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New Books in Neuroscience
62 minutes | 3 days ago
Rob DeSalle, "A Natural History of Color: The Science Behind What We See and How We See it" (Pegasus Books, 2020)
Is color a phenomenon of science or a thing of art? Over the years, color has dazzled, enhanced, and clarified the world we see, embraced through the experimental palettes of painting, the advent of the color photograph, Technicolor pictures, color printing, on and on, a vivid and vibrant celebrated continuum. These turns to represent reality in “living color” echo our evolutionary reliance on and indeed privileging of color as a complex and vital form of consumption, classification, and creation. It’s everywhere we look, yet do we really know much of anything about it? Finding color in stars and light, examining the system of classification that determines survival through natural selection, studying the arrival of color in our universe and as a fulcrum for philosophy, DeSalle’s brilliant A Natural History of Color: The Science Behind What We See and How We See it (Pegasus Books, 2020)establishes that an understanding of color on many different levels is at the heart of learning about nature, neurobiology, individualism, even a philosophy of existence. Color and a fine tuned understanding of it is vital to understanding ourselves and our consciousness.Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland. To discuss and propose the book for an interview you can reach her at email@example.com.
59 minutes | 11 days ago
Roger Kreuz and Richard Roberts, "Changing Minds: How Aging Affects Language and How Language Affects Aging" (MIT Press, 2019)
Everyone ages, and just about everyone uses language, making Changing Minds: How Aging Affects Language and How Language Affects Aging (MIT Press, 2019) a book with practically universal relevance. The authors, Roger Kreuz and Richard Roberts, show readers what cognitive science can tell us—and what it can’t—about the relationship between aging and language. Through accounts of research written for a general audience, Kreuz and Roberts explain how underlying cognitive functions, such as memory and perception, are responsible for much of the changes that people associate with aging, and that linguistic capabilities are more resilient than many may think. They explore a range of changes that occur as people age, focusing on speaking, listening, reading, and writing. While they are clear that the jury may be out on some of the phenomena they explore—such as whether older people have greater difficulty interpreting figurative language—they note that other correlations are more robust, such as the relationship between reading fiction and living long lives.Malcolm Keating is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Yale-NUS College. His research focuses on Sanskrit philosophy of language and epistemology. He is the author of Language, Meaning, and Use in Indian Philosophy (Bloomsbury Press, 2019) and host of the podcast Sutras (and stuff).
72 minutes | 11 days ago
Jonathan Sadowsky, "The Empire of Depression: A New History" (Polity, 2020)
When is sorrow sickness? That is the question that this book asks, exploring how our understandings of sadness, melancholy, depression, mania and anxiety have changed over time, and how societies have tried to treat something which lies on the border between the natural and the pathological. Jonathan Sadowsky's book The Empire of Depression: A New History (Polity, 2020) explores the various medical treatments for depression, classed as a modern illness with definite (but changing) symptoms from the 20th century onwards, in relation to a longer history of treatments for ‘melancholia’ and related states considered either as biological or social sicknesses or as a natural part of some people’s constitution. He also compares the western history of medicalising depression with the experiences of both sadness and clinical depression in non-western cultures, such as Nigeria and Japan. He asks, what have we lost as a consequence of the hegemony of the western clinical model, and how can we reclaim the patient experience in the face of sometimes hostile doctors and pharmaceutical companies? The book is poetic but well-researched, written by a leading medical historian, and distinguished from the crowd of books about depression through its global focus, and its historical rigour.C.J. Valasek is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology & Science Studies at the University of California San Diego.
37 minutes | 23 days ago
Russell T. Warne, "In the Know: Debunking 35 Myths about Human Intelligence" (Cambridge UP, 2020)
In this episode I talked to Russell T. Warne about his book In the Know: Debunking 35 Myths about Human Intelligence (Cambridge UP, 2020). Warne takes on the “nature versus nurture” debate regarding the source of intelligence. It also looks at a host of other angles related to IQ: from the failures of the No Child Left Behind act to what are the disadvantages to society are of an emerging intellectual meritocracy. Along the way it explores differences in scores based on ethnic/racial origins, plus how well EQ holds up as a separate form of intelligence.Russell T. Warne is an associate professor of psychology at Utah Valley University. He earned his PhD in education psychology from Texas A&M University in 2011. Dr. Warne has published two books and nearly 60 scholarly articles. He teaches classes on statistics, psychology, research methods, psychological testing, and intelligence.Dan Hill, PhD, is the author of eight books and leads Sensory Logic, Inc. (https://www.sensorylogic.com). To check out his related “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” blog, visit https://emotionswizard.com.
67 minutes | a month ago
John Campbell, "Causation in Psychology" (Harvard UP, 2020)
Our practices of holding people morally and legally responsible for what they do rests on causal relationships between our mental states and our actions – a desire for revenge or a fear for one’s safety may cause a violent act. In either case, John Campbell argues, there is a psychological causal process that leads from the motivating mental state to the action. In Causation in Psychology (Harvard University Press, 2020), Campbell – who is professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, claims that the existence of such singular causal relations and our knowledge of them do not depend on the existence of psychological generalizations under which they might be subsumed. Moreover, imaginative understanding or empathy enables us to trace these one-off, idiosyncratic causal sequences and thereby attain knowledge of these singular psychological causal relations. Campbell uses his analysis to distinguish human freedom of action at the level of causal process and to provide a new perspective on the traditional mind-body problem.
78 minutes | a month ago
A. Espay and B. Stecher, "Brain Fables: The Hidden History of Neurodegenerative Diseases and a Blueprint to Conquer Them" (Cambridge UP, 2020)
An estimated 80 million people live with a neurodegenerative disease, with this number expected to double by 2050. Despite decades of research and billions in funding, there are no medications that can slow, much less stop, the progress of these diseases. The time to rethink degenerative brain disorders has come. With no biological boundaries between neurodegenerative diseases, illnesses such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's result from a large spectrum of biological abnormalities, hampering effective treatment. In Brain Fables: The Hidden History of Neurodegenerative Diseases and a Blueprint to Conquer Them (Cambridge UP, 2020), acclaimed neurologist Dr Alberto Espay and Parkinson's advocate Benjamin Stecher present compelling evidence that these diseases should be targeted according to genetic and molecular signatures rather than clinical diagnoses. There is no Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, simply people with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. An incredibly important story never before told, Brain Fables is a wakeup call to the scientific community and society, explaining why we have no effective disease-modifying treatments, and how we can get back on track.Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
46 minutes | a month ago
Nancy D. Campbell, "OD: Naloxone and the Politics of Overdose" (MIT Press, 2020)
Reducing harm or shrinking the likelihood of accidental death are remarkably contentions projects—in areas from sex education, to pandemic management, to drug use. Nancy Campbell’s important new book, OD: Naloxone and the Politics of Overdose (MIT Press, 2020) explores how a therapy that can stop an accidental drug overdose, called Naloxone, emerged in the American mainstream in the early years of the new millennium—despite existing in some form for nearly a century. What are now called “opioid antagonists” were used, not to save lives, but deployed by the carceral state to police drug users in the early twentieth century; sequestered within bioscience laboratories to build molecular theories of how the brain worked at midcentury; approved by the FDA in 1971 for the treatment of overdose only by physicians; and illicitly administered and widely shared in the 1980s and 1990s among drug-user-led activist organizations and communities, who created their own troves of training protocols, peer-education networks, and experiential evidence of its effectiveness. In the twenty-first century, Naloxone appeared on public policy agendas around harm reduction and arrived legally in the hands of the people best situated to intervene when an overdose was underway—but only in some US states and some countries.Campbell tunes readers’ ears to the politics of evidence, the health effects of stigma, and the racism of false medical claims as she listens, amid a century of contention, to the quietness of “undone science.” As evidence, this intrepid book uses visual culture, vernacular documents, oral histories, and (expertly explained) scientific publications. It connects American histories at federal and local levels with the UK and especially Scotland. And it relates medical communities and activist networks without imposing false divides or drawing caricatures of either. The book builds on Campbell’s four previous books on the history of addiction, gendering knowledge, and social theory from the position of Science and Technology Studies.The interview was a collaborative project among participants in the Vanderbilt University course, American Medicine & the World. For information about using NBN interviews as part of pedagogical practice, please email Laura Stark or see the essay “Can New Media Save the Book?” in Contexts (2015).Laura Stark is Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, and Associate Editor of the journal History & Theory.
