Brain Science Podcast Update

I have just posted the February episode of the Brain Science Podcast and so I wanted to give you an update.

The new Premium Subscription is off to a good start. In addition many listeners are buying individual episodes and transcripts. These are on sell for only $1 each. However it is important to note that the most recent 25 episodes remain free to download or stream. Last year the Brain Science Podcast also became available on Stitcher.

Here is a brief description of the most recent free episodes:

Michael Merzenich (BSP 105)BSP 105 is an interview with Dr. Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life. Although this is Merzenich's first book, he was also interviewed back in BSP 54. This interview focuses on why the choices each of us make effects whether brain plasticity is our friend or foe.

Listen to BSP 105 (right click to download)

BSP 106 is an interview with Dr. Luiz Pessoa, author of The Cognitive-Emotional Brain: From Interactions to Integration. Although this book is aimed at students andLuiz Pessoa (BSP 106) working scientists, this interview gives all listeners a chance to learn about how recent experiments are challenging traditional assumptions about emotion and cognition.

Listen to BSP 106 (Right click to download)

 Please visit the Brain Science Podcast website for detailed show notes and episode transcripts.

 

 

 

Brain Science Podcast passes 5 Million Downloads

Thanks to a library of 100+ episodes the Brain Science Podcast is now averaging over 100,000 downloads per month and recently passed 5 million downloads.

I am particularly grateful to all my loyal listeners who have helped the show grow by sharing it with others.

The Brain Science Podcast has a discussion group at Goodreads.com, a Fan Page on Facebook and a page on Google+.

If you haven't checked it out yet I hope you will.

 

 

Brain Science Podcast #100

Alvaro FernandezLast month I posted episode 100 of the Brain Science Podcast. To celebrate this milestone I supplemented the discussion of Brain Fitness with Alvaro Fernandez with feedback from listeners.

Listen to Episode 100.

Visit the Brain Science Podcast website for the full show notes and free episode transcript.

Comment: During the interview with Alvaro Fernandez he talked about the upcoming SharpBrains Virtual Summit, which is scheduled for September 19-20. Fans of the Brain Science Podcast have been offered a 25% discount. Just use the code brainpodcast when you register.

Temple Grandin Share Practical Advice (BSP 99)

photo by Rosalie WinwardLast month in BSP 98 I reviewed Temple Grandin's latest book The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum. That podcast focused on the current science, but this month's follow up interview (BSP 99) is a little different. It focuses on Dr. Grandin's practical advice for living with autism. Besides emphasizing the need for more research into the sensory problems that are common in autism and applying the recent discoveries about brain plasticity. Dr. Grandin believes very strongly in nurturing strengths while accommodating weaknesses. She said that it is very important that "we accommadate weaknesses in a way that is enabling." She is particularly worried that many young people are not being taught the social skills they need to succeed in a work environment, even thought they have valuable talents to contribute.

In my opinion, Dr. Grandin's advice carries extra weight because her personal example shows how an autistic person can make a unique contribution if given extensive training and support.

Listen to Dr. Grandin's interview.

Visit Brain Science Podcast website for full show notes and a free episode Transcript.

 

BSP 98 "The Autistic Brain"

Click image above to play audioI hope to post a new episode of Books and Ideas before the end of the summer. Meanwhile the Brain Science Podcast is heading toward episode 100! Last month's episode (BSP 98) was a discussion of The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum  by Temple Grandin. This book is a tremendous gift, not just to patients and their families, but also to teachers, mentors, friends, and everyone who is interested in understanding how our brains make us who we are.

I think that this is a book everyone should read because as we come to appreciate the fact that the strengths and challenges of autism occur across a broad spectrum, we may also realize that some of these issues actually affect people who aren't considered autistic.  It is not the label that matters.  What does matter is recognizing that each of us has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, but thanks to brain plasticity, we all have the potential to nurture our strengths and, when necessary, accommodate our weaknesses.

Please visit the Brain Science Podcast website for full show notes and free episode transcripts.

What is Neuroanthropolgy? (BSP 97)

Featured on BSP 97The latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 97) is a conversation with Daniel Lende and Greg Downey, editors of The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology. We explore how neuroscience and anthropology can work together to unravel the mystery of how our brains make us who we are.

Listen to BSP 97 (or download mp3)

Click here for complete show notes and the FREE episode transcript.

 

 

Robert Burton Returns to the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 96)

The latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 96) marks the return of one of my favorite guests: retired neurologist and author Dr. Robert Burton. We discussed his new book A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves. In this book Dr. Burton expands on the ideas he first presented in On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not. He also argues that because mental sensations like certainty, agency, and causation originate outside of conscious awareness there are inherent limits in our ability to use neuroscience to understand the Mind. This is a somewhat controversial and definitely thought-provoking position, which I invite you to explore further by listening to this interview.

