brain

While researching the toxic and addictive properties of sugar for his New York Times bestseller Fat Chance, Dr. Robert Lustig, a neuroendocrinologist at UCSF, made an alarming discovery - our pursuit of happiness is being subverted by a culture of addiction, depression, and chronic disease from which we may never recover.

In his new book, The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains, Dr. Lustig presents the fundamental differences between pleasure and happiness – at the biological and chemical level—and explains the way big business is taking advantage of advances in neuroscience to confuse and conflate pleasure with happiness, and getting into our heads.

Dr. Robert Lustig is professor of pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology and a member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at University of California, San Francisco. 

You Never Think Alone

Jul 25, 2017

The human mind is both brilliant and pathetic. We have mastered fire, created democratic institutions, stood on the moon, and sequenced our genome. And yet each of us is error prone, sometimes irrational, and often ignorant.

The fundamentally communal nature of intelligence and knowledge explains why we often assume we know more than we really do, why political opinions and false beliefs are so hard to change, and why individually oriented approaches to education and management frequently fail. But our collaborative minds also enable us to do amazing things. This book contends that true genius can be found in the ways we create intelligence using the world around us.

Steven Sloman is a professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences at Brown University. He is the editor in chief of the journal Cognition. Philip Fernbach is a cognitive scientist and professor of marketing at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business. 

In ancient, pre-literate cultures across the globe, tribal elders had encyclopedic memories. They could name all the animals and plants across a landscape, identify the stars in the sky, and recite the history of their people. Yet today, most of us struggle to memorize more than a short poem.

Using traditional Aboriginal Australian song lines as a starting point, Dr. Lynne Kelly has identified the powerful memory technique used by our ancestors and indigenous people around the world. In turn, she has then discovered that this ancient memory technique is the secret purpose behind the great prehistoric monuments like Stonehenge, which have puzzled archaeologists for so long.

Her book is The Memory Code: The Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Other Ancient Monuments.

The Mystery Of Sleep

Apr 10, 2017

We spend a third of our lives in bed, but how much do we really understand about how sleep affects us? In the past forty years, scientists have discovered that our sleep (or lack of it) can affect nearly every aspect of our waking lives. Poor sleep could be a sign of a disease, the result of a vitamin or iron deficiency, or the cause of numerous other problems, both sleeping and waking. Yet many people, even medical personnel, are unaware of the dangers of poor sleep.

Enter Dr. Meir Kryger, a world authority on the science of sleep, with a comprehensive guide to the mysteries of slumber that combines detailed case studies, helpful tables, illustrations, and pragmatic advice.

The book is The Mystery of Sleep: Why a Good Night's Rest Is Vital to a Better, Healthier Life.

Lonni Sue Johnson was a renowned artist who regularly produced covers for The New Yorker, a gifted musician, a skilled amateur pilot, and a joyful presence to all who knew her. But in late 2007, she contracted encephalitis. The disease burned through her hippocampus like wildfire, leaving her severely amnesic, living in a present that rarely progresses beyond ten to fifteen minutes.

     Remarkably, she still retains much of the intellect and artistic skills from her previous life, but it's not at all clear how closely her consciousness resembles yours or mine. In The Perpetual Now: A Story of Amnesia, Memory, and Love, award-winning science journalist Michael D. Lemonick uses the unique drama of Lonni Sue Johnson's day-to-day life to give us a nuanced and intimate understanding of the science that lies at the very heart of human nature.

It's happened to all of us: our cheeks flush red when we say the wrong thing, or our hearts skip a beat when a certain someone walks by. But few of us realize how much more dramatic and extreme our bodies' reactions to emotions can be. Many people who see their doctor have medically unexplained symptoms, and in the vast majority of these cases, a psychosomatic cause is suspected. And yet, the diagnosis of a psychosomatic disorder can make a patient feel dismissed as a hypochondriac, a faker, or just plain crazy.
 
In Is It All in Your Head?: True Stories of Imaginary Illness, Suzanne O'Sullivan, MD, takes us on a journey through the world of psychosomatic illness.

Joseph LeDoux, world-renowned expert on the neurobiology of fear and anxiety, will discuss his new book, Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety on Tuesday, September 27 at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the author will hold an informal seminar in the Standish Room, Science Library on the uptown campus.

The events are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and the Science Library of the University at Albany Libraries.

  It has long been assumed that people living with autism are born with the diminished ability to read the emotions of others, even as they feel emotion deeply. But what if we’ve been wrong all this time? What if that “missing” emotional insight was there all along, locked away and inaccessible in the mind?

In 2007 John Elder Robison wrote the international bestseller Look Me in the Eye, a memoir about growing up with Asperger’s syndrome. Amid the blaze of publicity that followed, he received a unique invitation: Would John like to take part in a study led by one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, who would use an experimental new brain therapy known as TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, in an effort to understand and then address the issues at the heart of autism? Switched On is the story of what happened next.

