Neuropsychology and the Study of Memory - Dr. Brenda Milner (BS 129)

Neuropsychology and the Study of Memory - Dr. Brenda Milner (BS 129)

BS 129 features pioneering neuroscientist Brenda Milner. Dr. Milner is best known for work work on memory including key discoveries she made while working with the famous patient HM. She also made important discoveries about the differences between the brain's hemispheres by studying the so-called "split brain" patients. This interview was recorded in 2008 when Dr. Milner was 90, but I am glad to report that she is still going strong at age 98.

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Review of Year 2 of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 52)


Brain Science Podcast #52 is our Second Annual Review Episode.  We review some of the highlights from 2008.  I also discuss the various other on-line resources that I have created for listeners.  Then we look ahead to what I have planned for 2009. This episode is aimed at all listeners, including those who are new to the show.

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.

Highlights from 2008:

Early in the year (#30) I discussed language evolution.  My criticism of Noam Chomsky's claim that human language results from a Universal Grammar Module generated quite a bit of discussion.  My main purpose was to emphasize that current neuroscience does not support this hypothesis.  I discussed Chomsky's work in follow-up interviews with Dr. Michael Arbib (BSP 39) and linguist Alice Gaby (BSP 41).

It is my impression that, at least to some extent, this debate comes back to the age-old "nature versus nurture" controversy, which I discussed more explicitly way back in Episode 4.  The evidence seems to be mounting that human intelligence is a product of  both processes.

There is no doubt that the capacity for language is inherited, but brain plasticity appears to be equally important.  One piece of evidence for this is that the changes in the brain that occur when people learn to read are different between languages like English and German and those like Chinese and Japanese. (Episode 24 and Episode 29)

We had 17 guests on the Brain Science Podcast in 2008, so I can't mention them all here.

  • John Ratey, MD: In Episode 33 we talked about exercise and the brain, while in Episode 45 we talked about ADD.
  • Robert Burton, MD:  In Episode 43 talked about the implications of the discovery that our sense of knowing (feeling certain) is generated by parts of the brain that are outside our conscious control!
  • John Medina, PhD: In Episode 37 we considered the practical implications of neuroscience, such as the importance of getting enough sleep and why true multi-tasking is actually impossible.
  • Dr. Brenda Milner: In Episode 49 this pioneering neuroscientist shared highlights from her long career.

Another highlight was our first live podcast, which was recorded at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia on August 31.

In the fall I returned to the subject of evolution with a three part series on the evolution of the brain.

  • Episode 47, Episode 48, and Episode 51.
  • Episode 51 is an outstanding interview with Dr. Seth Grant in which we discuss the surprising discovery that synapse complexity seems to have evolved BEFORE larger more complex brains.

Online Resources for Listeners:

  • I encouraged listeners to frequent this website and to subscribe to the RSS feed so as to receive information between posts.
  • I encouraged listeners to explored the sidebars and tabs on the website for links to other sites of interest.
  • I reminded listeners that this website includes a complete listing of previous episodes as well as a list of all the guests that have been on the show.
  • It is now possible to support the Brain Science Podcast  via both PayPal and by direct mail.
  • I encouraged listeners to participate in our Discussion Forum and to post pictures to our Flickr Group.
  • I invited listeners to contribute content to the Brain Science Podcast Room on FriendFeed and the new Neuroscience News Network on SocialMedian.
  • I reminded listeners that my personal blog is now at  This site includes abridged show notes for the Brain Science Podcast as well as the complete show notes for Books and Ideas.
  • Listeners are encouraged to continue to post reviews on iTunes™, Podcast Pickle, Podcast Alley, Digg, and similar sites. All blog posts and tweets are greatly appreciated.

Send email feedback to Ginger Campbell, MD at


Dr. Brenda Milner Swamped by Admirers

Neuroscience pioneer, Dr. Brenda Milner gave a memorable lecture on the history of memory research yesterday afternoon at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.  Before her talk, she was greeted by old colleagues, including Nobel Laureate, Dr. Eric Kandel.  (I was able to talk with Dr. Kandel briefly and he has agreed to come on the Brain Science Podcast in 2009!)

After her talk, Dr. Milner was swamped by young admirers who were eager to have their pictures taken with this amazing pioneer.  Dr. Milner’s talk included a discussion of her work with the famous patient HM, but she was very meticulous about crediting the work of others including Dr. Sue Corkin of MIT, who was also in the audience.  Readers who missed the lecture can get a feel for the story Dr. Milner shared by listening to her recent interviews on Futures in Biotech and the Brain Science Podcast.

Since I recently interviewed Dr. Milner for Episode 49 of the Brain Science Podcast,  I was grateful to have the chance to meet her in person and to give her a Brain Science Podcast t-shirt.

Listen to Dr. Milner on the Brain Science Podcast

Send email feedback to Ginger Campbell, MD at docartemis at

Share your comments on the Discussion Forum

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Dr. Brenda Milner: Pioneer in Memory Research (BSP 49)

Brain Science Podcast #49 is an interview with pioneering neuroscientist, Brenda Milner, PhD.  Dr. Milner is known for her contributions to understanding memory and her work with split-brain patients.  Her work as an experimental psychologist has been fundamental to the emergence of the field of cognitive neuroscience.

This interview is a follow-up of Dr. Milner's recent interview with Dr. Marc Pelletier on Futures in Biotech.  I highly recommend listening to both interviews.

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.

Listen to Dr. Milner on Futures in Biotech (Episode33)

Additional Links:

Send email feedback to Ginger Campbell, MD at

Don't Miss Neuroscience Pioneer, Dr. Brenda Milner, on Futures in Biotech

In Episode 33 Futures in Biotech  host Marc Pelletier, PhD, interviews pioneering researcher, Dr. Brenda Milner from the Montreal Neurological Institute.  Dr. Milner is best known for her work with HM, the patient that she worked with for many decades.  Her work helped neuroscientists appreciate the role of the hippocampus in memory and the fact that there are multiple types of memory, some of which do not require the hippocampus.

One of the things that makes this interview special is that Dr. Milner gives us the inside story on some of the pioneering work that we now take for granted.  She emphasizes how the work fit into the context of its time, giving an unique glimpse into the history of how science really unfolds.

Click here to learn more.

Futures in Biotech is a valuable contributor to SCIENCEPODCASTERS.ORG.