One of the most promising areas of Alzheimer’s disease research involves vaccine-based therapies which stimulate the body to produce antibodies to amyloid-beta protein and remove it from the brain. And despite setbacks in previous clinical trials, scientists are currently working on second-generation vaccines that seem to reverse the cognitive deficits of Alzheimer’s disease without the side effects of the first-generation therapies. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Gene Kinney of Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy and Dr. Michael Hagen of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Kinney and Dr. Hagan are involved with the research and development of ACC-001, one of the most advanced second-generation vaccine-based therapies under development. Be sure to listen in as we discuss the potential of this new therapy and what it might mean for the future of Alzheimer’s disease treatment.
When we think about our “stream of consciousness,” we don’t really look at it as having any particular order or structure. But according to recent research in this field, we’re constantly making micro-predictions about our immediate environment within this perceptual stream though a very active brain process known as event segmentation. And this event segmentation is critical towards guiding our behavior, our learning, and even our language processing. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Jeffrey Zacks, Associate Professor and Director of the Dynamic Cognition Laboratory at Washington University. Using both behavioral experimentation and functional neuroimaging studies, Dr. Zacks and his team are conducting some of most advanced studies of the mid-brain dopamine system in an effort to determine how our brains segment events - and how this allows us to shape our short-term futures.
There are few experiences more terrifying than a panic attack. These extreme and sudden episodes of intense fear are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress. And unless treated, recurring panic disorders can incapacitate an individual physically, mentally, and even socially. While the exact causes of panic disorder are still the subject of intense scientific debate, the most widely accepted notion is that the periaqueductal gray area of the brain – or the PAG – is involved with the panic response, and that the neurotransmitter serotonin plays a key role in modulating this region. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Frederico Graeff of the University of Sao Paulo. Dr. Graeff is one of the leading experts in the scientific study of anxiety and panic. Be sure to join us as we talk about the key brain systems involved with both disorders, and what exactly differentiates panic at a neurobiological level.
Erythropoetin, or Epo, is naturally produced hormone that controls red blood cell production. It is available as a prescription therapeutic agent to treat anemia resulting from chronic kidney disease and chemotherapy. Epo has also been used off label as a blood doping agent among competitive sports professionals due to its ability to enhance oxygen carrying capacity. What’s lesser publicized about Epo, however, is that it also appears to promote neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to repair and maintain neurons. And some of the newest and most exciting research in this area deals with the role of Epo in cognitive functioning and mood disorders, such as clinical depression. In this podcast, we are delighted to feature Dr. Kamilla Miskowiak, one of the scientists on the forefront of Epo research and its potential use as an antidepressant therapy. Be sure to join us as we talk about these new developments and how they might impact the future treatment of mood disorders.
Psilocybin, the active compound in a variety of hallucinogenic mushrooms, is a naturally occurring substance with a history of human use that goes back thousands of years. It was rediscovered by the western world in the 1950’s through the independent research of R. Gordon Wasson, and it quickly became the subject of many clinical research studies. But a strong backlash in the late 1960’s against the recreational use of hallucinogens essentially shut down all psilocybin research. And it wasn’t until the 1990’s that a small group of intrepid scientists began to revisit psilocybin and take a serious look at how the primary mystical experience of the drug might have potential therapeutic uses in humans. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Roland Griffiths, Professor of Behavioral Biology at theJohnHopkinsUniversity. Dr. Griffiths is one of the leading researchers exploring the therapeutic applications of psilocybin and how this compound might be beneficial in a number of areas, including terminal illness anxiety and drug dependence. Be sure to join us in this fascinating program where we discuss both the facts and the fallacies surrounding psilocybin as well as the promising new areas of research involving this very unique – and very enigmatic – compound.
Mediation and yoga have long been associated with stress reduction and stress management. But even as scientists establish their therapeutic value, less is known about how they actually work and exactly what parts of the brain they affect. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Sara Lazar fromHarvardUniversity andMassachusetts GeneralHospital. Dr. Lazar used advanced neuroimaging studies to demonstrate that mindful meditation actually increased the concentration of gray matter in the brains of people who engaged in this practice over an 8-week period. And this gray matter growth took place in specific areas of the brain thought to be associated with stress, memory, and empathy. Be sure to listen in as we discuss the neural mechanisms of stress and how meditation and yoga might actually be modifying these structures within the human brain.
Studies going back to 1990 have indicated a potential connection between inflammation and clinical depression in humans. But there is still a substantial degree of debate within both the medical and research communities on the overall impact of inflammation as a either a causal or contributing factor to this disorder. However, a recently published theoretical model might reconcile the various biomedical theories of depression and perhaps even incorporate the sociological and psychoanalytic paradigms. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Karen Wager-Smith who, along with her colleague Dr. Athina Markou, detailed their new theory of the pathophysiology of depression in the most recent edition of the journal, Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. Be sure to join us as we discuss the role of stress and inflammation in the human depressive response and how the resulting “neural remodeling” might be the key factor explaining the disorder.
