of placebo analgesia.” Lancet, 2, 654-7. (Abstract). See also a follow-up paper: Levine JD, Gordon NC, Bornstein JC, and H L Fields HL (1979) “Role of pain in placebo analgesia.” Proc Natl Acad Sci76(7): 3528–3531. (full text)
  • Volkow, ND, Wang JG, Ma Y, Fowler JS, Zhu W, Maynard L et al. (2003) Expectation enhances the regional brain metabolic and the reinforcing effects of stimulants in cocaine abusers. Journal of Neuroscience, 23, 11261–8. (Full text)
  • de la Fuente-Fernández R, et al. (2001) Expectation and Dopamine Release: Mechanism of the Placebo Effect in Parkinson's Disease. Science293, 1164. (Abstract)
  • Benedetti F, Colloca L, Torre E et al. (2004) Placebo-responsive Parkinson patients show decreased activity in single neurons of the subthalamic nucleus. Nature Neuroscience, 7, 587-88. (Abstract)
  • Herrnstein RJ, (1962) Placebo Effect in the Rat. Science138, 677-678.
  • Linde K, Witt CM, Streng A et al. (2007) The impact of patient expectation in four randomized control trials of acupuncture in patients with chronic pain. Pain, 128, 264-71. (Abstract)
  • See Episode Transcript for additional references.

Announcements

Corrections

  •  32:48 only NON-members are eligible to get a free audiobook download from our sponsor at http://audiblepodcast.com/brainscience.
  • Dr. Benedetti’s first book is called Placebo Effects, not Placebo “responses”.
  • Special Thanks to Lori Wolfson for finding these mistakes and correcting them in the episode transcript.

Send me feedback at gincampbell at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com

How to Avoid Choking under Pressure (BSP 76)

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Sian Beilock, PhD

n her book, Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To, University of Chicago psychologist, Sian Beilock, explores the dreaded phenomena of choking (i.e. the failure to perform as expected under pressure).  More importantly, she provides practical suggestions for preventing poor performance.

In the latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 76) I talk with her about the different types of choking; it turns out that the failure mechanisms between blowing the big test and missing the key shot in sports are significantly different.  Understanding both how they differ and what they have in common is the key to better performance.

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  • Be sure to check out Triangulation 19 with Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, author of Beyond Boundaries: The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains with Machines---and How It Will Change Our Lives.
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