All in the Mind: Is the Adolescent Mind a Myth?

natasha_mitchell The March 28th episode of All in the Mind is an excellent discussion of the controversy surrounding the meaning of adolescence. While some researchers point to the growing evidence that parts of the brain (such as the frontal lobe and its connections) do not mature until early adulthood as evidence that the adolescent brain is different, some writers, like Dr. Robert Epstein, argue that the problems of adolenscence are created by Western culture not changes in the brain. The episode includes a several distinguished guests with different view points. One of the guests was David Bainbridge, whose book Beyond the Zonules of Zinn: A Fantastic Journey Through Your Brain was discussed in Episode 32 of the Brain Science Podcast. I am looking forward to reading his new book Teenagers: A Natural History when it is released in the United States (August, 2009).
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"All in the Mind" Looks at Brain Plasticity

Recently Natasha Mitchell did an excellent two-part All in the Mind  podcast about brain plasticity.  In Part 1, she interviewed Jeffrey Schwartz, MD and Norman Doidge, MD.  Dr. Schwartz is the author of The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, and Dr. Doidge wrote the recent bestseller,The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science.

In Part 2, Mitchell interviews Dr. Doidge further.  One of the topics they explore is the "dark side" of plasticity.  Since neuroplasticity is a dynamic, competitive process, it is actually a factor in how we form our habits, both good and bad . This interview is an excellent follow-up to the interview Dr. Doidge did for the Brain Science Podcast back in Episode 26.

You can listen to the podcasts and get transcripts at the All in the Mind website.

"All in the Mind" Explores the Implications of Cognitive Enhancement

The June 14 Episode of All in the Mind has a thoughtful discussion of the implications of using drugs to improve cognitive performance. Natasha Mitchell interviewed Barbara Sahakian, professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge (UK) and William Glannon, a bioethicist from the University of Calgary (Canada). Several important issues emerged including the fact that that it is unknown whether the drugs currently available are safe for long-term use. There is also the nagging question of whether the use by normal people of drugs originally intended to treat medical conditions (like ADHD) constitutes cheating? What do you think? You can find the podcast and its transcript here. If you want to share you opinion with Natasha go to her All in the Mind Blog.
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"All in the Mind" Looks at Nicotine and the Brain

The May 10th episode of All in the Mind is an excellent discussion of the latest research about nicotine addiction.  It includes a very balanced look at the controversy over the new smoking cessation drug, varenicline, which is sold in the US as Chantix.  Nicotine has a unique effect on certain neurotransmitter receptors in the brain.  Varenicline works as a partial agonist, which means it mimics some of the effects of nicotine, but it also blocks the receptor so that when a person smokes the experience is not rewarding.  However, since the receptors involved also have other functions (they aren't there to respond to the nicotine in cigarettes just like the opiate receptors are not there to respond to man-made narcotics), using the drug can lead to a wide variety of side effects. Balancing the risks and benefits of the drug is one of the topics discussed in the podcast.

I have to admit that addiction is a subject in which I have little personal interest, but obviously addiction to smoking effects millions of people. I highly recommend this podcast to everyone who smokes or loves some who does.

Be sure to go to the site for both the show's transcript and links to everyone featured on the show.

Excellent Recent Episodes of All in the Mind

Most of you know that I am a fan of the All in the Mind podcast from Australian radio.  I want to recommend the two most recent episodes:

The March 22 episode is actually  hosted by Volkart Wildermuth, from Germany.  He interviews several of the world's leading primate researchers.  You will learn some of the recent discoveries about primate intelligence and culture, and also hear an excellent discussion of what makes humans different.  Go to the website not just to hear the show, but to get a transcript and to see the extensive links.

The March 29 episode is a fascinating interview with Dan Ariely from MIT, who is the author the new bestseller Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, which describes his experiments in what is called behavioral economics.  His work has shown that people often do not make economic decisions in a logical manner.  He is an extremely likable guest who shares stories from his own life as well as some of the highlights of his work.  The show notes include extensive references.

Natasha Mitchell Interviews Jonah Lehrer about "Proust was a Neuroscientist"

The February 9th episode of All in the Mind  is an excellent interview of author Jonah Lehrer about his book Proust Was a Neuroscientist.  In the interview, Lehrer reflects on the danger of viewing science as the sole source of discovery, but he also talks a little about several of the people explored in his book.  His basic premise is that artists from various fields often intuitively grasped truths that are now being revealed by neuroscience.  One example is the insights that Proust had about memory.

Proust was a Neuroscientist is a valuable contribution to the current exploration of the relevance of neuroscience to everyday life.  It can be easily read in a few sittings or savored one artist at a time.

Natasha Mitchell is an excellent interviewer because she always asks interesting and probing questions.  (I think of her as the Australian Terry Gross.).  All in the Mind is an excellent compliment to the Brain Science Podcast.

Mitchell has recently begun an All in the Mind blog and there is a new All in the Mind group on Facebook.

"All in the Mind" Has a New blog


All in the Mind is one of my favorite podcasts, and I am happy to report that host, Natasha Mitchell, has recently launched a companion blog, which generally talks a little bit more about each episode, as well as providing some content in between shows. Best of all there is now a link there for sending her email.