It has been known for some time that aerobic exercise and physical activity can increase cognitive function and affect the development of the hippocampus – the structure deep in the middle of the temporal lobe that’s involved with spatial memory. In fact, researchers have discovered that an “enriched environment” which includes regular physical activity can actually lead to larger hippocampal volume among older adults. But recently published studies seem to indicate that physical exercise is especially critical to the brain development of younger children – and that a lack of it could lead to a significant underdevelopment of areas such as the hippocampus and the basal ganglia. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Laura Chaddock and Dr. Art Kramer of the University of Illinois. These scientists, using advanced MRI techniques, found that physically fit children in the 9-10 age group tended to have larger hippocampal volume and greater basal ganglia development than their less fit counterparts. Be sure to join us as we discuss these results as well as their potential implications in terms of childhood education and public health.
For many years, the medical and scientific communities have largely accepted as factual the widely-held theory that clinical depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain – especially with regards to the neurotransmitter serotonin. However, repeated meta-analyses of the FDA-submitted clinical trial data do not seem to support this belief. Conversely, there is significant evidence that the patient benefits of antidepressants are largely – if not completely – due to a placebo effect. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Irving Kirsch, professor of psychology at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom and the author of The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. Be sure to join us as we discuss the real story behind the effectiveness of antidepressants and why they may not be the “wonder drugs” we think they are.
Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia worldwide, and it affects 1 out of every 4 people over age 75. In the United States alone, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to increase from 4.5 million today to 14 million by 2050. But these figures represent only a fraction of the total human impact caused by this disease. In addition to robbing patients of their memory, cognition, and personality, Alzheimer’s disease is equally catastrophic to the families and caregivers of those afflicted with this progressive – and ultimately fatal – condition. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Howard Fillit, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation and an internationally recognized expert in Alzheimer’s disease and geriatric medicine. Be sure to join us in this timely and informative discussion of Alzheimer’s disease and the current state of research and development in this critical area.
For many years, social scientists have attempted to explain human cultural differences by studying behavioral or attitudinal traits. But recent advances in neuroimaging techniques are now allowing researchers to look directly into the brain and to identify these differences at a cellular level. In this podcast, we are delighted to feature Dr. Nalini Ambady, one of the leading scientists in the emerging field of cultural neuroscience. Be sure to join us in this fascinating podcast as we discuss what exactly defines culture from a neuroscience perspective, and what areas of the brain might be responsible for our respective cultural norms and identities.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, otherwise known in theUnited States as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a devastating disorder that affects the control of muscle movement by damaging motor neurons. And while scientists have identified a small percentage of cases that are linked to a specific genetic mutation, the majority of ALS cases occur in people with no family history of the disorder. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Mahmoud Kiaei of the Department of Neurology and Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Kiaei is spearheading a number of research initiatives which will hopefully lead to better treatments forALS. Be sure to listen in to this in-depth discussion ofALS where we cover virtually every aspect of the disease and highlight some of the new therapies that might eventually lead to a cure.
We’ve all heard about our “sleep clocks.” But were you aware that we have numerous such clocks all over our bodies – and that disruption of these clocks can have serious health and emotional consequences? In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Ilia Karatsoreos of Rockefeller University who recently conducted a study on how the disruption of circadian rhythms can adversely affect our metabolism as well as our higher level cognitive functioning. Be sure to listen in as we discuss the science of body clocks and how important is to keep them “in sync.”
Recent research seems to indicate that animals raised without fathers exhibit significant reductions in neuronal growth during the immediate post-natal period. And this reduced brain development translates into adverse behavioral issues later on in life – especially among male offspring. Is it possible that human children might experience similar brain effects by being raised in a fatherless environment? In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Anna Katharina Braun, director of theInstitute ofBiology at Otto von Guericke University inMagdeburg,Germany, who conducted this study. Dr. Braun recently presented her findings at the Society for Neuroscience meeting here inChicago. Be sure to join us for a fascinating look at the critical role of the father in the brain development of post-natal children.
When it comes to individual genetics, certain skills or abilities may actually be hardwired into the brain at birth. And there is compelling evidence to suggest that key hormonal balances during gestation are instrumental in creating specific brain types which strongly influence us throughout our lives. In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Judith Lauter, professor in the Doctoral Program in School Psychology at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX, where she also directs the Human Neuroscience Laboratory. Dr. Lauter is the author of the book, How is Your Brain Like a Zebra? which details the science of neurotypology and illustrates the three brain types that appear to be present within the human species. (Originally broadcast4-November-2009)