Programme exploring the limits and potential of the human mind
Programme exploring the limits and potential of the human mind
Blue Health; Talking to the dying; Diet or exercise to halt memory decline
Blue Health and well-being:
During lockdown many people have said how they value getting out in nature more than ever. But is there something extra special about getting out into places where there is water? This doesn’t just have to mean the seaside. Could a river, canal or even a fountain in a park make us feel better? Dr Mathew White, senior lecturer in social and environmental psychology at Exeter University, is part of a large research project across eighteen countries called Blue Health. Dr Jo Garrett is a researcher in coastal environments and human health, and they discuss their latest research into pinning down the benefits of aquatic environments on our well-being.
It’s never going to be an easy conversation, but one that a lot of us will face, whatever illness our relatives or friends might be dying from. What should you say and how can avoiding regrets afterwards about what you didn’t say? We hear from Janie Brown, who spent more than thirty years nursing and counselling people dying from cancer and recounts some of her experiences in her book Radical Acts of Love, and writer Audrey Nieswandt.
Diet or exercise to starve off memory decline?
Even as we get older we carry on making new brain cells. The bad news is that the process slows down which can lead to problems with memory. But as Dr Sandrine Thuret and Dr Chiara De Lucia from Kings College London have found, our genetic makeup can influence this process. They’ve found that changing diet might make more of a difference to some, whilst exercise might make more of a difference to others.
Claudia Hammond's guest is Prof. Catherine Loveday, Principal Lecturer in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Westminster.
People living with bipolar disorder can experience episodes of depression and mania which last for weeks - and following these episodes many say they have cognitive deficits - difficulties with memory, concentrating and doing even simple tasks. Rosie Phillips who has bipolar and works as a Peer Support Services Manager for the charity Bipolar UK experienced such difficulties after an episode of mania. She describes the impact as like going head-first through a car windscreen, needing a long period of recovery. Professor Allan Young of Kings College, London, wants to see if a treatment called Cognitive Remediation Therapy can help. Originally used to improve the thinking skills of people with schizophrenia, the therapy involves working with a therapist on a computer for 3 months. Although the work has been affected by lockdown so far the results look promising.
Getting up early comes naturally to some people who are like larks whereas their late-night counterparts, the owls thrive on staying up late. New research carried out at Brunel University has revealed that the grey matter in one area of the brain called the precuneus is larger in owls than larks. But it's not such good news for owls. Previous studies have already shown that lower volumes of grey matter in this region are associated with how empathetic and pro-social someone is, traits which are associated with being an early riser.
When you use certain apps on your phone or computer a tell-tale blue or green dot or tick lets people know if you are online. But do you want everyone to know when you are available? New research suggests that many people don't realise just how much information that online status indicators reveal to other people.
Lockdown easing and mental health; early life stress and catching cold; new lockdown jobs
Emerging from lockdown might not be as easy on our mental health as it sounds. After weeks spent adjusting to lockdown and working out how to cope, how easy is it to re-adjust to old routines? And is it even possible to predict how we’ll feel about things in a few weeks’ time? Daisy Fancourt, Associate Professor of Behavioural Science and Health at University College London discusses the latest results from the Covid-19 Social study, exploring how people’s feelings have changed during the course of the pandemic. Claudia Hammond is also joined by Paul Dolan, Professor of Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics, and James Downs, a campaigner on mental health and eating disorders.
Claudia Hammond’s guest is psychologist Prof Daryl O’Connor from University of Leeds with news of new research on the striking impact a supportive family environment can have on your susceptibility to the common cold in later life.
We are hearing a lot about the possibility of job losses in the future as a result of the pandemic. But there are some people starting new jobs under lockdown – with the prospect of not meeting their colleagues in person. So how will people manage? We hear from two experts who are just embarking – or about to embark, on new jobs: Andrew Clements a senior lecturer in Organisational Psychology at the University of Bedfordshire and Gail Kinman, Visiting Professor of Occupational Health Psychology at Birkbeck University.
Producer Adrian Washbourne
Produced in association with the Open University
Space travel's impact on the brain; Viktor Frankl's search for meaning; Contagious stress
The success of the recent SpaceX launch to the ISS has reignited talk of return manned missions to the moon and onwards to Mars. But beyond well know physiological effects of space travel on our bodies, what do effects of immobility and microgravity have on our brains? A new study offers a detailed insight from 12 fit astronauts subjected to a battery of tests in a microgravity simulator capturing changes in brain images, disrupted sleep rhythms and mood changes and cognition. As Ivana Rosenzweig, Head of the Sleep and Brain Plasticity Centre at Kings College London explains, her work has important implications for understanding astronaut behaviour and capabilities – and more immediately – the long term effects on the brains of Covid 19 patients supported on ventilators.
Viktor E. Frankl, was one of the last of the great Viennese psychotherapists, who used his experiences as a prisoner in German concentration camps in World War II to write ''Man's Search for Meaning,'' an enduring work of survival literature.. A collection of his lectures, Life in Spite of Everything, is now published in English. His writings, lectures and teaching were an important force in forming the modern concept that many factors may be implicated in mental illness - opening the door to a wide variety of psychotherapies. Frankl’s grandson, Alex Vesely, together with the Viennese psychotherapist and former colleague Alfred Lengle, reveal how this newly translated collection of his lectures underpin his ideas about hope, resilience and ways to confront personal suffering, which continues to have great relevance to us in today’s uncertain world.
When parents try to hide their stress, can they still pass on these feelings to their children? Sara Waters at Washington State University has been measuring the extent to which children “catch” their parents’ stress during interaction. The more out of control parents feel - and during a global pandemic that feeling is likely exacerbated- the stronger they have an impulse to reassure their kids that everything is OK. But it may be more comforting for kids to have their feelings discussed than just be told “it's going to be fine”.
Claudia Hammond’s guest is Catherine Loveday Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Westminster.
Producer: Adrian Washbourne
How children think about maths and time
Claudia Hammond explores how children think with two psychologists; Dr Victoria Simms from Ulster University who researches how children’s understanding of maths develops and Professor Teresa McCormack from Queens University Belfast who researches how children understand time. The discussion was recorded in front of an audience at the Northern Ireland Science Festival in February 2020.
Producer: Caroline Steel
The Touch Test
The Touch Test. When did someone last touch you? Maybe they kissed you goodbye this morning or someone touched you on the arm on the bus because you’d dropped something. The Touch Test explores touch in its many forms and launches a major piece of research in which we want as many people as possible to take part.
Commissioned by Wellcome Collection to conduct The Touch Test in collaboration with BBC Radio 4 is Michael Banissy Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths University of London. Also in the studio are Deborah Bowman, Professor of Medical Ethics at St Georges University, and Laura Bates from the Everyday Sexism campaign. Exploring the future of touch is Hannah Limerick from Ultraleap, demonstrating how touch sensations will be used in the near future.
Professor Roger Kneebone and lace maker Fleur Oakes explain how medical students can learn to touch, and Claudia visits Dr Sarah Wilkes at the Institute of Making and encounters some extraordinary tactile materials including the lightest material ever made. We hear a preliminary taster from the drama company 20 Stories High from their show Touchy, and paper engineer Helen Friel creates an artwork in the studio with a revealing message.