"Why Neuroscience Matters"

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On May 11, 2011 I gave a talk entitled "Why Neuroscience Matters" at the London Skeptics in the Pub.  Episode 42 of Books and Ideas is an edited version of that talk, including the lively Q and A with the audience.

References

From the Brain Science Podcast

Announcements:

  • Dr. Campbell will be a speaker at The Amazing Meeting 9, which is coming up in Las Vegas, Nevada July 14-17.

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Embodied Cognition with Lawrence Shapiro (BSP 73)

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Lawrence Shapiro

In his new book, Embodied Cognition, Dr. Lawrence Shapiro provides a balanced introduction to embodied cognition's attempts to challenge standard cognitive science.  His interview in Episode 73 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of a few of his book's key ideas. It also continues our ongoing exploration of the role of embodiment. 

 

 

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Related Episodes:

  • BSP 25: Embodied Artificial Intelligence with Dr. Rolf Pfeifer.
  • BSP 36: Introduction to Embodied Cognition with Dr. Art Glenberg.
  • BSP 58: "Extended Mind" with philosopher Alva Noë.
  • BSP 66: Computational cognitive science with Dr. Randy Gallistel.

Some scientists mentioned in this episode:

References:

Annoucements:

Send feed back to Dr. Campbell at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com

Celebrating 4 Years of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 71)

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The latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 71) is our 4th annual review episode.  As usual, I review highlights from this year's interviews, but this year I added a new feature: my personal reflections on how the Brain Science Podcast has impacted my life.  This episode also contains a special announcement for UK listeners.

How to get this episode:

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Major Topics from Season 4:

  • Emotions with Jaak Panksepp (BSP 65).
  • Memory with Randy Gallistel (BSP 66).
  • Consciousness with Thomas Metzinger (BSP 67).
  • Alzheimer's Disease with Peter Whitehouse (BSP 68 and Books and Ideas 36).
  • Glia Cells with R. Douglas Fields (BSP 69).
  • Pop Psychology Myths with Scott Lilienfeld (BSP 70).

References:

Announcements:

  • The Brain Science Podcast app is now available for both iPhone and ANDROID (NEW!)
  • Be sure to subscribe to my Books and Ideas podcast. The next episode will come out in December.
  • The next episode of the Brain Science Podcast will come out in January 2010. 
  • Sign up for our Newsletter so that you won't miss any episodes.

Send me feedback at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

Memory: Challenging Current Theories with Randy Gallistel, PhD (BSP 66)

Episode 66 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Randy Gallistel, PhD, Co-Director of the Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science and co-author (with Adam Philip King) of Memory and the Computational Brain: Why Cognitive Science Will Transform Neuroscience.

We discuss why read/write memory is an essential element of computation, with an emphasis on the animal experiments that support the claim that brains must possess read/write memory.  This is significant because current models, such as neural nets, DO NOT incorporate read/write memory in their assumptions about how brains work.  It is not necessary to have any background in information theory or computation to appreciate the experiments that are discussed in this episode.

Episode 3 and Episode 12 of the Brain Science Podcast  providebackground information for this episode.

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References and Links:

Announcements:

Send feedback to gincampbell at mac dot com or leave voice mail at 205-202-0663.

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Join our Facebook Fan Page:

"SuperSense": Bruce Hood on Believing the Unbelievable

Episode 34 of Books and Ideas  is an interview with Bruce M Hood, author of SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable .

Dr. Hood is a developmental psychologist with a long-standing interest in why people believe weird things.  In SuperSense, he argues that innate cognitive structures (how we think without being taught) give people a natural tendency toward belief in the supernatural.  Our intuitive sense of how the world works is often at odds with the findings of modern science.

In this interview we discuss the evidence for these conclusions and their implications.

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Click here for detailed show notes and to learn more about more free episodes of Books and Ideas.

How our Brain Creates Our World with Chris Frith, PhD (BSP 57)

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Episode 57 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with neuropsychologist, Dr. Chris Frith, author of Making up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World.   Our brain processes information about the world outside us (via our senses) in the same way that it processes information from within our bodies and from our own mental world.  In this interview.  Dr. Frith and I explore the implications from recent discoveries about how our brain generates our mental world.

