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July 6, 2006

The Infinite Mind

Recently I've been completely obsessed with Lictenstein Media's The Infinite Mind program. Each one-hour episode focuses on a particular issue related to the brain, be it mental illness, how the brain is affected by outside stimuli, what certain emotions mean, or the outward consequences of neurological process. A quick look at the episodes we carry on LearnOutLoud will give you a good idea of the wide range of topics that fit within this spectrum. All of them feature guests that are experts on a specific subject, with discussion that is approachable yet heady. They also sometimes feature slice of life examples to help one better understand a certain issue, such as one woman’s vivid description of a panic attack ("If you could visualize someone holding you by the hair over the George Washington bridge..."), or another person’s tragic acknowledgement that her mother’s creative genius was probably fueled by the same mania that led her to suicide. This formal structure works to complete a fairly thorough picture of what is discussed; from introduction, to expert analysis, to “street-level” experience.

Thus far I can list a few episodes that warrant serious attention. First of all is the incredible Art and Madness, which explores the undeniable link between insanity and creative brilliance. Here you will hear about musicians, poets and actors that have made incredible works of art, only to be hampered and sometimes killed by debilitating illness.

Next up, I would say Marriage is an episode that stuck with me, not because of any sort of personal affinity at this point in my life, but more for the questions raised on whether or not fidelity is hard-wired into us. Additionally the episode offers the most concise common sense advice I've yet heard on what it takes from an emotional standpoint to turn formative passions into lifelong bonds.

I'll also mention Alcoholism, which is treated in this instance as nothing short of a neurological illness. With alcohol however, the pain is consensual: it's always a choice one makes when they decide to drink. The episode addresses this argument, and goes further to show how certain people may have less of a choice in the matter than you may think.

Religion endeavors to trace the human attraction to the religious experience and why interest in the divine endures to this day despite encroaching secularism. Experts identify parts of the brain that are now associated with religious impulse, and we see how religion's tenants may appeal to a primal aspect of human neurology that has yet to be identified.

Finally I'll there's Narcissism. All of us have probably met someone we feel is self-absorbed, but does that necessarily mean they are a narcissist? Here we learn that narcissists lack a certain sense of empathy that makes them believe they somehow exist beyond established laws of social conduct. Think of it as the most extreme selfishness you’ve ever known and somehow that doesn’t describe all of what these people go through. I thought many of those interviewed in this episode were terrifying to be honest with you.

In all, every episode of the Infinite Mind has it's pearls of wisdom to impart. If you can download any one of these episodes, be sure to get one on a topic you are especially interested in. I can guarantee you will hear an hour of information packed with insight you can't find anywhere else. I was basically up for hearing every one of these shows, and I have yet to leave unsatisfied with the wealth of detailed information available. Definitely an amazing way to fill up your iPod.