38 minutes | 2 months ago
Gina Rippon, "Gender and our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of the Male and Female Minds (Vintage, 2020)
There is a long history of brain research that seems to legitimize widely held beliefs about the men versus women. According to my guest, much of that research is founded on biases and misguided experiments, which raises the questions: Are there any meaningful neurological differences between men and women? And if so, what are they? To find out, you’ll want to listen to my interview with Dr. Gina Rippon, author of the book, Gender and our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of the Male and Female Minds (2020, Vintage Books). We talk about the difference between good and bad science in this area and how the field of psychology has contributed to misinformed but long-lasting ideas about gender differences. This episode will interest those longing for clarity about male versus female brains and shed light on the role of science in shaping social perceptions about the sexes.Gina Rippon, Ph.D. is an honorary professor of cognitive neuroimaging at Aston Brain Centre at Aston University in Birmingham, England. Her research involves the use of state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques to investigate developmental disorders such as autism. In 2015, she was made a honorary fellow of the British Science Association for her contributions to the public communication of science. Dr. Rippon is part of the European Union Gender Equality Network, belongs to WISE and ScienceGrrl, and is a member of Robert Peston’s Speakers for Schools program and the Inspiring the Future intitative. She lives in the United Kingdom.Eugenio Duarte, Ph.D. is a psychologist and psychoanalyst practicing in Miami. He treats individuals and couples, with specialties in gender and sexuality, eating and body image problems, and relationship issues. He is a graduate and faculty of William Alanson White Institute in Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology in New York City and former chair of their LGBTQ Study Group; and faculty at Florida Psychoanalytic Institute in Miami. He is also a contributing author to the book Introduction to Contemporary Psychoanalysis: Defining Terms and Building Bridges (2018, Routledge).
66 minutes | 3 months ago
Gina Rippon, "Gender and Our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of the Male and Female Minds" (Vintage, 2020)
For decades if not centuries, science has backed up society’s simple dictum that men and women are hardwired differently, that the world is divided by two different kinds of brains—male and female. However, new research in neuroimaging suggests that this is little more than “neurotrash.”In Gender and Our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of the Male and Female Minds (Vintage, 2020), acclaimed professor of neuroimaging, Gina Rippon, finally challenges this damaging myth by showing how the science community has engendered bias and stereotype by rewarding studies that show difference rather than sameness. Drawing on cutting edge research in neuroscience and psychology, Rippon presents the latest evidence which finally proves that brains are like mosaics comprised of both male and female components, and that they remain plastic, adapting throughout the course of a person’s life. Discernable gender identities, she asserts, are shaped by society where scientific misconceptions continue to be wielded and perpetuated to the detriment of our children, our own lives, and our culture.Gina Rippon is a British neuroscientist and feminist. She is a an honorary professor of cognitive neuroimaging at the Aston Brain Centre, Aston University in Birmingham, England. In 2015 she was made honorary fellow of the British Science Association. Rippon has also sat on the editorial board of the International Journal of Psychophysiology, and is a member of the European Union Gender Equality Network, belongs to WISE and ScienceGrrl, and the Inspiring the Future intiative.Dr. Christina Gessler’s background is in American women’s history, and literature. She specializes in the diaries written by rural women in the 19th century. In seeking the extraordinary in the ordinary, Gessler writes the histories of largely unknown women, poems about small relatable moments, and takes many, many photos in nature.
70 minutes | 3 months ago
Robert Plomin, "Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are" (MIT Press, 2019)
Have you ever felt, “Oh my God, I’m turning into my mother (or father)!” ? Robert Plomin explains why that happens in Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are (MIT Press, 2019).A century of genetic research shows that DNA differences inherited from our parents are the consistent lifelong sources of our psychological individuality―the blueprint that makes us who we are. Robert Plomin’s decades of work demonstrate that genetics explains more about the psychological differences among people than all other factors combined. Nature, not nurture, is what makes us who we are.Plomin explores the implications of these findings, drawing some provocative conclusions―among them that parenting styles don't really affect children's outcomes once genetics is taken into account. This book offers readers a unique insider's view of the exciting synergies that came from combining genetics and psychology.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at email@example.com or tweet @embracingwisdom.
64 minutes | 4 months ago
Dr. Christopher Harris on Teaching Neuroscience
Dr. Christopher Harris (@chrisharris) is a neuroscientist, engineer and educator at the EdTech company Backyard Brains. He is principal investigator on an NIH-funded project to develop brain-based robots for neuroscience education. In their recent open-access research paper, Dr. Harris and his team describe, and present results from, their classroom-based pilots of this new and highly innovative approach to neuroscience and STEM education. They argue that neurorobotics has enormous potential as an education technology, because it combines multiple activities with clear educational benefits including neuroscience, active learning, and robotics.Dr. Harris did his undergraduate degree in Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Warwick, where he developed his life-long love of the brain. For his graduate work at the University of Sussex and subsequent postdoctoral work at the National Institutes of Health he applied electrophysiological, optical and computational techniques to construct cellular-resolution maps of large and diverse neural circuits. He is particularly interested in reward-system, visual system, and central motor pattern generator circuits.Dr. John Griffiths (@neurodidact) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, and Head of Whole Brain Modelling at the CAMH Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics. His research group (www.grifflab.com) works at the intersection of computational neuroscience and neuroimaging, building simulations of human brain activity aimed at improving the understanding and treatment of neuropsychiatric and neurological illness.
