Dr. Ed Taub revolutionizes Stroke Rehab (BSP 119)

Dr. Ed Taub revolutionizes Stroke Rehab (BSP 119)

BSP 119 is the first half of a new interview with Dr. Edward Taub, inventor of Constraint Induced Movement Therapy, which is a revolutionary approach to rehabilitating people with brain injuries, such as stroke and trauma.

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The Dalai Lama explores Neuroplasticity (BSP 113)

The scientific highlight of the Dalai Lama's first visit to Alabama was an invitation-only event called "Neuroplasticity and Healing," which was held at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). BSP 113 features exclusive coverage of that event.

Click here to play the audio. Right click to download the mp3 file.

The episode transcript and full show notes will be posted next week.

Brain Plasticity with Michael Merzenich (BSP 105)

Michael Merzenich

Michael Merzenich

If you have read anything about brain plasticity you have seen the name Michael Merzenich. Dr. Merzenich is one of the pioneers in this field, having spent over 30 years documenting that the human brain (and that of other mammals) continues to change throughout life. I interviewed Dr. Merzenich several years ago (BSP 54), but the publication of his first book Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life gave us another opportunity to talk about how we can apply these discoveries in our daily lives.

According to Dr. Merzenich, "No matter how much you've struggled, no matter where you've been in your life, you're in charge of your life going forward.  And you have the capacity; you have the resources to change things for the better—always have that capacity.  And that's what the book is trying to emphasize. “ (BSP 105)

I found Soft-wired very compelling because it combines a clear explanation of the science with many stories about real people facing a wide variety of cognitive challenges. The overall tone of the book is very optimistic even though it also considers the way bad choices can contribute to cognitive decline. 

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.

  • 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.

Related Episodes:

  • BSP 10: Introduction to Brain Plasticity.

  • BSP 17: Discussion of The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older by Elkhonon Goldberg.

  • BSP 28: Interview with Dr. Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself.

  • BSP 33: Interview with Dr. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

  • BSP 54: Interview with Dr. Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-wired.

  • BSP 87: Interview with Dr. Pam Greenwood, co-author of Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind.

Further Reading:

Michael Merzenich Talks About Neuroplasticity (BSP 54)

Brain Science Podcast #54 is an interview with Dr. Michael Merzenich, one of the pioneers of neuroplasticity.  We talk about how the success of the cochlear implant revealed unexpected plasticity in adult brains and about how brain plasticity can be tapped to improve a wide variety of problems including dyslexia, autism, damage from disease and injury.  Healthy people of all ages can also tap the resource of brain plasticity to help maintain and improve their mental functions.

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.

Links and References

Previous Episodes on Brain Plasticity

Send email feedback to Ginger Campbell, MD at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com

"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.

From SharpBrains: Neurogenesis and Brain Plasiticity

In her latest post for SharpBrains Laurie Bartels reviews some of the principles of brain plasticity.  One principle that she mentions that I think deserves more attention is the importance of learning new things.

Adults may have a tendency to get set in their ways – I’ve been doing it this way for a long time and it works, so why change?  Turns out, though, that change can be a way to keep aging brains healthy.  At the April Learning & the Brain conference, the theme of which was neuroplasticity, I attended several sessions on adult learning. (Click here to read Laurie's post.)

She goes on to review the highlights of the Learning and Brain Conference.  You can read the full post at: http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/08/07/neurogenesis-and-brain-plasticity-in-adult-brains/

Dan Rather's Reports on Neuroplasticity

Today HDNet™ is re-showing an episode of Dan Rather Reports called "Mind Science."  It is an excellent review of neuroplasticity. It includes interviews with several leading scientists in the field.  I especially enjoyed seeing Nobel Laureate, Eric Kandel, talk about his work with memory.  (I talked about Kandel's work on the Brain Science Podcastin Episode 3 and Episode 12.)

