The Spike: Journey of Electric Signals in Brain from Perception to Action with Professor Mark Humphries

Neurons are the fundamental building blocks of the brain. In the human brain, billions of these neurons communicate and liaise with one another using spikes, blips of electric voltages. Studying and understanding how these spikes emerge in the brain, how they travel through the brain and how this communication leads to meaningful actions are part of the cutting edge research in the field of neuroscience. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with professor Mark Humphries and discuss the research that he presents in his new book “The Spike: An Epic Journey Through The Brain in 2.1 Seconds”. This is a deeply informative account of the journey that these electrical signals take as they move from one neuron to another and eventually lead us to act. The book tackles previously unanswered mysteries: Why are most neurons silent? What causes neurons to fire spikes spontaneously, without input from other neurons or the outside world? Why do most spikes fail to reach any destination? In this thorough discussion with professor Mark Humphries, we touch upon these fascinating questions and intriguing concepts.

Mark Humphries is Chair in Computational Neuroscience at the University of Nottingham. He is the founding editor of “the Spike” an online publication available at Medium dot com.

I begin our conversation by asking Mark about the structure of an individual neuron and how spikes emerge in a single neuron. We then discuss the concept of Dark Neuron and talk about the spikes that don’t lead to new spikes and just fail. A very interesting question is what do these spikes mean and how do these spikes carry messages from one point in the brain to another. In the book, Mark reports two groups of researchers holding two different viewpoints, these are “The Timers” and “The Counters”. I ask Mark “who are the timers” and “who are the counters” and what are their viewpoints on the question that how these spikes carry messages from one point in the nervous system to another. And finally we discuss how research is conducted in the fields of neuroscience and computational neuroscience. We particularly discuss progress that the researchers are making in the field of computing neuroscience.

Complement this podcast with the fascinating discussion with Professor David Badre “On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done” and then listen to Professor Daniel Schacter on “Seven Sins of Memory”

By |June 7th, 2021|Neuroscience, Podcasts, Research|

“On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done” with Professor David Badre

Neural mechanisms in the human brain that are responsible for generating and keeping track of plans, and influencing a cascade of brain states that can link our goals with the correct actions are known as Cognitive Control. These mechanisms and processes enable us to transform plans and goals into actions. Cognitive Control, also known as Executive Control inhibits automatic responses and supports flexible, adaptive responses and enables sophisticated actions to achieve desired goals. From making a cup of coffee to buying a house, from planning a trip to a shopping mall to outlining a career path, humans are uniquely able to execute necessary actions. How do we do it? In his book “On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done”, cognitive neuroscientist David Badre presents the first authoritative introduction to the neuroscience of Cognitive Control. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with Professor David Badre to discuss this astonishing phenomenon, these fascinating mechanisms that have profound impact on our well-being.

David Badre is professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences at Brown University, where he is also on the faculty of the Carney Institute for Brain Science. He and his lab have made pioneering contributions to the neuroscience of Cognitive Control and Executive Function.

I open our discussion by asking professor Badre why the scale of Cognitive Control activities is very large in the human brain as compared to all other animals. We discuss the effectiveness of Cognitive Control which is unique to the human brain. These days it is widely accepted that the prefrontal cortex is crucial for our highest mental functions, including cognitive control. But it took us a while to understand this. Professor Bare discusses the research on “the puzzle of the frontal lobe” that informs us that the prefrontal cortex is crucial for our highest mental functions. Cognitive control is about transforming knowledge into actions; so before actions can happen, the knowledge must exist. Professor Badre explains our present understanding of how the brain acquires knowledge through learning and how acquired knowledge is retained in the memory. Professor Badre explains how the brain aims to balance stability and flexibility in general and how it aims to balance cost and reward during the information retrieval process. We also touch upon fascinating research questions that professor Badre and his colleagues are presently working on in BadreLab.

Complement this podcast with the fascinating discussion with Professor Daniel Schacter on “Seven Sins of Memory” and then listen to Professor Jonathan Schooler on “Meta-awareness and Mind-wandering”

By |February 9th, 2021|Knowledge, Neuroscience, Podcasts|

Intriguing Science of Sense of Smell with Professor Matthew Cobb

Sense of smell is the process of creating the perception of smell. Animals use smell for a range of essential functions such as to find food or a mate, to sense danger and to send and receive signals and complex messages with other members of a species. Despite being so fundamental for all animals, including us, the sense of smell remains mysterious. We understand far less about this sense than we know about other senses. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with Professor Matthew Cobb and we explore this fascinating topic. In his recent book “Smell: Very Short Introduction”, Matthew Cobb describes the latest scientific research on sense of smell in humans, other mammals and in insects.

Matthew Cobb is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Manchester, where he studies sense of smell – or olfaction as it is technically known; he also studies insect behaviour, and the history of science.

I open the discussion by posing the question that why did sense of smell emerge and evolve so early in the history of species. The sense of smell is a fundamental sense for animals, and is perhaps the oldest of all other senses, but we know far less about this sense than what we know about vision, touch, taste or hearing. We discuss our lack of understanding of the sense of smell and the reasons why olfaction is so complex to study and understand as compared to the other senses. We then discuss in detail what exactly is “smell” and talk about the composition and structure of smell carrying molecules. We touch upon smell detection and perception mechanisms and relevant functions of the brain. Animals use their sense of smell to interact with other animals and to interact with the environment they live in, to convey and to receive various messages; it seems that all life forms on earth live in an ecosystem of smells. Matthew Cobb explains this ecology of smells. We discuss the role of smell and scents in human culture. This has been an informative, enlightening and educative discussion.

By |October 12th, 2020|Podcasts|