Dr. Pamela Gay from Astronomy Cast and CosmoQuest (BI 69)

This month Books and Ideas features Dr. Pamela Gay, co-host of the long running show Astronomy Cast. In 2018 Dr. Gay was inducted into the Academy of Podcasting Hall of Fame. She is a professional astronomer with a deep commitment to public outreach and she is very involved with the citizen science project Cosmos Quest. Her passion for science is contagious.

In this interview she also reflects on life as a woman in science and also the rewards of being a podcasting pioneer. I am honored to have her as a friend and very pleased to have her back on the show.

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"Go Wild" with Dr. John Ratey (podcast)

Episode 55 of Books and Ideas is an interview with Dr. John Ratey, co-author of Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization. Dr. Ratey has also been featured several times on the Brain Science Podcast. He is an expert on the brain benefits of exercise.

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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.


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.



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.




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.

listen-to-audio Listen to Episode 90

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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Disgust with Rachel Herz (BSP 86)

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.

Listen to Episode 86

Episode Transcript (Free PDF)

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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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Exploring Alabama with Roger Reid (BI 46)

Roger ReidRoger Reid has a job that every kid and most adults would find fascinating. He works for the Alabama Museum of Natural History and travels all over Alabama as a writer and producer for the Emmy Award winning TV show, Discovering Alabama with Dr. Doug Phillips . He also shares his passion for natural history in a series of novels written for middle school age readers. I decided to interview him for Books and Ideas because I wanted to share these novels with my listeners. They combine mystery and science in an original way, but they also contain compelling characters that readers will care about.

Episode 46 of Books and Ideas is an unusual episode because we don't just talk about Reid's novels. We also explore some of the little known treasures of Alabama's natural history. I guarantee surprises, even for those of you who call Alabama home. But I also hope that listeners around the world will gain a new appreciation for the natural resources of Alabama.

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Episode Transcript (Download PDF)

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Books by Roger Reid:

  • Longleaf (2006): set in the Conecuh National Forest
  • Space (2008): set at the Swanson Observatory on Monte Sano in Huntsville, Alabama.
  • Time (2011): set at the Stephen C Menkin Paleozoic Footprint Site, near Jasper, Alabama

References and Links:

Tell Me What You Think!

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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Neurobiology of Placebos with Fabrizio Benedetti (BSP 77)

Fabrizio Benedetti, MD (click for audio)Dr. Fabrizio Benedetti is one of the world's leading researchers of the neurobiology of placebos. In a recent interview (BSP 77) he explained to me that he believes that "today we are in a very good position to describe, from a biological and from an evolutionary approach, the doctor-patient relationship, and the placebo effect, itself."

To appreciate Dr. Benedetti's work one must first realize that his approach differs from that of the typical clinical trial. As he observed, "To the clinical trialist, a placebo effect means any improvement which may take place after placebo administration.  To the neurobiologist, a placebo response, or placebo effect means only something active in the brain happening after placebo administration: learning, anxiety reduction, activation of reward mechanisms."

In contrast, he explains "The real placebo response, the real placebo effect is a psychobiological phenomenon.  It is something active happening in the brain after placebo administration: like learning, like anxiety reduction, and such like." Brain Science Podcast 77 provides an introduction to this complex, but fascinating topic.

listen-to-audio Listen to Episode 77

Click here for full show notes, including references and episode transcripts.

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How to Avoid Choking with Sian Beilock (BSP 76)

Sian Beilock, PhDIn her book Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To, University of Chicago psychologist Sian Beilock explores the dreaded phenomena of choking (ie. the failure to perform as expected under pressure). More importantly she provides practical suggestions for preventing poor performance.

In the latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 76) I talk with her about the different types of choking; it turns out that the failure mechanisms between blowing the big test and missing the key shot in sports are significantly different. Understanding both how they differ and what they have in common is the key to better performance.

Learn more by listening to BSP 76 (right click to download)

Click here for full show notes and episode transcript

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Brain Networks with Olaf Sporns (BSP 74)

Olaf Sporns, PhDNetworks of the Brain by Olaf Sporns is an excellent comprehensive introduction to the use of Network Theory to study both the brain and the nervous systems of invertebrates. In Episode 74 of the Brain Science Podcast I interviewed Dr. Sporns (Indiana University) about some of the key ideas in his book. Network Theory is becoming increasingly important as a tool for dealing with the massive amaounts of data being generated by current techniques, such as brain imaging. It is also a valuable tool with dealing with the fact that nervous systems consist of multiple scales (from the molecular level up to billions of neurons), which can not be reduced to a single scale.

While Networks of the Brain will be of greatest interest to those working in neuroscience and to those with a background in fields like engineering, mathematics, and computer science, this interview provides an introduction for listeners of all backgrounds.

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Click here for detailed show notes including a free episode transcript.