Listen to BSP 96

Go to Brain Science Podcast website for complete show notes and free episode transcripts.

Brain Science Podcast Update

Last month we launched a completely redesigned website for the Brain Science Podcast. It is intended to be more accessible to people on mobile devices, but it also makes it easier for visitors to submit feedback directly from the site.

 

 Here is a brief summary of our most recent episodes:

Pain Part 2 (BSP 95):

Click image to listenBSP 95 is the second part of our discussion of Understanding Pain: Exploring the Perception of Pain by Fernando Cervero, who is the current president of the International Society for the Study of Pain. Dr. Cervero was interviewed in BSP 93 and in this episode I discuss additional key ideas from his book. (BSP 93 and 95 can be enjoyed in any order.

Listen to BSP 95 

Click here for the detailed show notes.

 

 

 

How the Brain Understands Language (BSP 94):

Dr. Benjamin BergenBSP 94 was an interview with linguist Benjamin Bergen author of Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning.

Listen to BSP 94

Go to the complete show notes.

 

 

 

Neuroscience of Pain (BSP 93)

Click Logo to ListenDr. Fernando Cervero of McGill University has been studying pain since the beginning of his career back in the 1960's. These decades have seen tremendous advances in our neuroscientific understanding of what causes different types of pain as well as changing attitudes. Pain was once regarded as something that most people had to endure, but now most of us demand adequate pain relief, sometimes even to the point of not tolerating minor pain. Dr. Cevero's new book Understanding Pain provides an accessible account of both the history of pain research and a thoughtful consideration of the challenges facing the field.

The latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 93) is an interview with Dr. Cervero. This is Part 1 of a planned two part series.

listen-to-audio Listen to Episode 93

Click Here for Detailed Show Notes and Episode Transcripts

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Where do Emotions Begin?

Dr. Jaak Panksepp (click to play audio)In his new book The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions Jaak Panksepp set out to make his life's work more accessible to a general audience. To be honest, reading this book requires a significant commitment, but I think he does a wonderful job of updating his classic textbook Affective Neuroscience. Anyone who is interested in this field will definitely want this book as a reference. The other strength of Archeology of Mind is its evolutionary approach. The primary emotional processes that Panksepp has spent his career studying have their origins in the ancient parts of the brain that are shared by all mammals. This contradicts longstanding assumptions in neuroscience, but it has important implications for both humans and other animals.

In Episode 91 of the Brain Science Podcast Dr. Panksepp and I talked about some of the new information contained in Archeology of Mind with a particular focus on FEAR, which contrary to what many researchers claim, does NOT begin in the amygdala, but begins much lower. We do talk briefly about the experimental evidence, but this was covered in more detail during Dr. Panksepp's previous appearance on the Brain Science Podcast in BSP 65.

listen-to-audio Listen to Episode 91

Click here for detailed shownotes and free transcript.

CEUs for Psychologists

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How does the Brain become Conscious? (BSP 90)

Episode 90 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of Self Comes To Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain by Antonio Damasio. Damasio's book focuses on the answer to two key questions: How does the brain generate the Mind? and How does the Brain generate Consciousness? His approach is unusual because many scientists and writers treat the Mind and Consciousness as identical. In contrast, Damasio argues that Mind proceeds Consciousness. Listen to this podcast to learn how the Mind becomes Conscious.

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Click here for show notes and free episode transcript.

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Brain Aging Update (BSP 87)

Pamela Greenwood, PhDNuturing the Older Brain and Mind by Pamela M. Greenwood and Raja Parasuaman provides a comprehensive review of the current research in cognitive aging.  In the latest Brain Science Podcast  Dr. Greenwood explains that brain aging and cognitive aging are not the same thing; the typical brain changes that are associated with normal brain aging (such as shrinkage) are not reliable predictors of cognitive declince. Fortunately, even though normal brain aging is still not well understood, the discovery of brain plasiticity is shifting the focus of research. Not only does brain plasticity offer new hope for people who suffer strokes and other brain injuries, it also suggests that life style choices influence cognitive function at all ages.

Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind is intended for an academic audience but it is accessible to everyone. This month's interview with Dr. Greenwood (BSP 87) focuses is on dispelling the most stuborn myths about brain aging. We also talk about the practical steps we can all take to help maintain our cognitive performance.

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Click here for complete show notes and a free episode transcript.

 

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"Incomplete Nature" with Terrence Deacon (podcast interview)

Terrence Deacon, PhDIn his new book Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter Terrence Deacon writes that his goal is “demonstrate how a form of causality depending specifically on absent features and unrealized potential can be compatible with our best science.” (page 16). But in a recent interview (Books and Ideas #47) he also contends that his book "grew out of a dissatisfaction with the systems theory approach." He feels strongly that "to understand the origin of end-directed phenomena, representational phenomena, or mental phenomena, you need to take one further step; you need to figure out what’s beyond self-organization that needs to be explained to account for these things." Thus, his ambitious goal is to find a place for meaning within in science.

