July 31, 2012

Charlie Rose Brain Series


One of the best free resources for learning about the brain on the internet is the Charlie Rose Brain Series available on streaming video through CharlieRose.com. For the past two years Charlie has been sitting down with Nobel Prize-winning psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Eric Kandel as they have explored pioneering discoveries of neuroscience. In each episode Charlie and Dr. Kandel sit down with a roundtable of leading brain scientists and researchers to explore an aspect of neuroscience. In the first year of the series they examine the major functions of the brain with special episodes on the emotional brain, the developing brain, the aging brain, the mentally ill brain, and other major areas of study in neuroscience. The 12-episode series works as an introductory course to learning about our brain complete with the latest discoveries and new areas of neuroscience research. In the second year of the series, Charlie and Dr. Kandel are examining neurological, psychiatric, and addictive brain disorders, as they sit down with experts and discuss disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other major brain disorders. Learn about your brain and the exciting field of neuroscience with this outstanding series of Charlie Rose special episodes.

Charlie Rose Brain Series – Year One:

Episode 1 – The Great Mysteries of the Human Brain – In this first episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, Charlie sits down with some of the top brain researchers and looks at big questions that brain science is currently addressing. This episode posits a lot of questions that will be addressed in depth throughout the series. Topics discussed include the relationship of genes vs. experience (nature vs. nuture) and how this interplay contributes to the brain in both its proper functions and malfunctions. American philosopher John Searle addresses his interest into how the brain produces consciousness. During this episode you also get a few visual explanations of the brain including a look at the cerebral cortex and the functions of its four lobes, and also a visual description of how neurons work. A lot of information is enthusiastically tossed around in this first episode and hopefully it will get you excited for the rest of the series.

Episode 2 – The Perceiving Brain – In this episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, the brain expert roundtable looks at the sense of sight and visual perception. They show how the brain processes visual information and how it is different than a camera. Brain scientists have determined precise locations where the brain processes facial recognition, landscapes & places, and other objects, and we are shown how brain damage can impair certain types of vision. The panel also looks at the plasticity of sight and how blind people who’ve been given treatments to restore their vision can learn to see in the same way the developing brain does. It’s a good introduction to the key human sensation of sight.

Episode 3 – The Acting Brain – In this episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, the group looks at the motor system which connects to the brain to produce the action of coordinate movement in the physical world. They discuss how movement is conducted in the nervous system in both conscious actions and reflexes. They also ponder the complexity of human movement and how robotics is far behind the human brain in this arena. Finally they discuss a few of the cases where this system of movement is damaged such as in stroke or in Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), and what are some of the latest findings for repairing or overcoming these types of damage to the brain’s motor system.

Episode 4 – The Social Brain – In this episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, the group looks at the importance of social behavior in the human brain. The panel features one of the discoverers of mirror neurons, Giacomo Rizzolatti, and he discusses their importance in social learning and behavior. The panel also looks at autism and how this disorder affects social interaction. They also briefly discuss aggression and what factors contribute to anti-social behavior.

Episode 5 – The Developing Brain – In this episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, Eric Kandel and company discuss the developing brain focusing on infancy and childhood. They look at the remarkable capacity that children have for learning language and how it differs from the adult brain. They also take a look at numerous learning abilities that come at specific times in development and at some of the developmental disabilities that come along the way. Throughout the discussion they attempt to explain what development in innate and genetic versus what is learned and socialized in infants and children.

Episode 6 – The Aging Brain – In the Aging episode the panel discusses memory and Alzheimer’s disease. 91-year-old neuropsychologist Brenda Milner talks about her work with the famous patient known as H.M. who had surgery on specific brain areas to cure his epilepsy, but then lost his ability to turn short term memory into long term memory. This discovery and other related discoveries helped neuroscientists to learn that there are different types of memory in different areas of the brain such as motor memory, recognition of people and places, and memories involved in phobias. The group then looks at Alzheimer’s disease and its effects on memory, and how it can be prevented through exercise, socializing, and intellectual activity.

Episode 7 – The Emotional and Vulnerable Brain – In this episode the roundtable examines the emotional brain and focuses on the pleasure and reward system that involves the neurotransmitter dopamine. They discuss addiction and how it hijacks the dopaminergic system in the way that the addict needs more and more dopamine to feel normal as addiction progresses. Addiction is now viewed in the brain sciences as a chronic disease requiring ongoing treatment because of the risk of relapse, yet the health care system is reluctant to treat it as such. The panel finishes with pointing out that addictions involving dopaminergic activity aren’t limited to drugs & alcohol, but can also be involved in addictions to gambling, food, sex, and other risky behaviors.

Episode 8 – The Anxious Brain – In this episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, the roundtable discusses fear, anxiety, and aggression and the brain mechanisms behind these phenomena. They look at the fight or flight response which humans share with the animal kingdom, and the unique ways in which human beings have adapted this response to the modern world. Neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel points out initial insights coming from philosopher William James, in that the sequence of fear comes first with the bodily response and then the conscious feeling of fear. They examine the main brain structures involved in the fear response with emphasis placed on the amygdala. And they discuss anxiety and fear disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and methods for treating anxiety disorders. They close the talk with a look at aggression and the nature vs. nurture questions when it comes to aggression.

