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September 18, 2017

3 Neuroscience Lectures on Popular Brain Myths

Last week we featured 70 Free Lectures from The Great Courses for back to school. Today we wanted to highlight three of those free lectures from the course Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience taught by Professor Indre Viskontas, Ph.D. In these lectures Dr. Viskontas provides many answers to three popular questions in neuroscience as she separates fact, myth, and things we just don't know yet in neuroscience. The course Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience and over 300 other courses can be accessed with a subscription to The Great Courses Plus. We highly recommend all three of these free lectures:

1. Can Certain Foods Make You Smarter?

Can certain foods make you smarter? That's the question directly addressed in this lecture from the course Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience taught by Professor Indre Viskontas, Ph.D. She addresses the difficulty with conducting good neuroscience studies on the effects of food because there is not much profit to made from studying foods like blueberries that can't be patented. But Professor Viskontas points to some studies done around fish oil, anti-oxidant foods, and supplements and the often scant evidence or mixed results that these studies have produced in regards to cognitive improvement. She does point out that caffeine, exercise, and even fasting might aid in our cognitive abilities. She explodes the myth of sugar making kids crazy and also discusses the effects of popular drugs like Adderall and Ritalin for kids with ADHD. After decades of study, Professor Viskontas says we aren't that far from the common sense wisdom that was already known, that good nutrition, a healthy diet, and exercise are good for mental performance.

2. Can Adult Brains Change for the Better?

Hear about the exciting new science of adult neurogenesis, which is the process by which new neurons are generated in the adult brain. Professor Indre Viskontas, Ph.D. explains that for many years in neuroscience, scientists thought once the adult brain was fully developed that adults could not grow new neurons. But recent science has proven that new development is possible, especially in the hippocampus of the brain which is associated with memory. Dr. Viskontas also examines some of the ways in which brain power can be boosted and how exercise, food, and pills affect the brain. Learn how you can start growing new neurons today!

3. Does Technology Make You Stupid?

It is frequently suggested that technology is making people more stupid, but in this lecture from The Great Courses, Professor Indre Viskontas, Ph.D. takes a more nuanced view of what technology might be doing to our intelligence and our ability to pay attention. This 30-minute lecture is from her course Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience and she takes on many of the common myths involving smartphones, social media, and computers. She covers a lot of ground in this lecture and cites many recent studies that have dealt with how these new technologies are transforming our world and our minds.

And if you like Dr. Viskontas, you might want to check out the podcast she hosts with Kishore Hari:

Inquiring Minds Podcast

Listen to the Inquiring Minds Podcast featuring thought leaders on a wide variety of topics. Indre Viskontas & Kishore Hari make great hosts as they start off the podcast discussing some recent news or studies they found fascinating. Then they interview their guest and they explore "the place where science, politics, and society collide". Hear from Stephen Dubner on Freakonomics, Adam Rogers on the science of booze, Traci Mann giving unconventional findings on the science of weight loss, Dr. Norman Doidge on brain plasticity, and many other leading thinkers such as Adam Savage, William Gibson, Steven Johnson, Steven Pinker, Naomi Klein, Al Gore, John Oliver, Jared Diamond, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael Pollan, and many more. This series has over 90 podcast episodes and they're all on the feed. It's an excellent podcast that will introduce you to a wide variety of subjects.