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[ 1 ] August 22, 2010

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PODCAST: The Magic Forest

[ 2 ] August 22, 2010
This month we’re proud to feature a conversation with British artist Andrew Carnie, whose work explores scientific themes and the representation of the self through scientific imagery. We’re also featuring an exclusive online gallery of his work.

Carnie often creates pieces that are time-based in nature, involving 35mm slide projections onto complex screen configurations.

His latest project, Dendritic Forms, which is currently showing at the GV Art Gallery in London, is a body of work that investigates the visual motifs of trees and organic matter that is mirrored within the human brain. In the darkened gallery space, layered images appear and disappear on suspended screens, suggesting a narrative of the brain itself. In this edition of the podcast, Noah Hutton interviews Carnie about his personal interest in the brain, his thoughts on his own art, and the nature of the current dialogue between the arts and brain sciences. Total runtime: 29:20


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The Persistence of Illusion

[ 2 ] July 12, 2010

The Persistence of Illusion | The Beautiful Brain Podcast, July 2010

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

This month, as our focus turns to cognitive science, we take our podcast title from the famous Einstein quote. Reality may be a persistent illusion; so is the way we think about it, says psychology researcher and author Daniel Simons.

If you’re engaged in thinking about the way you think (what researchers call “meta-cognition”) and feeling pretty confident about things, you may be fooling yourself with one of several persistent illusions detailed in Simons’ new book The Invisible Gorilla, co-authored with Christopher Chabris. From false memories to an inflated sense of knowledge, the book reveals the hubris many of us display when it comes to our own brains.

In this edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast, Simons discusses the research behind his new book, which grew out of a simple experiment about attention (or lack thereof)– the video of which turned into a YouTube sensation.

What are some common illusions we have about our own thinking? What are the traps these illusions create in everyday life? Daniel Simons, co-creator of the original experiment and co-author of the book, discusses The Invisible Gorilla with host Noah Hutton. Total runtime: 31:40.


PODCAST: The Keepers of Memory

[ 24 ] June 11, 2010

Todd Sacktor (Photo: Fred Conrad for the New York Times)

How does a constellation of neurons store a memory over time? Why do some memories degrade, while others always feel like they happened yesterday? Could this system of storage be selectively edited to enhance pleasurable memories and delete painful ones? (Think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, based largely on this research).

In this edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast, host Noah Hutton interviews Todd Sacktor, a leading researcher of the mechanisms of long-term memory storage—and deletion— in the brain. Sacktor’s research investigates the activity of a class of proteins which are very active around synapses— these are protein kinases, and they come in several varieties in the brain. They catalyze chemical reactions at the synapse, allowing a neuron to become more or less responsive to the electrical firing of its neighbor by aiding reactions that reshuffle neurotransmitter receptors.

These kinases were known to have a direct role in the molecular basis of memory—but perhaps never as directly as the work being done in Sacktor’s lab is showing (see the New York Times story on his work). Sacktor has identified one kinase in particular—called PKMzeta—which seems to be directly responsible for the maintenance of memory in the brain. When PKMzeta is found at a synapse, the memory encoded there is OK—it’s being maintained. When PKMzeta stops working at a synapse, the memory floats into the abyss of the brain, disassembled into its consituent cellular parts and extinguished from our recollection. In this edition of the podcast, Sacktor discusses his research and its implications on the way we understand memory storage in the brain. Total runtime: 26:22.


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PODCAST: Brushstrokes to Cells

[ 0 ] May 4, 2010

podcast_poster_mayBevil Conway is truly an artist and a scientist. Now a professor at Wellesley College, Conway has studied painting at McGill and neuroscience at Harvard, where he went on to do his Ph.D. work in the lab of Margaret Livingstone studying the neural mechanisms of color and motion in primary visual cortex. Throughout his time as a neuroscientist, Conway maintained an active painting studio and taught painting in the Visual and Environmental Studies Dept. at Harvard.

His research in visual neuroscience has been featured in the New York Times and the Boston Globe, and next year he will begin work on a new book about neuroscience and art practice, discussed in this podcast. Our interview with Bevil Conway about his art and science, as well as a roundup of recent neuroscience news, all in this edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast, which is now part of the network. Total runtime: 36:14


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PODCAST: Visions of the Brain

[ 8 ] April 8, 2010

Visions of the Brain - Podcast PosterThree artists. Three approaches to visualizing our inner landscapes. This month we present interviews with Constance Jacobson, Audrey Goldstein, and Heidi Whitman, three contemporary artists whose work is decidedly brain-themed, ranging from sculpture, to painting, to performance art and beyond.

Be sure to check out our exclusive online gallery of selected works by each of these artists as you listen to the interviews about their artistic process, their specific interests in the brain, and the potential– as well as the limits– of the dialogue between the arts and the sciences.

Three interviews and a roundup of the latest neuroscience news all in this edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast. Total runtime: 55:40


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