Episode 9 – The Mentally Ill Brain – In this special episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, Charlie invites to the table two experts on mental illness that are also sufferers themselves. Elyn Saks is a professor and expert in mental health law, and she suffers from schizophrenia. Kay Redfield Jamison is a clinical psychologist and author who has suffered from bipolar disorder since her early adulthood. These two tell their personal stories of coping with their disease. The rest of the panel joins in to look at the brain science involved in depression, manic depression, and schizophrenia. They discuss the best available treatments including medication and psychotherapy, and ways that the stigma of mental illness can be confronted so that people will seek help more quickly and health care can be provided more adequately for sufferers.

Episode 10 – The Disordered Brain – This episode focuses on neurological disorders which neuroscientists have tremendous insight into including Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, stroke, and spinal cord injuries. The group discusses the localization of neurological diseases and how lesions in the brain can affect human behavior. They examine Parkinson’s disease which involves a dopamine deficiency in the basil ganglia of the brain, and how it has now been discovered that deep brain stimulation can be effective as a treatment.

Episode 11 – The Deciding Brain – This episode focuses on decision making. They look at the famous example of Phineas Gage who lost much of his frontal lobe in a construction accident in the 19th century. After this accident Gage lost much of ability involving practical decision-making which is a primary function of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The group takes a look at a variety of decisions such as economic decision-making and moral dilemmas. They discuss the famous “trolley problem” and how emotions play a major role in our decisions. It’s another fascinating episode on the role that the brain plays in our everyday decision making.

Episode 12 – The Creative Brain – This episode is probably the least interesting of the series as it has little to say about the brain science involved in creativity. Modern artists Richard Serra and Chuck Close talk about their own artistic careers and creative processes, and museum curator Ann Temkin further elaborates on the works of these two artists. Neurologist Oliver Sacks offers the most interesting insights into creativity and the brain, but the panel concludes that little is known about the neuroscience of creativity.

Charlie Rose Brain Series – Year Two:

And we’ve now watched all of Season Two of the Charlie Rose Brain Series covering neurological and psychiatric disorders. While these disorders and diseases can be devastating, the study of them has led to a much greater understanding of the brain. Watch as Charlie Rose and Dr. Eric Kandel lead us further on this exploration of the human brain.

Episode 1: Neurological, Psychiatric and Addictive Disorders

In the second season of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, they focus on neurological, psychiatric, and addictive disorders. In this first episode, a panel of scientists discuss a variety of brain disorders. They start out by covering the history of brain disorders, from the old perception of viewing them as moral disorders to the modern understanding of seeing these disorders as diseases of the brain. And while brain imaging, animal studies, and other scientific advancements have helped to gain a greater understanding of these disorders, we are still far from fully understanding or curing them. Different scientists on the panel discuss various neurological, psychiatric, and addictive disorders in that order. The panel also talks about how genetic factors influence brain disorders. Many other topics are touched upon in this opening episode of the series that seeks to explain the most complex organ in the body and maybe the universe: the human brain.

Episode 2: Consciousness and the Brain

In this episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, a group of scientists discuss some of the most challenging and important questions in neuroscience related to consciousness. They explore the range of consciousness from coma to sleep to ordinary waking consciousness. They touch upon the interplay between conscious and unconscious processes. It is noted that many aspects associated with consciousness also involve unconscious behaviors. References are made to Sigmund Freud and his essential contribution to understanding the unconscious. They point out the malleability of children’s brains, which can learn language much more effectively than adults or even adolescents. Charlie leads the roundtable, asking many interesting questions about consciousness in this free-ranging conversation.

Episode 3: Agnosias

In this episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, the group of neuroscientists led by Dr. Eric Kandel take a look at the brain disorder known as agnosia. This rare disorder affects a person’s ability to recognize certain things visually or audibly. It is often brought about by brain injury or stroke. The curious aspects of agnosia have helped neuroscientists greatly in understanding the brain regarding sight and sound and how they are processed. The painter Chuck Close is part of the panel to explain his experiences with prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness.

Episode 4: Alzheimer’s Disease

In this hour of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, a roundtable of scientists examines Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia. As the population ages, these diseases become increasingly common. The group analyzes the symptoms of these diseases, such as loss of memory and decline of inhibition. They discuss what is happening to the brain as these diseases progress. Charlie asks about treatments for these devastating diseases, and some progress has been made in identifying genes responsible for the diseases and also drugs that may help in their treatment. As more people live longer and more develop these diseases, the costs of treating this epidemic are enormous.

Episode 5: Schizophrenia

In this episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, the roundtable focuses on the complex mental disorder of schizophrenia. They start out summarizing the devastating symptoms of schizophrenia, which can include hallucinations and delusions that are often of a paranoid nature. Schizophrenia affects a little less than one percent of the population worldwide, and the onset is typically when an individual is in their late teens or twenties. A person living with schizophrenia is on the program to detail the story of his life before and after the disorder. Certain antipsychotic medications have been helpful in reducing symptoms like hallucinations. The panel of scientists also discusses the importance of genetics in predicting the disorder and in terms of potential treatments. This episode is an informative overview of a mental disorder that is often stigmatized and misunderstood.