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Useful Links:

Selected References:*

*These references are from Making up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World by Chris Frith.

Send feedback to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com.

"On Being Certain": Interview with Robert Burton, MD (BSP 43)

BSP 43 is an interview with Robert A Burton, MD, author of On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're NotThis is a follow up to BSP 42.

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Other scientists/writers mentioned in this episode:

Other terms mentioned in the interview:

  • Cotard's Syndrome: when the patient believes they do not exist or that they are dead
  • Cognitive dissonance: a mismatch between what one believes and what the evidence supports

Previous Episodes of the Brain Science Podcast:

  • Episode 42: Part 1 of our discussion of On Being Certain.
  • Episode 13: Unconscious Decisions-featuring Blink, by Malcom Gladwel.l
  • Episode 15: Interview with Read Montague about unconscious decisions.

Donations and Subscriptions are appreciated

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

Mirror Neurons with Michael Arbib (BSP 39)

Episode 39 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Dr. Michael Arbib from the University of Southern California.  Dr. Arbib's work with functional brain imaging has established the presence of mirror neurons in the human brain.  In our interview, we focused on the role of mirror neurons in imitation and language.  In particular, I questioned Dr. Arbib about the Mirror System Hypothesis (MSH) of Language Evolution that he proposed in 1998 with Giacomo Rizzolatti.  We also explored how this hypothesis diverges from the universal grammar proposed by Noam Chomsky.  Dr. Arbib also shared his enthusiasm for future research and we talked about the special challenges caused by the interdisciplinary nature of modern neuroscience.

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Related Episodes:

Scientists mentioned in the interview:

  • Giacomo Rizzolatti: His team discovered mirror neurons at the University of Parma, Italy. Other team members: Vittorio Gallese, Luciano Fadiga, and Leo Fogassi.
  • Ursula Bellugi (Salk Institute): pioneered the neurobiology of sign language.
  • Richard Byrne (University of St. Andrews): studies how gorillas learn in the wild.
  • Michael Tomasello (Max Planck Institute for Comparative Anthropology): studies social behavior of primates, including how communicative gestures vary between groups.
  • Noam Chomsky (MIT): famous linguist who has proposed an inborn universal grammar.
  • DL Cheney and RM Seyfarth:  research about primate vocal behavior, especially the use of calls in the wild.

References:

Other Links:

Donations and Subscriptions are appreciated

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Interview with Jeff Hawkins "On Intelligence" (BSP 38)

Jeff Hawkins

Episode 38 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Jeff Hawkins, author of On Intelligence.  Hawkins is well-known for founding Palm Computing and Handspring.  He invented the Grafitti handwriting recognition system and helped develop the Palm Trio SmartPhone.  Since he published his bestseller On Intelligence, he has devoted his work to his passion for neuroscience.  His current company, Numenta, is developing software that models the hierarchical structure of the neocortex.  In this interview we talk about the ideas in Hawkins book and how he is applying them to develop a computer model of cortical function.  This is a follow-up to Episode 2, which first aired in December of 2006.

How to get this episode:

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Links and References:

Vernon Montcastle: pioneer who proposed that all parts of the brain's cortex work the same way.

  • Vernon Mountcastle (1978), "An Organizing Principle for Cerebral Function: The Unit Model and the Distributed System", The Mindful Brain (Gerald M. Edelman and Vernon B. Mountcastle, eds.) Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (Please let me know if you find this paper on-line!)

Redwood Institute for Theoretical Neuroscience (UC-Berkeley) founded by Jeff Hawkins.

Numenta: company website includes extensive educational information about hierarchical temporal memory system (HTM).  The company's focus is practical implementation of HTM Theory.

Donations and Subscriptions are appreciated

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Embodied Cognition with Art Glenberg (BSP 36)

Art Glenberg, PhD

Episode 36 of the Brain Science Podcast  is an interview with Arthur Glenberg, PhD, about embodied cognition.  Dr. Glenberg recently moved to Arizona State University, after over 30 years at the University of Wisconsin's Laboratory of Embodied Cognition.  His research focuses on the relationship between embodiment and language.  In this interview, we explore the experimental evidence for a theory of language that embraces the concept that our language abilities are actually rooted in our perceptual and motor abilities.  Dr. Glenberg also explains how his work has practical implications in helping children learn how to read.

