Advances in neuroscience have important implications for the development of policies designed to meet looming challenges in health care, aging, education, bioethics, child welfare, environmental and national security. Furthermore, addiction, violent crime, dementia, and obesity pose threats to our well-being that are unlikely to be addressed effectively without the translation of sound behavioral and neuroscience into effective public policy and law. However, even though the final goals may be the same, the worlds of science and policymaking seem far apart in culture, language, and modes of action. An important goal of our Lobes and Robes podcast is to bridge these gaps by bringing scientists and policymakers together to share their perspectives, with each other and with the audience, on how to address some of the most pressing problems of our time. In addition, the Lobes and Robes podcast aims to use these discussions to better educate our audiences both outside and with academia, about how science and policy making serves the public good.
Dealing with the Brain Effects of Racism
This episode builds from Dr. Khohkar’s interview in our last episode in which he outlines the many ways in which discrimination and hate-based behavior have been shown to have negative effects on the brain, both for those subject to such behavior and perpetrators, as well as bystanders and others. In this episode we talk with expert psychologist Dr. Linda McGhee, whose fields of specialization include the treatment of the psychological effects of racial trauma. Dr. McGhee discusses her background, her current areas of focus, and the approaches she uses, including liberation-based trauma treatment. She also offers suggestions about how academic disciplines and other institutions can engage in self-assessment to improve opportunities for access and success for traditionally excluded outsiders including racial minorities and others.
The Effects on the Brain of Islamophobia and Other Forms of Discrimination
In this episode, with neuroscientist and anti-discrimination advocate Dr. Jibran Khokhar, we explore the effects on the brain of experience with race-based and other identity group-based discrimination including Islamophobia. Dr. Khokhar discusses findings from neuroscientific, psychological and epidemiological studies that reveal the adverse health effects of experiencing such discrimination, including increased risks for depression, anxiety, stress and suicide. He also discusses evidence indicating that heightened activity in the amygdala, a brain structure associated with fear and anxiety, is a significant consequence of being indirectly exposed to such discrimination via the media or other sources. Based on these findings, taking care to avoid implicit bias and to promote racial, religious and other forms of inclusion and equity in academic settings and other institutions, may provide a way to address these sources of harm.
The Links between Dignity Neuroscience and International Human Rights Law
This episode puts previous guest Dr. Tara White in dialogue with Professor James May of Delaware Law School, an expert on human rights law and dignity jurisprudence. Along with our cohosts, Dr. White and Prof. May explore the many points of overlap between dignity neuroscience and the principles of human rights law. They discuss issues including human agency, the right to be free from fear and want, and the emerging consilience between the principles of human rights law and what science shows about the resources the brain needs for healthy development. The discussion ventures into future potential directions for inquiry highlighted in exploring these subjects together.
What is Dignity Neuroscience?
In this episode we interview Dr. Tara White, a neuroscientist who studies issues at the intersection of neuroscience and psychology, including how individuals make meaning and feel and act on a sense of agency in their lives. We focus on an exciting term Dr. White recently coined, “dignity neuroscience,” to describe the links between the findings of neuroscience about what conditions promote human development and learning and the human rights principles that international human rights law scholars have identified. We further discuss Dr. White’s view that there is an emerging consilience about the core concept of human dignity and explore how this idea might be converted into policy objectives.
The Neuroscience of How Babies See Faces
Neuroscientist Dr. Laurie Bayet, a professor in the department of neuroscience at AU who focuses on the study of infant cognition, discusses her path-breaking research on the cognitive development of the infant brain. Dr. Bayet discusses her and others’ work on how babies see and come to understand the world around them. She explains some of the creative techniques used to study what infants are perceiving and thinking and describes some of the paths forward for future research and possible policy outcomes.
What Neuroscience Can Teach Us about Sex Differences
In this podcast, we meet Dr. Colin Saldanha, a professor in the neuroscience department at AU who talks with us about his research on hormones and the brain. He discusses the fascinating findings coming out about the role of estrogens in both male and female brains. Dr. Saldanha discusses hormonal change over the life span, the reasons cycling occurs in females but not males, and the similarities and differences in hormonal activities and brain structure, on average, in males and females. The conversation also turns to some of the connections between genetics, hormonal effects, and sex differentiation in the development of the fetus. Dr Saldanha talks about the importance of doing medical research on both males and females, noting differences in how males and females may process some pharmaceuticals as one example, and other topics.