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31 minutes | May 7, 2010
The Neuroscience of Culture
For many years, social scientists have attempted to explain human cultural differences by studying behavioral or attitudinal traits. But recent advances in neuroimaging techniques are now allowing researchers to look directly into the brain and to identify these differences at a cellular level. In this podcast, we are delighted to feature Dr. Nalini Ambady, one of the leading scientists in the emerging field of cultural neuroscience. Be sure to join us in this fascinating podcast as we discuss what exactly defines culture from a neuroscience perspective, and what areas of the brain might be responsible for our respective cultural norms and identities.
52 minutes | Feb 22, 2010
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: An In-Depth Look
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, otherwise known in theUnited States as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a devastating disorder that affects the control of muscle movement by damaging motor neurons. And while scientists have identified a small percentage of cases that are linked to a specific genetic mutation, the majority of ALS cases occur in people with no family history of the disorder. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Mahmoud Kiaei of the Department of Neurology and Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Kiaei is spearheading a number of research initiatives which will hopefully lead to better treatments forALS. Be sure to listen in to this in-depth discussion ofALS where we cover virtually every aspect of the disease and highlight some of the new therapies that might eventually lead to a cure.
18 minutes | Jan 2, 2010
Broken Body Clocks: The Consequences of Disrupting Our Circadian Rhythms
We’ve all heard about our “sleep clocks.” But were you aware that we have numerous such clocks all over our bodies – and that disruption of these clocks can have serious health and emotional consequences? In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Ilia Karatsoreos of Rockefeller University who recently conducted a study on how the disruption of circadian rhythms can adversely affect our metabolism as well as our higher level cognitive functioning. Be sure to listen in as we discuss the science of body clocks and how important is to keep them “in sync.”
25 minutes | Dec 15, 2009
Why Fathers Matter: How Single-Parenthood Affects Animal Brain Development
Recent research seems to indicate that animals raised without fathers exhibit significant reductions in neuronal growth during the immediate post-natal period. And this reduced brain development translates into adverse behavioral issues later on in life – especially among male offspring. Is it possible that human children might experience similar brain effects by being raised in a fatherless environment? In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Anna Katharina Braun, director of theInstitute ofBiology at Otto von Guericke University inMagdeburg,Germany, who conducted this study. Dr. Braun recently presented her findings at the Society for Neuroscience meeting here inChicago. Be sure to join us for a fascinating look at the critical role of the father in the brain development of post-natal children.
17 minutes | Nov 4, 2009
What Brain Type Are You? The Science of Human Neurotypology
When it comes to individual genetics, certain skills or abilities may actually be hardwired into the brain at birth. And there is compelling evidence to suggest that key hormonal balances during gestation are instrumental in creating specific brain types which strongly influence us throughout our lives. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Judith Lauter, professor in the Doctoral Program in School Psychology at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX, where she also directs the Human Neuroscience Laboratory. Dr. Lauter is the author of the book, How is Your Brain Like a Zebra? which details the science of neurotypology and illustrates the three brain types that appear to be present within the human species. (Originally broadcast4-November-2009)
32 minutes | Sep 30, 2009
Nora Volkow: The Neuroscience of Addiction
For many years, drug addictions were deemed to be largely behavioral disorders once the abuser went through a period of detoxification. But advanced imaging technologies have now indicated that addiction is a physical process that occurs in addition to physical dependency. Indeed, there is more and more evidence that drugs of abuse disrupt several areas of the brain beyond just the dopamine system – which would explain why addictions are so hard to break. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Nora Volkow*, the director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse and one of the leading scientists in the area of addiction research. Be sure to listen in as we talk about the key brain systems involved with the addiction process and how this translates to larger public health issues such as substances abuse, obesity, and even managing the human aging process. * Dr. Volkow will be presenting a special lecture on “Addiction and Self-Control” at this year’s Neuroscience 2009 event here in Chicago.