Since Dr. Glenberg has had a long career as a working research scientist, this interview also provided an opportunity to explore how scientific hypotheses are formed and how experiments are designed to test these hypothesis.  I think this interview will give you a fascinating look into the real world of cognitive psychology.

How to get this episode:

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Links and References:

Arthur Glenberg, PhD

Other scientists mentioned in the Episode:

  • George Lakoff: pioneering linguist.
  • James Gibson: known for his ideas about affordances.William Epstein-emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin.
  • Joseph Campos: University of California (Berkelely).
  • Amy Needham and Amanda Woodard-experiments with velcro mits and infant cognition.
  • David A Havas: graduate student and co-author with Dr. Glenberg.
  • Mike Kashak: Florida State University.
  • Mike Rinck: German co-author-see paper under Glenberg (more papers).
  • Vittorio Gallese, Dept of Neuroscience, University of Parma, Italy (where mirror neurons were discovered): extensive experimental with motor neurons in monkeys.
  • Fritz Stack (Germany): experiments showing that facial experiments affect mood and cognition.

References:

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A Closer Look at Mirror Neurons (BSP 35)

Mirrors in the Brain

Brain Science Podcast #35 is a discussion of Mirrors in the Brain: How Our Minds Share Actions, Emotions, and Experience, by Giacomo Rizzolatti and Corrado Sinigaglia.  Mirror neurons were discovered in Rizzolatti's lab in Parma, Italy, in the early 1990s, and his book is a detailed to discussion of the experimental evidence in both monkeys and humans.  Direct single neuron recordings have been made in monkeys.  The evidence in humans is indirect, since it is based on mainly on neuro-imaging studies like PET scans and fMRI scans.  Even so, mirror neurons appear to be essential to our ability to understand both the actions and emotions of others. 

In this episode, we also explore the evidence that there are other neurons in the motor areas of the brain that have sensory properties and that the areas of the brain traditionally thought to be devoted to sensory functions also contain neurons with motor properties.  Another fascinating discovery is the fact that there are neurons that respond not only to somatosensory inputs (such as being touched) but also to visual or auditory inputs from objects within our peri-personal space.  For background on these body maps, I recommend listening to Episode 21 and Episode 23.  If you are new to the Brain Science Podcast, you may want to listen to those episodes first, because this week's episode is a little more technical than most.

I will be exploring the importance of these discoveries in future episodes.

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Links:

Donations and Subscriptions are appreciated

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Some Recent Research About Embodied Cognition

There is an ongoing debate on the Brain Science Podcast Discussion Forum about whether the importance of embodiment is an essential obstacle to trying to simulate human cognition with computers.  Meanwhile, the role of embodiment in cognition continues to be a growing area of research.  I enjoyed a recent post on the Scientific American Community website entitled, Thinking with the Body, by Art Glenberg from Arizona State University.  He reviews recent research by Holt and Bellock.  The bottom line is that even when people are involved in verbal tasks, like reading sentences, their comprehension is influenced by their body knowledge of what is being described.

You can read more at Mind Matters: Neuroscience, Psychology, Psychiatry, and More.

Journey to Perplexity: "The Mind Is Not a Computer"

The blog, Journey to Perplexity, notes that Gerald Edelman's book, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge, offers some valuable insights into why "the mind is not a computer."   I am not sure who writes this blog, but he seems to be writing from a philosophical background.

It has been a while since I read Edelman's book.  Edelman won the Nobel Prize in 1972 for important discoveries about the structure of antibodies, but he has devoted the last several decades to studying neuroscience.  His two most well-known contributions are his theory of so-called 'neural Darwinism,' and his study of the importance of redundancy and feedback loops within the brain.  He has written quite a few books on the subject including, Wider Than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness (2005).

Second Nature is Edelman's attempt to address some of the philosophical issues about consciousness, while Wider than the Sky introduces some of his theories about how the brain generates consciousness.

How Philosophy of Mind Influences Artificial Intelligence

The latest episode of Talking Robots is an interview with Inman Harvey of the University of Sussex.  He observes that when researchers attempt to build autonomous robots, their approach is strongly influenced by their philosophy of mind, even if that philosophy is only implicit.  He also points out that what he calls "good old-fashioned AI" fails to represent how brains really work.

