Another look a "The Myth of Alzheimer's" (B&I 36)

The Myth of Alzheimer's: What You Aren't Being Told About Today's Most Dreaded Diagnosis (2008) argues that we should re-evaluate our current approach to dementia. Earlier this month I posted an interview with the book's main author, Dr. Peter Whitehouse (BSP 68). Episode 36 of my Books and Ideas podcast is a follow-up interview with his co-author, Daniel George. As a medical anthropologist George helps put current attitudes into an historical perspective. Labeling  large numbers of older people with the diagnosis of "Alzheimer's Disease" is a relatively new practice and a closer examination of how this occurred provides an interesting example of how the history of medicine (and science) is interwoven with political and social history. While Whitehouse and George challenge the current approach to dementia, there message is actually one of hope. I am recommending The Myth of Alzheimer's to people of all ages.

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"The Myth of Alzheimer's" with Dr. Peter Whitehouse (BSP 68)

Brain Science Podcast 68 is an interview with Dr. Peter Whitehouse, co-author (with Daniel George) of The Myth of Alzheimer's: What You Aren't Being Told About Today's Most Dreaded Diagnosis. Alzheimer's Disease originally referred to a relatively rare form of premature dementia, but in recent decades the diagnosis has been expanded to include patients of all ages. This change is not based on science and in this interview we talk about why being labeled with with Alzheimer's may be doing older patients more harm than good. Dr. Whitehouse is one of the pioneering researchers in this field, but advocates devoting resources to helping elders with with a wide range of age-related brain changes. This interview should be of interest to physicians, scientists, as well as patients and their families. I will be posting a supplemental interview with Daniel George, the co-author of The Myth of Alzheimer's later this month. (Learn more at /.)

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Thomas Metzinger explores Consciousness (BSP 67)

The free podcast version of Brain Science Podcast 67 is now available. It is an interview with German philosopher Thomas Metzinger, author of The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self and Being No One. Dr. Metzinger argues that any credible model for how the brain generates the mind must incorporate unusual human experiences, such as so-called out of body experiences (OBE), and psychiatric conditions. In this interview we explore how OBE and virtual reality experiments shed light on how the brain generates the sense of self that characterizes normal human experience. listen-to-audio Listen to Episode 67 Click here for information about Premium Versions Subscribe to the Brain Science Podcast: itunes-badge-30 zunelogo-70 feed-icon32x32 mail-sticker-tiny Click here for detailed show notes and episode transcripts.
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Scott Sigler on Incorporating Science into Horror Writing (B&I 35)

Episode 35 of the Books and Ideas podcast is an interview with best-selling horror writer, Scott Sigler. Scott is widely admired for pioneering the use of podcasting to promote his fiction writing, but so far hasn't gotten the recognition I think he deserves for incorporating hard science into his unique blend of horror and science fiction. This interview gave me the opportunity to talk with Scott about how he meets the challenge of incorporating accurate science without sacrificing storytelling. I think this is an excellent follow-up to the interview I did with Sheril Kirshenbaum (co-author of Unscientific America) back in Episode 32.

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Recommended Reading: Useful Links: Announcements:
  • Don't forget to check out the Books and Ideas application for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
  • Books and Ideas will be on hiatus for the next few months while I work on producing and promoting the new premium versions of the Brain Science Podcast.
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Memory and the Computational Brain with Randy Gallistel (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 provide  background information for this episode. listen-to-audio Listen to Free Podcast Click here for show notes and episode transcripts.
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Bruce Hood, author of "SuperSense" (B&I 34)

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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References and Links:

  • Bruce Hood's website
  • SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable by Bruce M. Hood
  • Hood, BM, "Gravity Rules for Two-  to Four-Year-Olds?" Cognitive Development 10 (1995): 577-98.
  • Lindeman & Aarnio (2007), "Superstitious, magical, and paranormal beliefs: An integrative model." Journal of Research in Personality 41, 731–744
  • Lindeman, M. & Saher, M. (2007). "Vitalism, Purpose and Superstition." British Journal of Psychology, 98(1), 33-44.
  • Lindeman, M. & Aarnio, K. (2006).  "Paranormal beliefs: Their dimensionality and correlates." European Journal of Personality, 20: 585-602.
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Jaak Panksepp Explores Animal Emotions (BSP 65)

Episode 65 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Jaak Panksepp, PhD, author of Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions. Dr. Panksepp has done pioneering work on the neural origins of emotions. In this interview we discuss how his work challenges some of the common assumptions about emotions and some of the important implications of his discoveries. New listeners may want to go back and listen to Episode 11 for an introduction to the neuroscience of emotion. listen-to-audio Listen to Episode 65
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"Unscientific America" with Sheril Kirshenbaum (B&I 32)

Sheril-150 Episode 32 of Books and Ideas is an interview with Sheril Kirshenbaum, co-author (with Chris Mooney) of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future. The focus of our interview was on why it is increasingly important that scientists become skilled at communicating what we do to political leaders and to our fellow citizens. Our future depend on solving complex problems (such as global warning and energy issues), which will require accurate scientific knowledge. Unscientific America provides a fresh look at the on-going problem of scientific illiteracy while offering practical suggestions about how we can re-incorporate science into mainstream culture. It calls on scientists of all ages to embrace the role of citizen-scientist.