45 minutes | 4 months ago
Robert Kolker, "Hidden Valley Road: Inside The Mind of An American Family" (Doubleday, 2020)
Hidden Valley Road: Inside The Mind of An American Family (Doubleday, 2020) is the story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science's great hope in the quest to understand the disease.Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. After World War II, Don's work with the Air Force brought them to Colorado, where their twelve children perfectly spanned the baby boom: the oldest born in 1945, the youngest in 1965. In those years, there was an established script for a family like the Galvins--aspiration, hard work, upward mobility, domestic harmony--and they worked hard to play their parts. But behind the scenes was a different story: psychological breakdown, sudden shocking violence, hidden abuse. By the mid-1970s, six of the ten Galvin boys, one after another, were diagnosed as schizophrenic. How could all this happen to one family?What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. Their story offers a shadow history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization, lobotomy, and the “schizophrenogenic” mother to the search for genetic markers for the disease, always amid profound disagreements about the nature of the illness itself. And unbeknownst to the Galvins, samples of their DNA informed decades of genetic research that continues today, bringing hope for paths to treatment, prediction, and even eradication of the disease for future generations.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The NBN’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @embracingwisdom.
58 minutes | 4 months ago
Joseph E. Davis, "Chemically Imbalanced: Everyday Suffering, Medication, and Our Troubled Quest for Self-Mastery" (U Chicago Press, 2020)
Everyday suffering—those conditions or feelings brought on by trying circumstances that arise in everyone’s lives—is something that humans have grappled with for millennia. But the last decades have seen a drastic change in the way we approach it. In the past, a person going through a time of difficulty might keep a journal or see a therapist, but now the psychological has been replaced by the biological: instead of treating the heart, soul, and mind, we take a pill to treat the brain.Chemically Imbalanced: Everyday Suffering, Medication, and Our Troubled Quest for Self-Mastery (University of Chicago Press) is a field report on how ordinary people dealing with common problems explain their suffering, how they’re increasingly turning to the thin and mechanistic language of the “body/brain,” and what these encounters might tell us.Drawing on interviews with people dealing with struggles such as underperformance in school or work, grief after the end of a relationship, or disappointment with how their life is unfolding, Joseph E. Davis reveals the profound revolution in consciousness that is underway. We now see suffering as an imbalance in the brain that needs to be fixed, usually through chemical means. This has rippled into our social and cultural conversations, and it has affected how we, as a society, imagine ourselves and envision what constitutes a good life.Davis warns that what we envision as a neurological revolution, in which suffering is a mechanistic problem, has troubling and entrapping consequences. And he makes the case that by turning away from an interpretive, meaning-making view of ourselves, we thwart our chances to enrich our souls and learn important truths about ourselves and the social conditions under which we live.Joe Davis is Research Professor of Sociology at the University of VirginiaClaire Clark is a medical educator, historian of medicine, and associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine. She teaches and writes about health behavior in historical context.
98 minutes | 4 months ago
Nick Chater, "The Mind Is Flat: The Remarkable Shallowness of the Improvising Brain" (Yale UP, 2019)
Psychologists and neuroscientists struggle with how best to interpret human motivation and decision making. The assumption is that below a mental “surface” of conscious awareness lies a deep and complex set of inner beliefs, values, and desires that govern our thoughts, ideas, and actions, and that to know this depth is to know ourselves. In the The Mind Is Flat: The Remarkable Shallowness of the Improvising Brain (Yale UP, 2019), behavioural scientist Nick Chater contends just the opposite: rather than being the plaything of unconscious currents, the brain generates behaviors in the moment based entirely on our past experiences. Engaging the reader with eye-opening experiments and visual examples, Chater first demolishes our intuitive sense of how our mind works, then argues for a positive interpretation of the brain as a ceaseless and creative improviser.Dr. Nick Chater is Professor of behavioral science at the Warwick Business School and cofounder of Decision Technology Ltd. He has contributed to more than two hundred articles and book chapters and is author, co-author, or co-editor of fourteen books.Dr. John Griffiths (@neurodidact) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, and Head of Whole Brain Modelling at the CAMH Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics. His research group (www.grifflab.com) works at the intersection of computational neuroscience and neuroimaging, building simulations of human brain activity aimed at improving the understanding and treatment of neuropsychiatric and neurological illness.