This is a point I have emphasized repeatedly.  Inman observes that approaches liked embodied artificial intelligence (which we discussed with Rolf Pfeifer in Episode 25) are really based on a different philosophy of mind that "good old-fashioned AI."

His paper, Philosophy of Mind Using a Screwdriver, is available as a PDF.

The Evolution of Language (BSP 30)

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Episode 30 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language, by Christine Kenneally.  We focus mostly on the first part of the book, which tells the story of how the study of language evolution has grown from almost a banned subject to a new field of inquiry called evolutionary linguistics.  We also reflect on how recent findings in neuroscience like the importance of plasticity are influencing the field.

How to get this episode:

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Scientists discussed in the Episode:

*References:

*Additional references can be found in Kenneally's book and at the websites of the scientists listed above.  Also, be sure to check out Kenneally's blog for follow-up information.

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Consciousness with Christof Koch (BSP 22)

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Brain Science Podcast #22 is an interview with Dr. Christof Koch of Cal Tech, one of the pioneers in the neurobiological study of consciousness.  About two decades ago, when Koch and Francis Crick began looking for what they called the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC), such a quest was considered controversial; but now the field is increasing in popularity.  In our interview, we talked a little about his book,The Quest for Consciousness, as well as his on-going research and his thoughts about what the future might bring.

How to get this episode:

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Here is a list of some of the topics we discussed:

  • Why Francis Crick was an outstanding mentor and colleague.
  • A Working definition of consciousness.
  • How consciousness relates to awareness.
  • What are neural correlates of consciousness.
  • Why vision is the focus of Koch's research.
  • The search for the "footprints" of consciousness.
  • The role of functional imaging and the use of monkeys.
  • Neurons-"the atoms of perception".
  • Why we need a theory of consciousness.
  • The role of the frontal lobes in consciousness.
  • Is consciousness an emergent property?
  • What about zombies?
  • Why do we need consciousness?
  • Will artificial intelligence become conscious?
  • The hard problem:  how does the brain generate subjective experience  (qualia).

Links:

Update on 2012-05-03 15:42 by Ginger Campbell, MD

Christof Koch returned to the Brain Science Podcast in Episode 84.

"The Female Brain" with Dr. Louann Brizendine (BSP 20)

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Episode 20 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Dr. Louann Brizendine of the Women's Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California at San Francisco.   Her book, The Female Brainwas just released in paperback, and it is on the New York Times Bestseller list.

We explore how hormones and neurotransmitters effect our brains, and how these effects are different in men and women.  This episode has interesting stuff for listeners of both sexes.

If you would like to learn more, visit Dr. Brizendine's website at http://louannbrizendine.com.

How to get this episode:

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  • 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.

Review of "Gut Feelings" (BSP 19)

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Show Notes forBrain Science Podcast #19: Gut Feelings

This episode is a discussion of Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious (2007), by Gerd Gigerenzer.

Dr. Gigerenzer argues that unconscious decision-making or intuition is actually based on the use of heuristics(rules of thumb) that can be explored, and even brought into awareness.  In this episode, I discuss his basic arguments with an emphasis on the differences between intuitive reasoning and formal logic.  Then we explore some examples including the application of these ideas to more controversial areas like morality and social instincts.

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References

Links of Interest:

A review of "The Executive Brain" (BSP 16)

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Brain Science Podcast #16 is a discussion of The Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind (2002), by Elkhonon Goldberg.

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Show Notes

This episode is an introduction to the role of the pre-frontal lobes in decision-making, and the other "executive" functions of our brain.  The functions of the pre-frontal lobes are not only the keys to what makes us human, but also the keys to our individual personality.

In this episode, using Dr. Goldberg's book, we discuss how the frontal lobes relate to the other structures of the brain.  We also, discuss some ideas about why the left and right sides of the brain differ, as well as several important ways in which the cortex, and especially the pre-frontal lobes differ from some of the older parts of the brain.

We discuss briefly the vulnerability of the frontal lobes to damage and disease, and we consider the implications of frontal lobe dysfunction.  Questions are introduced that will be considered in more detail in future podcasts.

Links:

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

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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.
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  • 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?