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NASA's Les Johnson live at Dragon*Con 2009 (B&I 31)

LesDC4 Episode 31 of Books and Ideas is an interview with NASA physicist Les Johnson, PhD. We talked about his new book Paradise Regained: The Regreening of Earth. Although Dr. Johnson is a lifelong fan of science fiction he challenges the common assumption that eventually we will pollute or damage the earth so badly that humans will be forced to move to outer space. Instead, Dr. Johnson argues that we should develop the technology to get resources from outer space so that we can preserve the Earth for Life.

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Allen Institute for Brain Research (BSP 61)

Allan Jones, PhD
Allan Jones, PhD
Episode 61 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Allan Jones, PhD, the Chief Science Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Research in Seattle, Washington. The Allen Institute is a non-profit research organization founded by Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) and is best known for its Mouse Brain Map, which is being used by researchers around the world. The Institute has several other on-going projects including a project to create a map of the human cortex that shows which genes are active in each area. In this interview we discuss both the mouse brain project and the human cortex project with an emphasis on the importance of these projects to neuroscience research. All the maps created by The Allen Institute are freely available on the internet. Dr. Jones also shares his own story and the challenges and rewards of pursuing a career in the non-profit biotech world.

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The Importance of Play (BSP 60)

In Episode 60 of the Brain Science Podcast Ginger Campbell, MD interviews Dr. Stuart Brown, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. Our focus is on the importance of play for normal mental development and psychological health. We also explore the importance of play in adults.

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Guy Caldwell, PhD on C. elegans (BSP 59)

BSP-logo-75-thumb2.jpgEpisode 59 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Dr. Guy Caldwell who is a molecular biologist at the University of Alabama. Since moving to Alabama ten years ago he has done groundbreaking work in applying the green florescent protein techniques developed by his mentor, Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie to the study of dopamine neurons in the tiny worm C. elegans. In this interview Dr. Campbell and Dr. Caldwell discuss the growing role of molecular biology as a tool in neuroscience. Dr. Caldwell explains why he thinks there is a good chance that a cure for Parkinson's Disease will be found within the next 10 years.

This interview also contains practical information for students interested in pursuing a career in science.

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Dr. Robert Martensen Returns to Books and Ideas (B&I 29)

life-worth-living In Episode 29 of Books and Ideas Robert Martensen, MD returns to talk about his book A Life Worth Living: A Doctor's Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era. Last month we talked about Dr. Martensen's career as both an emergency physician and as an historian. This month we concentrate on the issues facing patients with life threatening illnesses, including making decisions about end of life care. Dr. Martensen and I agree that the American emphasis on high tech care tends to ignore the needs of people in these situations. We discuss the importance of better communication between physicians and patients as well as the need for fundamental changes in our system.

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ninakimberlythemerciless This episode includes a short promo for Nina Kimberly the Merciless by Christiana Ellis. You can learn more about Christiana's work at http://ninakimberly.com.

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Neurophsychologist Chris Frith, PhD (BSP 57)

frith 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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For detailed show notes and links go to http://brainsciencepodcast.com.

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Interview with Robert Martensen, MD (B&I 28)

martensen-crop Books and Ideas #28 is an interview with Robert Martensen, MD, author of A Life Worth Living: A Doctor's Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era. Dr. Martensen worked for 25 years as an emergency physician, but about mid-way through his career he went to graduate school and earned a PhD in history, while continuing to work in the ER at night and on weekends. He is now the Director of the NIH Office of History. This interview is actually the first of two parts. In this first part we talked about Dr. Martensen's career and we also reflected briefly on the history of emergency medicine in the United States. Dr. Martensen also explained the purpose fo the NIH Office of History and described its current and upcoming projects. When Dr. Martensen returns (hopefully next month) we will discuss his book A Life Worth Living: A Doctor's Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era.

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Pioneering Neuroscientist Eve Marder, PhD (BSP 56)

evemarder2 Episode 56 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with neuroscientist, Eve Marder, PhD. Dr. Marder has spent 35 years studying the somatogastric ganglion of the lobster. In this interview we talk about how she got into neuroscience during its early days, her recent tenure as president of the Society for Neuroscience, and how some of her key discoveries have implications for studying more complex nervous systems.

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Jennifer Michael Hecht: Historian & Poet (B&I 27)

jmhecht Episode 27 of Books and Ideas is an interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson and The Happiness Myth. As a poet and historian Hecht brings a unique perspective to her examination of the role of science in modern society. She also shares how writing Doubt changed her attitude toward religion. I have wanted to interview Jennifer for several years so I was very grateful that my recent appearance on Point of Inquiry led to this conversation. Hecht earned her PhD in the History of Science and while Doubt was an examination of the history of belief (and non-belief), she said that The Happiness Myth shares  key ideas from the history of science. Hecht argues convincingly that the arrogance of modern science can not be justified,  because history shows how much science, despite its best efforts, is always influenced by the cultural fads of its time. She feels that this knowledge could free us from unnecessary guilt, but that it should also motivate us to question our priorities (such as placing so much emphasis on long life instead of the quality of life). You won't want to miss this thought-provoking conversation.

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