  The New York Times has called our next guest - a “rock star” in the computer world.”

David Gelernter is an expert in the fields of parallel computing, “mirror worlds,” artificial intelligence, and cognitive thinking. His new book is The Tides of Mind, a revolutionary explanation of the phenomenon of human consciousness. In the book, he reminds us that no computer can ever replicate the Human Mind,

Gelernter will be in our region tomorrow for a pair of NYS Writer’s Institute events – a 4:15 Seminar and an 8PM reading – both at the Performing Arts Center on the Uptown Campus at the University at Albany in the Recital Hall.

He is the author of eight books including The Muse in the Machine, about teaching computers to experience emotion and write poetry and Mirror Worlds, a work that predicted the rise of the Internet. In1993 Gelernter was a victim of a mail bomb sent by the “Unabomber,” an experience he recounts in his book; Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber.

  In The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge described the most important breakthrough in our understanding of the brain in four hundred years: the discovery that the brain can change its own structure and function in response to mental experience—what we call neuroplasticity.

His new book, The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity ,shows how the amazing process of neuroplastic healing really works.

  Dr. Joseph Annibali has treated thousands of people with overloaded, over-stimulated brains. Some people describe their brain as being "in chaos"; others feel that their brain is "on fire." But whether they are ultimately diagnosed with "normal" anxiety, disabling OCD, depression, bipolar disorder, or even substance abuse, the underlying problem – according to our next guest - is a Too-Busy-Brain, a great irritant that interferes with attention, concentration, focus, mood, and often much more.

Dr. Annibali says it may even be a sign of undetected damage to either the brain or the body itself. But he believes through practical strategies and prescriptive mind-management techniques it is possible to reclaim their brains and get back in control of their lives. His new book is Reclaim Your Brain.

Connie Shulman, left, with Laury Sacks.
Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury

Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury is one of the scariest films of the year, but it’s not a horror movie. It’s a loving documentary — a true story of a devastating decline. The subject is Laury Sacks, a lively actor and mother who in her mid-40s started struggling to speak. Her quick deterioration from a form of dementia affects everyone around her: family, caretakers, and a large group of friends who stand by her during the worst.

    

  Everyone is born curious. But only some retain the habits of exploring, learning, and discovering as they grow older. Those who do so tend to be smarter, more creative, and more successful. So why are many of us allowing our curiosity to wane?

Ian Leslie writes about the importance of curiosity in Curious: The Desire To Know And Why Your Future Depends On It.

    The information age is drowning us with an unprecedented deluge of data. At the same time, we’re expected to make more—and faster—decisions about our lives than ever before. No wonder, then, that the average American reports frequently losing car keys or reading glasses, missing appointments, and feeling worn out by the effort required just to keep up.

In The Organized Mind, Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, uses the latest brain science to demonstrate how those people excel—and how readers can use their methods to regain a sense of mastery over the way they organize their homes, workplaces, and time.

    In Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior, renowned psychotherapist Richard O’Connor, PhD, reveals exactly why our bad habits die so hard. We have two brains—one a thoughtful, conscious, deliberative self, and the other an automatic self that makes most of our decisions without our attention. Using new research and knowledge about how the brain works, the book clears a path to lasting, effective change for bad behaviors.

    Early studies of the human brain used a simple method: wait for misfortune to strike -- strokes, seizures, infectious diseases, horrendous accidents -- and see how victims coped. In many cases their survival was miraculous, if puzzling. Observers were amazed by the transformations that took place when different parts of the brain were destroyed, altering victims' personalities. Parents suddenly couldn't recognize their own children. Pillars of the community became pathological liars. Some people couldn't speak but could still sing.

In The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, Sam Kean travels through time with stories of neurological curiosities: phantom limbs, Siamese twin brains, viruses that eat patients' memories, blind people who see through their tongues.

    Expanding upon one of the most-read New York Times Magazine features of 2012, Smarter penetrates the hot new field of intelligence research to reveal what researchers call a revolution in human intellectual abilities.

Shattering decades of dogma, scientists began publishing studies in 2008 showing that “fluid intelligence”—the ability to learn, solve novel problems, and get to the heart of things—can be increased through training.

"Brain Wars"

Aug 19, 2013

  We speak with acclaimed neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, Ph.D. about his book, Brain Wars: The Scientific Battle Over the Existence of the Mind and the Proof That Will Change the Way We Live Our Lives.

    After a full-throttle brain bleed at the age of twenty-five, Ashok Rajamani, a first-generation Indian American, had to relearn everything: how to eat, how to walk and to speak, even things as basic as his sexual orientation.