18 minutes | Aug 6, 2009
Swearing and the Human Pain Response
Even the most pious among us will often resort to using profanity whenever we stub our toe or hammer our thumb in lieu of the nail. And we tend to do this for very scientific reasons. Researchers are just beginning to uncover the link between emotionally charged words – or swearing – and our perception of pain. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Richard Stephens of the Keele University School of Psychology. Dr. Stephens has been examining the connection between swearing and pain for a number of years, and his team recently published the results of a study indicating that so-called “curse words” might be instrumental in helping us alleviate physical pain. Be sure to join in as we talk about the role of emotionally-charged language in our pain response and how emotions such as anger, aggression, and the human fight-or-flight response might be involved.
26 minutes | May 21, 2009
Thomas Szasz: Psychiatry and the Therapeutic State
When he published The Myth of Mental Illness in 1961, Thomas Szasz launched the first salvo in what would become a lifelong criticism of psychiatry and what he has referred to as the “therapeutic state.” And with the recent publication of his new book, Psychiatry: The Science of Lies, Dr. Szasz demonstrates that he has not wavered a bit from his views that human behaviors are miscategorized as “mental diseases” and that psychiatry “medicalizes” human conditions and practices coercion under the guise of treatment. In this podcast, we get a chance to hear from Dr. Szasz himself on a variety of topics including the nature of mental illness, the history of medicalizing nondiseases, and the emerging political and social forces that are currently shaping our healthcare system. Join us in this fascinating discussion where Dr. Szasz reflects upon the impact he has made on the field of psychiatry and on the legacy he hopes to have established.
27 minutes | May 7, 2009
Cosmetic Neurology and the Ethics of Brain Enhancement
Advancements in neuroscience have enabled physicians to successfully restore the mental functioning of patients with severe cognitive, mood, and motor disorders. But many of these same therapies can also produce significant mental gains in normal, healthy individuals. This has created a rapidly growing demand for “smart drugs” that have the potential to greatly enhance the mental performance of people over and above what is considered normal or average. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, Professor of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and one of the leading researchers in the area of human cognition and the neuroethics of brain enhancement. Be sure to tune in as we talk about the emerging field of “cosmetic neurology” and how this could very well be the next frontier in elective medicine.
20 minutes | Mar 26, 2009
The Neuroscience of Magic and Illusion
Perception is indeed reality when it comes to what we see. And nowhere is this more apparent than during a magical act. But beneath all the showmanship and flair, these artists are actually triggering complex neuroscientific processes which help create the seemingly impossible on stage. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde of the Barrow Neurological Institute, and Founding Member and Executive Chair of the Neural Correlate Society. Dr. Martinez-Conde is a recognized expert in the field of visual neuroscience who has been leading key research in the area of visual illusions. Most recently, Dr. Martinez-Conde’s work has been featured in Scientific American (“Magic and the Brain”) and in Nature Review Neuroscience (“Attention and awareness in stage magic: turning tricks into research”). The latter was co-authored with Dr. Stephen Macknik as well as with the professional magicians Mac King, James Randi, Apollo Robbins, Teller, and John Thompson. Be sure to join us as we talk about the fascinating subject of human visual perception and put a spotlight on how magicians manipulate human attention and awareness to both entertain and delight us.
24 minutes | Feb 11, 2009
The Psychology of the Con
Confidence scams have been around since time immemorial. And while we like to think of ourselves as intelligent and “street smart,” we’re still quite willing to place our complete trust in total strangers with regards to such cherished items as our time and our money. Why is that? In this podcast, we are delighted to once again feature Dr. Paul Zak, the founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University and author of the Moral Molecule blog. Dr. Zak and I discuss the role of the hormone oxytocin in the development of the human emotions of trust and empathy. In addition, we talk about how con artists engage The Human Oxytocin Mediated Attachment System (THOMAS) and hijack it for the purposes of meeting their needs at our expense. Join us as we delve into the neuroscience of human trust and explain exactly why we are so susceptible to the machinations of these “unconditional nonreciprocators.”
