Silicon Valley CEOs, scruffy hippies, and Tibetan monks alike describe meditation as blissful and life-changing, but what does the science say? Can it reduce stress, increase your attention, and improve mental health — or is all this focus on breathing just a bunch of hot air? Sit back, get comfortable, focus your mind and let the experts to sort it out for you. Among them are Tim Ferriss, Professor Gaelle Desbordes, Dr. Clifford Saron, and Dr. Britta Hölzel.
Driven by a hidden agenda, powered by an indecipherable web of neurons, and influenced by other brains, your grey matter is a black box. To “know thyself” may be a challenge, and free will nonexistent, but maybe more technology can shed light on the goings on in your noggin, and the rest of your body. Find out how tiny implanted sensors called “brain dust” may reveal what really going on. Plus, the day when your brain is uploaded into a computer as ones and zeros. Will you still be you? Guests: David Eagleman – Neuroscientist, Stanford University, author of The Brain: the Story of You. Michel Maharbiz – Electrical engineer, University of California, Berkeley.
About one of every 10 people is left-handed. That can be profitable if you’re a pitcher – and a pain if you’re an average Joe living in a right-handed world. Howard Kushner – a historian of medicine and neuroscience – explains why so few people are lefties; and about the many ways cultures worldwide discriminate against them. His new book is called “On the Other Hand: Left Hand, Right Brain, Mental Disorder, and History”.
Your brain consists of two distinct hemispheres and they collaborate with each other to provide you with different experiences of the world. But has the balance between the two halves of your brain got out of whack – and what’s the impact?
The only way you know that you exist is that you have a conscious sensation but where does that come from? Does it come from outside our physical body or is there a center of consciousness in our brain? What is the nature of consciousness? Philosopher David Chalmers, neuroscientist Olivia Carter, and Buddhist scholar Alan Wallace offer their take on consciousness.
Spectacular intelligence is the most conspicuous sign of genius. However, recent research indicates that various factors explain true ingeniousness, not just high IQ. They include creativity, perseverance and other traits. Claudia Kalb joins us to talk about what made Einstein, Michelangelo and others become the greatest minds of their times.
Human memory is a sensory experience, says psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk. Through his longtime research and innovation in trauma treatment, he shares what he’s learning about how bodywork like yoga or eye movement therapy can restore a sense of goodness and safety. What he’s learning speaks to a resilience we can all cultivate in the face of the overwhelming events.
Bessel van der Kolk is a professor of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School, and he helped found a community-based trauma center in Brookline, Massachusetts. As medical director there, he works with people affected by trauma and adversity to re-establish a sense of safety and predictability in the world, and to reclaim their lives.
Empathy actually leads us to terrible decisions in everything from relationships to medical care to criminal justice, argues Yale researcher Paul Bloom. He writes about his findings in “Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion”. Are you convinced by his reasoning? Check out!
Illustration by Nicole Helton
What if talent is grotesquely overrated? And what if deliberate practice is the secret to excellence? Those are the claims of the research psychologist Anders Ericsson, who has been studying the science of expertise for decades.
One idea you may have heard of that came from Ericsson’s research: the 10,000-hour rule. Stephen Dubner and Ericsson discuss what Ericsson believes people get wrong about his work, and how he feels about this “magic number.” At one point Stephen Dubner speaks with the person who popularized the idea of the 10,000-hour rule — Malcolm Gladwell.
Illustration by Jennifer Austin
“Free will has been debated by philosophers and theologians for centuries. Neuroscientists and psychologists have now entered the fray – but what new light can they shed? And just how free are we when it comes to “free” will?”
“It would appear that we, as conscious agents, are able to make choices that change the world around us, despite many of the known laws of nature being deterministic. But is this freedom of choice all an illusion created by the conscious mind? And ultimately, is it even possible to act outside the bounds of our environment, our upbringing, and our genetic makeup?
To delve into this and more, Ian Sample speaks to neurophilosopher and pragmatist Professor Patricia Churchland – who believes the key to studying free will lies in self-control and intention. We also hear from the University of Ghent’s Dr Marcel Brass how science is attempting to reveal more about the nature of free will through experimentation. Finally, Yale University’s Adam Bear explains how the conscious mind might play a role in the illusory nature of decision-making.”
Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer