Could the microbes that inhabit our guts help explain that old idea of "gut feelings?" There's growing evidence that gut bacteria really might influence our minds.
"I'm always by profession a skeptic," says Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. "But I do believe that our gut microbes affect what goes on in our brains."
Stick your tongue out at a newborn, and it will attempt to stick its tongue back at you. Wave your hand, and the baby may wave back. Behavioral psychologists have known for some time how babies love to imitate, but new research from the University of Washington and Temple University sheds light on the neural processes happening within the brain.
The classic observer of human behavior would tell you all of our decisions have a rational basis. But new research indicates that “rational” may not be based on any conscious factors, but instead, is more deeply hardwired in our DNA. Vladas Griskevicius is co author of a new book called “The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think.” He talks with Marcie Sillman.
This hour on The Conversation we explore the strange and confusing behavior of humans. Why do we act the way we do? And can we change? Psychologists and science writers take us inside the brain to explain our peculiar actions.
Sometimes, you’re just dealt a bad hand. Jeff Carroll was a high school dropout serving in the military when he learned his mother had Huntington's disease. It's genetic, and he soon learned he had it too. There’s no cure. So the diagnosis is a death sentence. But rather than despairing, Carroll turned his life around. And in the decade since his diagnosis, he’s become one of the most prominent researchers studying Huntington’s Disease. He’s now on staff at Western Washington University in Bellingham.
Listening takes work. And if you’ve ever had a conversation where you felt yourself zoning out while someone yammers on about their pets or their children, you know that sometimes listening can be really hard. Ross Reynolds explores how listening works and how to be better at it with Seth Horowitz, chief neuroscientist at NeuroPop, a sound design company that uses sound to treat psychological conditions. Horowitz is also the author of “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind.”
There are a lot of songs about love but perhaps there are even more songs about loss and that raises a serious scientific question: Why are so many songs written about heartbreak and what happens to the brains of people who are experiencing a really bad break-up? Biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher studies what happens in our brains when we are in love and when we are heart broken. She says that Tylenol is helpful but staring at pictures of your ex and listening to a sad song when your brain is essentially going through massive dopamine withdrawal, is not.
Some animals display very human behaviors: chimps grieve, rats love to be tickled, and moths remember living as caterpillars.
Science journalist Virginia Morell explores the complex minds of animals in her new book, "Animal Wise." From field sites to laboratories, Morell shows how animal cognition research has evolved, and how animals possess traits many feel are unique to humans.
She spoke at the Elliott Bay Book Company on April 8, 2013.
Many people say there is a heaven. But few are academic neurosurgeons. Ross Reynolds speaks with Eben Alexander about a near-death experience he says gave him a glimpse of the afterlife that he outlines in his book, "Proof of Heaven."