23 minutes | Jan 3, 2009
The Neuroscience of Psi Perception
Very few areas areas of psychology generate such high levels of both excitement and skepticism as the study of anomalous perception, or “psi” phenomena. And given how hype and speculation of psi phenomena have often taken the place of serious scientific examination, the skeptics are certainly justified in their criticisms. Nevertheless, there are a few scientists who are willing to brave this area of research in an attempt to critically examine whether or not psi phenomena are measurable – or perhaps even learnable. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Julia Mossbridge, a Visiting Scholar at the Visual Perception, Cognition, and Neuroscience Laboratory atNorthwesternUniversity. Dr. Mossbridge is currently examining psi phenomena from a perceptual neuroscience approach and attempting to identify types that can actually be measured and quantified. Join us as we review the current research in this field and discuss the areas of psi phenomena that show the most potential.
14 minutes | Nov 30, 2008
Social Neuroscience: Measuring and Quantifying Human Empathy
One of the most exciting areas of neuroscience involves the exploration of the biological and physiological underpinnings of human social interaction. And as researchers discover more and more about the critical role that mirror neurons appear to play in our lives, the relatively new field of “social neuroscience” is rapidly becoming the central front from which we examine how the brain influences social behavior, and vice versa. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Carl Marci who is the Director of Social Neuroscience for the Psychotherapy Research Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Marci is involved with some of the most advanced research that focuses on measuring and quantifying the human emotion of empathy. Be sure to listen in on this podcast where we discuss a promising new development in the one of the hottest areas of neuroscience today.
20 minutes | Oct 30, 2008
Sensory Specific Satiety: The Real Key to Successful Weight Loss?
Back in March of 2007, we interviewed Dr. Alan Hirsch of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, located here inChicago. Dr. Hirsch is one of the world’s leading authorities on the science of smell and taste, and we had an opportunity to discuss the complex effects that these two senses exert over our everyday lives. We caught up with Dr. Hirsch about a month ago, and we’re very excited to report on some of the new developments at his research center. For quite some time, Dr. Hirsch has been studying how our senses of smell and taste might have a role in regulating our food intake and our sense of satiety – or our feeling of being “full” and “satisfied.” Join us as we visit once again with Dr. Hirsch and talk more about the science and commerce of smell and taste.
33 minutes | Sep 16, 2008
Happiness and Psychological Wealth
It seems as if everywhere you look there’s a new book being published or a new “expert” on the talk show circuit telling us how to find happiness in our lives. Indeed, the “feel good” industry is flourishing and sales of self-help books and CDs that promise a more fulfilling life have never been higher. However, few researchers have devoted their entire careers to scientifically exploring exactly what it is that promotes “subjective well-being” in humans. In this podcast, we speak with Robert Biswas-Diener, Program Director at the Center for Applied Positive Psychology (UK) and co-author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. Robert and his father Dr. Ed Diener, who collaborated on this publication, are two of the world’s foremost experts on the science of happiness. Be sure to join us as we take an in-depth look at the components that make up true psychological wealth in humans. The real key to having a truly happy and fulfilling life will definitely surprise you.
13 minutes | May 30, 2008
Mirror Neurons: How Do We Connect with Others Through These “Smart Cells?”
To many in the neuroscience community, mirror neurons represent the biggest discovery of the past twenty years. These “smart cells,” which activate when we perform actions and when we see other people performing the same or complementary actions, seem to provide us with a common neurobiologic dynamic for our understanding of how we learn, empathize, and interact socially and culturally with other human beings at a fundamental level. In addition, mirror neurons may also be the key to understanding and treating a variety of social interaction disorders such as autism, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Marco Iacoboni, Director of the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Lab at the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Iacoboni is currently leading some of the most advanced research on the human mirror neuron system and its role in both social behavior and social disorders. Be sure to listen in on this provocative interview where we discuss Dr. Iacoboni’s new book, Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect with Others (May 2008, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and delve into the fascinating details of one of the most exciting new areas of scientific discovery.
