Disgust with Rachel Herz (BSP 86)


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.

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Neurobiology of Placebos with Fabrizio Benedetti (BSP 77)


Fabrizio Benedetti, MD 

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.

How to get this episode:


  • 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.



  •  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

Using C. elegans in Neuroscience with Guy Caldwell, PhD (BSP 59)

Episode 59 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with molecular biologist, Guy Caldwell, PhD, from the University of Alabama.  We talk about the role of the tiny worm C. elegans in neuroscience research.  Dr. Caldwell is collaborating with other leading researchers (including his wife, Kim Caldwell, PhD) in work that may lead to a cure for movement disorders like dystonia and Parkinson's Disease.

Kim and Guy Caldwell

Kim and Guy Caldwell

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 and Links:

During this interview, Dr. Caldwell emphasized the importance of collaboration.  His work involves tagging the dopamine neurons in C. elegans with green florescent protein (GFP).  His work depends on the pioneering work of many scientists (some of whom I list below).  He also collaborate with researchers who are doing similar work in yeast, mice, and human cell cultures.

Scientists mentioned in this interview:

  • Martin Chalfie (Columbia University): Caldwell's mentor won the Nobel Prize in 2008 for his work with using Green Florescent Protein (GFP) to tag specific cells inside C. elegans.  Dr. Chalfie was interviewed on Futures in Biotech: Episode 37 and Episode 38.
  • Susan Lindquist (MIT): a leading geneticist who is using to take human alph-synuclein protein and place it into yeast to study the effects of protein clumping due to misfolding. (Futures in Biotech #1)
  • Sydney Brenner (Salk Institute): a leader in C. elegans research.
  • John Sulston (University of Manchester): pioneer in C. elegans research.
  • Robert Horvitz (MIT): well-researcher in the field of worm biology.
  • Cynthia Kenyon (University of California-San Francisco): is studying aging in C. elegans.
  • John White (University of Wisconsin): worked with John Sulston to determing the complete "wiring diagram" for C. elegans (which has only 302 neurons).
  • Jeff Becker (University of Tennessee): Caldwell's mentor in graduate school.
  • Chris Rochet (Purdue University): his study of mid brain cultures of rat neurons allows Caldwell to validate his findings in mammalian neurons.
  • Richard Myers (Boston University): human geneticist who has done important work in Parkinson patient genotyping.
  • Rudolph Jaenisch (MIT): expert at reprogramming skin cells into pleuripotent stem cells. This technique shows great promise for the treatment/cure of diseases like Parkinson's.
  • Xandra Breakefield (Harvard): discovered the torsin gene in 1997.

Three recent Nobel Prizes have been awarded to researchers working on C. elegans.



  • Dr. Campbell is the guest speaker at the July 18 meeting of Skeptics in the Pub in Atlanta, Georgia.
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