Both Books and Ideas and the Brain Science Podcast were launched in 2006. This post includes a list of all the episodes posted in 2014.Read More
The latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 107) is an interview with Dr. Penelope Lewis, author of The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest.
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:
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.
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 and working scientists, this interview gives all listeners a chance to learn about how recent experiments are challenging traditional assumptions about emotion and cognition.
Please visit the Brain Science Podcast website for detailed show notes and episode transcripts.
Earlier this month my Brain Science Podcast celebrated its seventh anniversary. I haven't been doing a very good job of updating this website in recent months, but I wanted to take a moment to look back at 2013. While I only published two episodes of Books and Ideas, I did publish 12 episodes of the Brain Science Podcast and I am looking forward to some major changes in 2014.
BSP 104 is our seventh annual review episode, which highlights the main ideas that we explored in 2013. I also announced that beginning on December 30, 2013 I will be offering a Premium Subscription. The most recent 25 episodes of the Brain Science Podcast will remain free while older episodes and episode transcripts will be available via subscription. Subscribers will get unlimited access to the entire library of content while individual episodes and transcripts can be purchased on the BSP website.
Subscribe to the Brain Science Podcast
The Brain Science Podcast has been nominated as the Best Science Podcast in the Ninth Annual People's Choice Podcast Awards. Voting runs from November 1-15 at http://podcastawards.com. Listeners are allowed to vote up to once a day and since we are up against several large radio shows I am encouraging listeners to vote as often as they can.
- BSP 102 is an interview with Dr. Allen Frances, author of Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life.
- BSP 101 is an interview with Seth Grant. Dr Grant was first interviewed back in BSP 52. Grant has pioneered the study of evolution of the synapse. In this interview we discuss the growing evidence that changes in the synapse were critical to the subsequent evolution of complex brains and nervous systems.
Last 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.
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.
Last 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.
Visit Brain Science Podcast website for full show notes and a free episode Transcript.
I 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.
The 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)
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.
Go to Brain Science Podcast website for complete show notes and free episode transcripts.
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):
BSP 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.
How the Brain Understands Language (BSP 94):
BSP 94 was an interview with linguist Benjamin Bergen author of Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning.
Dr. 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.
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.
Click here for detailed shownotes and free transcript.
Embodied Cognition is a movement within cognitive science that argues that the mind is inseparable from the fact that the brain is embedded in a physical body. This means that everything that the brain does, from the simplest perception to complex decision-making, relies on the interaction of the body with its environment. Evan Thompson's book Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind is an in depth look at what he calls the "enactive" approach to embodied cognition. The enactive approach was pioneered by Thompson's mentor Francisco Varela and it emphasizes the importance of the body's active engagement with its environment.
In a recent interview (BSP 89) I talked with Thompson about some of the key ideas in Mind in Life. Unlike most episodes of the Brain Science Podcast, this is not really a stand-alone episode. It is part of my ongoing exploration of both embodied cognition and the controverial topic of emergence. It is also intended as a follow-up to my recent interview with Terrence Deacon.
The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity by Bruce Hood is a fascinating look at how our brains create both our experience of the world and our sense of being a single, coherent self. As the word "illusion" in the title indicates, neither is exactly what it seems. When I interviewed Dr. Hood (for BSP 88) he explained that The Self Illusion is a broad introduction to this somewhat surprising idea. The Self Illusion was written with a general audience in mind. For those already familiar with the topic he also puts a new emphasis on the role of development. All readers should come away with a new appreciation for the critical role social interactions play through out human life.
Nuturing 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.
Disgust is an universal emotion, but unlike emotions like fear and anger, disgust must be learned. This is the main conclusion of Dr. Rachel Herz's latest book That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion. In a recent interview (BSP 86) Dr. Herz told me why she spent the last several years studying this rather unusual subject. We also discussed what the study of disgust can tell us about how our brains process emotion.
This is Dr. Herz's second visit to the Brain Science Podcast. Back in BSP 34 we talked about her first book The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell.
Episode Transcript (Free PDF)
- The FREE episode transcript contains additional links and references.
- My new eBook Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty is now available at Amazon.com. If you want the PDF version just send me a copy of your Amazon receipt and I will send you the PDF for no additional cost.
- Please post reviews of Are You Sure? on Amazon, Goodreads, or on your blog.
Dr. 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.
The 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.
Episode Transcript (Free PDF)
"There is nothing more exciting than the mind/brain problem" according to Dr. William Uttal, author of Mind and Brain: A Critical Appraisal of Cognitive Neuroscience. In the latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 83) I talked with Dr. Uttal about why he feels that brain imaging can not solve this mystery. First, there is the problem that brain imaging represents the wrong level of analysis because every spot you see on a brain scan actaully represents thousands of neurons. This means that the activity and interaction between individual neurons has been lost. Then there is the problem of reproducibility, with divergent results between studies. The evidence is accumulating that "much of the brain responds to any stimulus, and every area of the brain participates in multiple functions." This means that asking where a given function occurs may be the wrong question.
BSP 83 represents an on-going discussion of these issues, so I have included links to related episodes in the show notes.