Episode 6: Autism

This episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series tackles autism. It was observed in children in the 1930s and has since risen to now be diagnosed in about 1 in 100 children. The panel discusses the autism spectrum, how it affects social interaction, and its relation to theory of mind. One of the panelists, Alison Singer, is now president of the Autism Science Foundation. She has a daughter with autism, and she describes the significant toll that raising a child with severe autism takes on the parents and the family. The panel also examines the genetic components of autism and the role genes play in the disorder. They also discuss some of the treatments available for dealing with autism.

Episode 7: Depression

In this episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, the panel of guests covers one of the most common mental illnesses in the world, which is depression. Neuroscientist Dr. Eric Kandel delivers a brief history of how the illness was viewed, from the Greek physician Hippocrates calling it melancholia, which in Greek means black bile, up to our contemporary understanding of major depressive disorder related to biology in the brain dealing with mood. The group does an excellent job of summarizing the symptoms of depression, separating unipolar from bipolar depression. Author Andrew Solomon, who wrote The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, describes his personal experience with major depression and the anxiety that often accompanies it. The neuroscientists weigh in on the areas of the brain involved with depression and some of the drugs that can be used to treat it. They also emphasize the importance of psychotherapy, which has proven effective in treating the disease. It’s an excellent hour-long look at a mental illness that afflicts an estimated 300 million people around the world.

Episode 8: Parkinson’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease

This episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series deals with Parkinson’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease. These diseases affect the motor system, often leading to tremors and other motor symptoms. They can also affect non-motor systems in the brain sometimes leading to dementia. The panel of scientists discusses the genetic component of the diseases, particularly Huntington’s disease. While neither disease is curable, there are treatments. For Parkinson’s disease, treatments related to dopamine have been effective. One of the guests on the panel has Parkinson’s disease, and another has Huntington’s disease, and they describe their experiences of living with these motor disorders. At the end of the program, the scientists are hopeful about how far they’ve come in understanding these diseases and that there may one day be a cure.

Episode 9: Multiple Sclerosis

This episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series covers multiple sclerosis. The panel of scientists covers the basics of this autoimmune disease, which affects nerve cells in the brain. They go over the symptoms of the disease, which can cause both physical and mental issues. A person who has multiple sclerosis is on the panel, and she discusses her experiences with it over the years. Much attention is paid to the treatments for multiple sclerosis, which have made significant progress in recent years. Early detection of the disease combined with current therapies can lead to significantly reduced symptoms, though the treatments also present their own risks. The panel ponders the mystery of why incidents of this disease are increasing and why it is more common in women than men.

Episode 10: Disorders of Motor Neurons – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

This episode of the Brain Series focuses on two motor disorders: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). ALS is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in the United States. Baseball player Lou Gehrig developed this neurodegenerative disease at the height of his career, which forced him to retire at age 36 and led to his death a year later. On the Charlie Rose panel is another baseball player who has ALS, and he describes his experiences with the disease. Also on the panel is a boy who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), which is another disease that affects motor neurons and usually has its onset in the very early years of life. SMA is passed on through genes, while the causes of ALS are primarily unknown. Strides have been made in understanding and managing these diseases, but there are currently no known cures.

Episode 11: Pain

One hundred million Americans suffer from chronic pain every year. In this episode, Charlie Rose and a group of scientists discuss pain and the brain. They start by pointing out the importance of pain in bodily injury. This inflammatory pain allows for reparative processes to take place. The program also focuses on neuropathic pain, which can spread to other parts of the body after an initial injury. The scientists discuss how pain is processed through the brain and often involves emotions. A college gymnast, Laurie Klein, joins the panel to describe her experiences with inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain and the many treatments she received before she got her pain under control. The panel discusses various treatments regarding the future of pain. While this program was recorded in 2012, the scientists weren’t able to predict the astonishing opioid epidemic that was about to skyrocket across the United States in the coming decade caused by the over-prescription of opioid medication.

Episode 12: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series covers Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD as it is known. Neuroscientist Dr. Eric Kandel introduces the disorder and how it came to be recognized by psychiatry in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. It is now more widely acknowledged in the military and also encompasses traumatic events that happen in civilian life. The scientists on the panel take a look at the brain regions involved in PTSD and the fear response that accompanies it. After a traumatic event, an individual may become fearful of reliving the event, and this learned fear response may dominate their lives. Psychologists treating the disorder focus on unlearning the fear response through exposure therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. A U.S. Army Lt. Colonel is present on the panel to describe his battle with PTSD after serving several tours of duty in the Iraq War.

And after Season Two they did some ongoing episodes that you can access directly on Charlie Rose’s site below:

Charlie Rose Brain Series – Ongoing Episodes:

Episode 1: Obama’s BRAIN Initiative

Episode 2: Hearing Loss

Episode 3: Blindness

Episode 4: Aggression

Episode 5: Gender Identity

Episode 6: Sports-Induced Brain Trauma