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:



A Clue To Why Tobacco Is So Addictive

Nancy Yanes-Hoffman sent me this review of an article just published in the Journal of Neuroscience:

That was good!" "Do it again."
This is what the brain says when people use tobacco, as well as ‘hard drugs’ such as heroin.  New research published in the February 13 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience indicates that the effects of nicotine and opiates on the brain's reward system are equally strong in a key pleasure-sensing areas of the brain – the nucleus accumbens.
"Testing rat brain tissue, we found remarkable overlap between the effects of nicotine and opiates on dopamine signaling within the brain’s reward centers," says Daniel McGehee, Associate Professor in Anesthesia & Critical Care at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
McGehee and colleagues are exploring the control of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in reward and addiction.  Dopamine is released in areas such as the nucleus accumbens by naturally rewarding experiences such as food, sex, some drugs, and the neutral stimuli or ‘cues’ that become associated with them.
Nicotine and opiates are very different drugs, but the endpoint, with respect to the control of dopamine signaling, is almost identical.  “There is a specific part of the nucleus accumbens where opiates have been shown to affect behavior, and when we tested nicotine in that area, the effects on dopamine are almost identical,” says McGehee.
This research is important to scientists because it demonstrates overlap in the way the two drugs work, complementing previous studies that showed overlapping effects on physiology of the ventral tegmenal area, another key part of the brain’s reward circuitry.  The hope is that this study will help identify new methods for treating addiction – and not just for one drug type.
"It also demonstrates the seriousness of tobacco addiction, equating its grip on the individual to that of heroin.  It reinforces the fact that these addictions are very physiological in nature and that breaking away from the habit is certainly more than just mind over matter," says McGehee.
This work is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, T32GM07839 and F31DA023340 to JPB, DA015918 and DA019695 to DSM.
    • Jonathan P. Britt and Daniel S. McGehee, "Presynaptic Opioid and Nicotinic Receptor Modulation of Dopamine Overflow in the Nucleus Accumbens,"The Journal of Neuroscience, February 13, 2008 • 28(7):1672–1681

      Visit Nancy's blog at


      "Why Choose this Book?" with Read Montague (BSP 15)


      Show Notes

      Episode #15 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Dr. Read Montague of the Baylor School of Medicine.  We discuss his recent book, Why Choose this Book? How we Make Decisions (2006).

      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.

      Here are some of the questions we discussed:

      • What is computational neuroscience?
      • What is the computational theory of the mind (CTOM)?
      • How isthe objection that the CTOM doesn't account for meaning answered ?
      • What about choice and responsibility?
      • Is there room for free will in this model?