Incomplete Nature is a dense but compelling book, and the goal of this interview is to introduce listeners to the idea that life and meaning are compatible with a scientific world view. 

Listen to Books and Ideas #47

Free Episode Transcript (Download PDF)

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References: 

 Announcemements:

 

Sebastian Seung, author of "Connectome" (BSP 85)

Dr. Sebastian SeungDr. Sebastian Seung (MIT) is an ambitious young scientist; his goal is to unravel the entire wiring diagram of the human brain. Considering that it took over a decade to determine the wiring diagram for the roundworm C elegans, which has a mere 302 neurons, it is clear that scientists can't leap directly to the 80 billion neuron human brain. Even so, in his new book Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are, Seung makes a very good argument for the value of this long term project. In Episode 85 of the Brain Science Podcast I talked with Dr. Seung both about the challenges and potential benefits of this work.

 

Listen to Episode 85

Click here for full show notes and free episode transcript.

 

 

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Christof Koch returns to the Brain Science Podcast

Christof Koch, PhDThe scientific study of consciousness was once viewed with skepticism, but this has changed dramatically in recent years. According to pioneering neuroscientist Christof Koch, "the great thing is we’re not condemned to just sort of philosophical speculation, but we can make some predictions, and then go out and measure them.  And those are the things I talk about in this book, Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist." In Brain Science Podcast #84 Koch reflects on the progress that has been made since I interviewed him back in 2007 (BSP 22), and he also talks about the latest initiatives at the Allen Institute for Brain Research, where he as recently become the chief science officer. 

 Listen to Episode 84

Episode Transcript (Free PDF)

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Free Will and Brain Science (BSP 82)

In his latest book Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain respected neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga explores how the discoveries of neuroscience impact how we see ourselves as human beings. After providing a brief review of 20th century neuroscience, and even some of the work from the past decade, Dr. Gazzaniga concludes that nothing neuroscience has discovered changes the fact that "we are personally responsible agents and are to be held accountable for our actions."

Gazzaniga's position contrasts with those who think that recent discoveries show that the brain creates the mind in solely "upwardly causal" way, and who argue that since much of what our brain does is outside our conscious awareness or control, we should not be held responsible for our actions. Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain presents what I think is a convincing argument against this common position.

In the latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 82) I present a detailed discussion of Dr. Gazzaniga's book.

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Click here for detailed show notes and FREE episode transcript.

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Philosopher Patricia Churchland returns to the Brain Science Podcast

Patricia Churchland (photo by Nines Minequez)BSP 81 marks the return of philosopher Patricia Churchland, who I first interviewed back in Episode 55. Our recent conversation focuses on her latest book, Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality. We discuss the historical background and contrast Churchland's approach to that of Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape. Then Professor Churchland discusses how recent discoveries in neuroscience are shedding light on the evolutionary origins of morality.

 

It's a fascinating conversation that you won't want to miss. 


Listen to BSP 81 (Free mp3)

Click here for details show notes and free episode transcript.

 

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Brain Science Podcast: 5th Annual Review Episode

Original Logo from 2006I launched the Brain Science Podcast in December 2006, so to celebrate I am posting my Fifth Annual Review Episode (BSP 80). This podcast includes a review of the highlights from this year's episodes along with my reflections on what we have learned about brain health over the last few years. I also take a look ahead to 2012 when I hope to continue to produce a Brain Science Podcast every month.

 

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Click here for full show notes and free episode transcript.

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Latest Brain Science Podcast looks at Brain-Machine Interfaces

In his book Beyond Boundaries: The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains with Machines---and How It Will Change Our Lives neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis puts his recent work with brain machine interfaces into historical context and explains why this work should change the way we understand how brains work. Nicolelis challenges several long-standing assumptions including the primacy of the single neuron and strict localization, which is the idea that each area of the brain has a relatively fixed function.

Episode 78 of the Brain Science Podcast is a brief discussion of the key ideas presented in Beyond Boundaries, including a look at the implications of experiments such as the wide publicized work that culminated in demonstrating that a monkey in Nicolelis' lab at Duke (North Carolina, USA) could control a robot arm in Japan using only its brain. 

 

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Click here for complete show notes and free episode transcript.

 

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David Eagleman talks about "the secret lives of the brain" (BSP 75)

In his new book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain neuroscientist David Eagleman describes consciousness as "the smallest player in the operations of the brain" (page 5) because most of what the brain does is outside conscious awareness (and control). In a recent interview (BSP 75) Dr. Eagleman reviews some of the evidence for this startling position as well as the implications both for the average person and for social policy.

 

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