29 minutes | Apr 14, 2008
The Psychology of Overspending
Personal credit card debt in the United States has doubled since 2004, and personal bankruptcies are at the highest rates ever. And despite unprecedented levels of economic growth and wealth creation, the median American family has less than $10,000 in assets. This begs the question, “Where has all the money gone?” The unvarnished truth is that many Americans spend and continue to spend well beyond their means, in essence mortgaging their futures for the temporary convenience of the present. And as the U.S. housing crisis continues to intensify, these same individuals are finding themselves in an increasingly precarious financial predicament brought on by years of unchecked consumptive habits. In this program, we speak with Dr. Tahira K. Hira of Iowa State University. Dr. Hira is internationally known for her research in consumer bankruptcy, consumer credit, and the social and psychological aspects of borrowing among middle and high income Americans as well as the impact of gambling and credit use on family financial well-being. Join us in this timely and insightful conversation where we explore the key factors that influence people’s buying and borrowing behavior and help explain why people overspend in the first place.
25 minutes | Feb 20, 2008
Virtual Worlds & False Identities: Social Media or Social Pathology?
As communications technologies such as Second Life become more and more sensory and interactive, human beings are increasingly being forced to navigate environments that consistently blur the lines between fantasy and reality. And while most industry analysts praise this next big wave of “social media” a growing number of neuroscientists are critically analyzing how these “false identities” might impact us in our “real-life” interactions and relationships. In this podcast, we are delighted to feature Baroness Susan Greenfield, one of the world’s leading brain researchers and the author of the upcoming book, ID The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century (May 2008, Hodder & Stoughton). As the Director of The Royal Institution of Great Britain and professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, her research and writing have advanced our understanding of the workings of the human brain and have stimulated public understanding of, and appreciation for, that most complex of human organs. And as one ofGreat Britain’s most popular and recognizable public figures, Baroness Greenfield has been instrumental in communicating the critical notion that the human brain is not only highly adaptive to our changing technological landscape, but also highly vulnerable to it as well. Be sure to tune into this thought-provoking interview where we look at the latest science of human/technology interaction and examine how these emerging “virtual worlds” are increasingly shaping the human identity.
15 minutes | Jan 15, 2008
Cold Water and Mood Enhancement
Hydrotherapy, or the medicinal use of water, has long been utilized by both traditional and alternative medicine to treat a variety of physical ailments. However, recent scientific studies have suggested that cold water therapies might be effective in the treatment of mood disorders such as depression – and that there might actually be an evolutionary basis to this. In this program, we speak with Dr. Nikolai Shevchuk, author of the November 2007 study, Adapted Cold Shower as a Potential Treatment for Depression. Dr. Shevchuk’s work has been instrumental in identifying and explaining how cold temperatures activate specific areas of the brain that appear to be involved with the regulation of mood in humans. Join us as we explore the hard science of cold water therapy and examine how our current “ambient temperature” lifestyle might potentially be a factor in our mood states.
15 minutes | Nov 30, 2007
Convection Enhanced Delivery for Brain Drug Therapy
In our previous podcast on the blood brain barrier, we explored the issues and challenges involved with delivering therapeutic compounds into the brain. And while both big pharma and academic neuroscience continue to disregard the limiting factors of the blood brain barrier, a few pioneering companies are tackling this issue head on. In this segment, we speak with Stephan Mittermeyer of BrainLAB, a medical equipment company headquartered in Munich, Germany. Stephan’s group has developed an integrated approach to circumventing the blood brain barrier that involves a process known as convection enhanced delivery, or CED. Join us as we explore BrainLAB’s innovative technique for delivering drugs directly into the brain – one that is as much a tale of physics and engineering as it is of biology.
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