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How the Anti-vaccine Movement Threatens Us All

Paul Offit, MDIn his new book Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All pediatrican Dr Paul A. Offit traces the history of the anti-vaccine movement from opposition to the small pox vaccine in the 19th century up through recent events. Unfortunately, the results are predictable. Reducing vaccination rates lead to reemergence of dangerous preventable infectious diseases. That is why the decision not to vaccinate is not a personal decision. It is one that involves the whole community.

This is the focus of the conversation I had with Dr. Offit in Episode 40 of Books and Ideas. This is a follow-up to Dr. Offit's first interview here in Episode 25.

Because I think this issue is literally a matter of life and death, I encourage you to share this podcast with others.

Listen to Dr. Offit's interview (Books and Ideas #40)

Episode Transcript (Download PDF)

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Links and References

  • Paul Offit, MD: Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Books and Ideas Episode 25: In this 2008 interview we talked about Offit's book Autism's False Prophets and our shared fears about the consequences of falling vaccination rates.
  • van den Hof S, Conyn-van Spaendonck MA, van Steenbergen JE. Measles epidemic in the Netherlands, 1999-2000.  J Infect Dis. 2002 Nov 15;186(10):1483-6. Epub 2002 Oct 29. During a measles outbreak that occurred in the Netherlands between 1990 and 2000 researchers found that fully vaccinated children living in communities with low rates of vaccination were at greater risk than unvaccinated children living in highly vaccinated communities.
  • Brian Deer on Andrew Wakefield's conflicts of interest: "MMR:The Truth Behind the Crisis," Sunday Times (London), February 24, 2004.
  • I mentioned two important court decisions made in 2009 and 2010 by the Omnibus Autism Proceedings. In 2009 the court ruled that there is no evidence that thimrosal-containing vaccines cause autism and in 2010 it ruled that there is no evidence that thimirosal alone causes autism. The complete docket of the Omnibus Autism Proceedings are available at http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/node/2718.
  • All of Dr. Offits books (listed above) contain extensive references for those wishing to do more research.
  • Jenny McCarthy Body Count: there were at least 662 deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases between June 3, 2007 and February 19, 2011.


  • Please feel free to share this podcast with others. Please contact me if you would like to use the interview-only in another podcast or for patient education.
  • I have moved the Brain Science Podcast Discussion Forum to Goodreads.com and I have started a thread for discussing Deadly Decisions and Episode 40.
  • I will be speaking to the London Skepticis in the Pub on May 11, 2010. Visit http://london.skepticsinthepub.org/ to learn more.
  • Don't forget to join the Books and Ideas Facebook Fan Page.
  • Leave reviews of Books and Ideas on iTunes® or wherever you get the podcast.
  • Join me next month for a new episode of the Brain Science Podcast. The next episode of Books and Ideas will be posted in April, 2011.

Send email feedback to Dr. Campbell at gincampbell at mac dot com or leave voicemail at 205-202-0663.

Magic and the Brain (BSP 72)


Neuroscientists Dr. Stephen Macknik and Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde have an unusual hobby: Magic! Actually, it is more than a hobby since for the last several years they have been working with leading magicians from around the world to create a new field: the neuroscience of magic. In Episode 72 of the Brain Science Podcast I talked with them about their new book Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions, which is the first book to explore the neuroscience of magic.

With the help of their co-author Sandra Blakeslee, Macknik and Martinez-Conde provide an excellent overview of this new and exciting field. Their book also provides an excellent review of many of the principles that I have introduced in the last 4 years.

listen-to-audioListen to Episode 72 (Right Click to download)

Click here for detailed show notes and episode transcripts.


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Philosophy of Science with Massimo Pigliucci (podcast 37)

Ginger and Massimo Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk by scientist-turned-philosopher, Massimo Pigliucci is an excellent discussion of the challenges faced by the average non-scientist in today's information-rich world. After explaining what distinguishes science from pseudoscience (a major source of "bunk"), his book gives practical advice about trusting experts. (hint: having a PhD doesn't make one an expert!) Pigliucci also discussed these themes during a talk he gave last month at The Amazing Meeting 8, which was held in Las Vegas, NV. That's where I recorded the interview that I am posting today as Books and Ideas Episode 37. The focus of the interview is the role of philosophy of science in today's complex world.

Listen to Episode 37 of Books and Ideas

Episode Transcript (Download PDF)

Episode 37 Show Notes:

Further Reading: Announcements:
  • The next episode of Books and Ideas will be recorded LIVE at 8:30 PM (Eastern Time) Sunday September 5 at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia. I will be interviewing novelists Skyler White and Christiana Ellis.
  • I am also scheduled to interview Dr. Scott Lilenfield co-author of 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior. This interview will be posted in the Brain Science Podcast feed in late September.
  • For updates please subscribe to Ginger Campbell's newsletter.
  • You can now stream or download episodes and transcripts of this podcast directly to your iPhone®, Touch® or iPad® using the Books and Ideas application.
  • Please share Books and Ideas with your friends and don't forget to leave reviews in the iTunes® Store.

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