6 episodes

The human brain, and the mind it creates, is enormously complex. Everything we do, feel and think emerges from billions of nerve cells and their interconnections. Brain development is shaped by evolution and genetics, but is also greatly affected by experience. The mind takes shape through exposure to individuals and cultures, and becomes a constructive and predictive device. It creates inner worlds that allow us to behave in highly adaptive ways, but also to engage in risky behavior and make bad decisions. Six speakers explore how brains are built, how minds are made, and how modern cognitive and neural science is changing the way we think about memory, money, morality, mortality and more.

Mind and Brain - Audio University of Arizona

    • Science
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The human brain, and the mind it creates, is enormously complex. Everything we do, feel and think emerges from billions of nerve cells and their interconnections. Brain development is shaped by evolution and genetics, but is also greatly affected by experience. The mind takes shape through exposure to individuals and cultures, and becomes a constructive and predictive device. It creates inner worlds that allow us to behave in highly adaptive ways, but also to engage in risky behavior and make bad decisions. Six speakers explore how brains are built, how minds are made, and how modern cognitive and neural science is changing the way we think about memory, money, morality, mortality and more.

    Building Brains, Making Minds (audio)

    Building Brains, Making Minds (audio)

    What does the brain do? The ancients thought it was a radiator, cooling the blood. Modern views see it as an activator, using inputs from the environment in combination with prior knowledge to generate behaviors (walking, talking, eating and drinking) and mental states (feelings, desires and beliefs). Recently the idea has emerged that the brain acts as a predictor, using inputs and stored knowledge to generate models of the world, and of the consequences of possible actions we and others might pursue. These models can predict what will happen in the next minute, hour or decade, and allow us to behave in the most adaptive way.

    • 1 hr 7 min
    The Plastic Brain (audio)

    The Plastic Brain (audio)

    The human brain is the most complex object known to us. It contains billions of nerve cells, each of which may make thousands of connections, in immense networks of circuitry that control our sense of self and our appreciation of – and interaction with – the world around us. In the last half century we learned that we are born with raw circuitry that quickly tunes itself to the environment we encounter. Now we are learning that the properties that allow nerve cells to achieve this "plasticity" in response to the early environment are controlled by the very same genes that drive learning and memory in adults.

    • 1 hr 1 min
    Evolution of Mind and Brain (audio)

    Evolution of Mind and Brain (audio)

    What does anybody need a brain for? Brains are energetically expensive to make and to use, and susceptible to making mistakes. Accordingly, not learning, i.e. sticking to an innate or random strategy, is often the best thing to do. Still, humans and other animals display sophisticated learning and cognition. Recent research shows that each animal has specific learning abilities and lacks others according to its environment and evolutionary history. Understanding what different brains are used for can help us understand why they evolved.

    • 27 min
    The Making of a Mind (audio)

    The Making of a Mind (audio)

    • 1 hr
    Metamemory: How Does the Brain Predict Itself? (audio)

    Metamemory: How Does the Brain Predict Itself? (audio)

    Our brains recreate past experience, monitor recall efforts, and predict our chances of remembering things in the future. The knowledge we each possess about our own memory, and strategies to aid memory, form what is called metamemory. Studies of persons with impaired metamemory due to neurological illness, along with brain imaging studies of healthy adults making judgments about memory, indicate that the brain systems active in retrieving information are distinct from those that self-monitor memory. Metamemory research is helping build an understanding of a wide range of experiences from tip-of-the-tongue forgetfulness to the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

    • 53 min
    Morality and the Emotional Brain (audio)

    Morality and the Emotional Brain (audio)

    Does morality come from the emotions, or from rational thought? Philosophers have struggled with this question for centuries. Recent work in cognitive science suggests that emotions play a critical role in the normal ability to think about morality. Studies indicate that psychopaths have a deficient understanding of morality, and when abnormalities are found in brain regions associated with emotions, these same patients make atypical decisions about difficult moral problems. Emotions alone do not completely account for moral judgment, but the emotional brain shapes our models of what it is to be moral.

    • 59 min

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