"Mind Science" also features the Dalai Llama and scientist, Richard Davidson, talking about the evidence that meditation can change the brain.  Rather interviews Sharon Begley about her book, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves  (which I discussed in detail in Episode 10 of the Brain Science Podcast).  Other scientists featured in the episode include Michael Merzenich on improving brain function as we age, and Dr. Edward Taub on his revolutionary approach to stroke rehabilitation.  (My show notes for Episode 10 include links for all the scientists interviewed by Rather.)

It was particulary gratifying to see Dr. Kandel endorse Ed Taub's Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy.  Dr. Taub was interviewed in Episode 28 of the Brain Science Podcast.  If you don't get HDNet™, you can watch Dan Rather Reports on-line, via podcast or on Facebook.

Summary of relevant episodes of the Brain Science Podcast::

Sandra Blakeslee (BSP 23)


This episode is an interview with Sandra Blakeslee, co-author (with her son Matthew) of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps Help You Do (almost) Everything Better, which we discussed in Episode 21.

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

I asked Blakeslee to tell me a little bit of her background as a science writer.  She wrote for the New York Times for many years and was the co-author of both Jeff Hawkins groundbreaking book, On Intelligenceand VS Ramachandran's modern classic Phantoms in the Brain (1998), which was one of the first books to explore neuroplasticity.

In this interview, we explored the relationship between body maps and neuroplasticity, as well as questions from listeners about out of body experiences and other oddities once considered "paranormal."  We talked about how body maps are relevant to understanding why some methods of alternative healing appear to be effective.

I asked her to tell me which scientist she met made the biggest impression.  Here are a few of those she mentioned:

Blakeslee told me about some of the pioneering work that Merzenich is doing to apply his discoveries to help people, both those with disabilities and those who just want to combat aging.  You can learn more about his work at http://www.positscience.com/.

If you would like to contact Sandra Blakeslee to give her feedback or ask her questions, she has a contact form on her books website at http://www.thebodyhasamindofitsown.com/.  She is going to let me know when she gets the references posted on the site.


Neuroplasticity: A Review of its Discovery (BSP 10)


In this episode of the Brain Science Podcast we explore the recent research that has established, contrary to long-standing dogma, that our brains our able to change throughout our lives, based on our experience.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • Buy BSP 1-10 (zip file of mp3 files)
  • Transcripts: BSP 1-14
  • 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

The reference for this episode is Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves, by Sharon Begley.  This book describes the 2004 meeting between the Dalai Llama and several leading neuroscientists.  To learn more about these meetings, go to the Mind and Life Institute website.  All the studies that I mention in the podcast are referenced in the back of the book.

Here is a list of the some of the scientists and their work:

  • Michael Meany- McGill University: He has shown that the way that a mother rat treats her babies determine which genes in the baby's brain are turned on and which are turned off.
  • Fred Gage- the Salk Institute:  His work with lab animals showed that adult brains do change.  (more from Google)
  • Helen Neville-University of Oregon: She has shown that the auditory and visual cortices are rewired in people who are born blind or deaf.
  • Phillip Shaver-UC-Davis: He is a pioneer in attachment theory: how people's sense of emotional security, acquired in childhood, affects their adult behavior, including their response to other ethnic groups and their willingness to help others.
  • Richard Davidson-Wisconsin:  He has done studies showing how the brain is changed by meditation.
  • Edward Taub- University of Alabama in Birmingham:  He helped develop a revolutionary treatment for stroke victims.
  • Jeffery Schwartz-UCLA:  He has used mindfulness meditation to treat obsessive compulsive disorder, showing that meditation can change the brain in beneficial ways.
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn- University of Massachusetts:  He has done many years of work using mindfulness meditation to treat stress related diseases.
  • Michael Merzenich:  Pioneer researcher who also founded FastForward™ and Posit Science™.

More Links of Interest:

I am sure this list is incomplete.  If you have a question or comment about a topic mentioned on the show, leave a comment below, or send me email at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.