Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Brain Science Podcast #52: Second Annual Year-end Review

A look back at the last year at Brain Science Podcast, with Dr. Ginger Campbell - one of the best psychology podcasts around.

Brain Science Podcast #52: Second Annual Year-end Review


Brain Science Podcast #52 is our Second Annual Review Episode. We review some of the highlights from 2008. I also discuss the various other on-line resources that I have created for listeners. Then we look ahead to what I have planned for 2009. This episode is aimed at all listeners, including those who are new to the show.

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Highlights from 2008:

Early in the year (#30) I discussed language evolution. My criticism of Noam Chomsky’s claim that human language results from a Universal Grammar Module generated quite a bit of discussion. My main purpose was to emphasize that current neuroscience does not support this hypothesis. I discussed Chomsky’s work in follow-up interviews with Dr. Michael Arbib (#39) and linguist Alice Gaby (#41). It is my impression that at least to some extent this debate comes back to the age-old “nature versus nurture” controversy, which I discussed more explicitly way back in Episode 4. The evidence seems to be mounting that human intelligence is a product of both processes. There is no doubt that the capacity for language is inherited, but brain plasticity appears to be equally important. One piece of evidence for this is that the changes in the brain that occur when people learn to read are different between languages like English and German and those like Chinese and Japanese. (Episode 24 and Episode 29 )

We had 17 guests on the Brain Science Podcast in 2008, so I can’t mention them all here.

  • John Ratey, MD: In Episode 33 we talked about exercise and the brain, while in Episode 45 we talked about ADD
  • Robert Burton, MD: In Episode 43 talked about the implications of the discovery that our sense of knowing (feeling certain) is generated by parts of the brain that are outside our conscious control!
  • John Medina, PhD: In Episode 37 we considered the practical implications of neuroscience, such as the importance of getting enough sleep and why true multi-tasking is actually impossible.
  • Dr. Brenda Milner: In Episode 49 this pioneering neuroscientist shared highlights from her long career.

Another highlight was our first live podcast, which was recorded at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia on August 31.

In the fall I returned to the subject of evolution with a three part series on the evolution of the brain.

  • Episode 47, Episode 48, and Episode 51
  • Episode 51 is an outstanding interview with Dr. Seth Grant in which we discuss the surprising discovery that synapse complexity seems to have evolved BEFORE larger more complex brains.

On-line Resources for Listeners:

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