60 minutes | 4 months ago
Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, "NeuroScience Fiction" (Benbella Books, 2020)
In NeuroScience Fiction (Benbella Books, 2020), Rodrigo Quian Quiroga shows how the outlandish premises of many seminal science fiction movies are being made possible by new discoveries and technological advances in neuroscience and related fields. Along the way, he also explores the thorny philosophical problems raised as a result, diving into Minority Report and free will, The Matrix and the illusion of reality, Blade Runner and android emotion, and more. A heady mix of science fiction, neuroscience, and philosophy, NeuroScience Fiction takes us from Vanilla Sky to neural research labs, and from Planet of the Apes to what makes us human. The end result is a sort of bio-technological “Sophie’s World for the 21st Century”, and a compelling update on the state of human knowledge through its cultural expressions in film and art.Dr. Rodrigo Quian Quiroga is the director of the Centre for Systems Neuroscience and the Head of Bioengineering at the University of Leicester. His research focuses on the principles of visual perception and memory, and is credited with the discovery of "Concept cells" or "Jennifer Aniston neurons" - neurons in the human brain that play a key role in memory formation.Dr. John Griffiths (@neurodidact) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, and Head of Whole Brain Modelling at the CAMH Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics. His research group (www.grifflab.com) works at the intersection of computational neuroscience and neuroimaging, building simulations of human brain activity aimed at improving the understanding and treatment of neuropsychiatric and neurological illness.
105 minutes | 4 months ago
Ann-Sophie Barwich, "Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind" (Harvard UP, 2020)
In Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind (Harvard UP, 2020), cognitive scientist, empirical philosopher & historian of science, technology, and the senses A. S. Barwich asks a deceptively simple question: What does the nose tell the brain, and how does the brain understand it?Barwich interviews experts in neuroscience, psychology, chemistry, and perfumery in an effort to understand the biological mechanics and myriad meanings of odors. She argues that it is time to stop recycling ideas based on the paradigm of vision for the olfactory system. Scents are often fickle and boundless in comparison with visual images, and they do not line up with well-defined neural regions. Although olfaction remains a puzzle, Barwich proposes that what we know suggests the brain acts not only like a map but also as a measuring device, one that senses and processes simple and complex odors.In this interview, we discuss the history of olfaction as an art and a science, what smell can tell us about perception and our philosophy of mind, and why smell is an important sense today more than ever.This episode is triply exciting, because it marks not just the release of a lively and brilliant new book, Smellosophy, which has, in the short time since its release last month, received a series of well-deserved sparking reviews in the popular and academic press, but also the first appearance of two new voices on the New Books Network: Joseph Fridman, and Dr. Ann-Sophie Barwich, both of whom are joining the network as hosts of New Books in Neuroscience. They join Dr. John Griffiths and Dr. Christopher Harris to round out the starting host lineup for the New Books in Neuroscience channel, which will be bringing you deep interviews with boundary-pushing authors in the neurosciences wherever you listen to your podcasts.Ann-Sophie Barwich is an Assistant Professor at Indiana University Bloomington. She divides her brain-time between the Department of History & Philosophy of Science and the Cognitive Science Program. Her EEG/Olfactometry lab will open in early 2021, and her tenure as a host of a New Books in Neuroscience will begin in 2020. You can find her on Twitter, logically enough, @smellosopher.Joseph Fridman is a researcher, science communicator, media producer, and educational organizer. He lives in Boston with two ragdoll kittens and a climate scientist.You can follow him on Twitter @joseph_fridman, or reach him at his website, https://www.josephfridman.com/.
94 minutes | 5 months ago
György Buzsáki, "The Brain from Inside Out" (Oxford UP, 2019)
In The Brain from Inside Out (Oxford University Press, 2019), György Buzsáki contrasts what he terms the ‘outside-in’ and ‘inside-out’ perspectives on neuroscientific theory and research methodology. The ‘outside-in’ approach, which he sees as dominating thinking in the field at present and in most of recent history, conceptualizes the brain as a passive, information-absorbing, coding device. The ‘inside-out’ perspective, which Buzsáki seeks to develop and advocate, sees the brain rather as a device sculpted exquisitely by evolution for the generation and control of action and behaviour. The Brain from Inside Out is a candid and provocative monograph from one of the world’s most respected scientists, full of fascinating insights into the history and future of the science of the mind.Dr György Buzsáki is Biggs Professor of Neuroscience at New York University.Dr. John Griffiths (@neurodidact) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, and Head of Whole Brain Modelling at the CAMH Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics. His research group (grifflab.com) works at the intersection of computational neuroscience and neuroimaging, building simulations of human brain activity aimed at improving the understanding and treatment of neuropsychiatric and neurological illness.
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