A new generation of technology is revolutionizing neuroscience, allowing a closer study of the brain than had ever seemed possible. The techniques are hybrids of optics, genetics, and synthetic biology with the ability to manipulate brain activity, often in real time. Through direct stimulation of neural connections, some of these techniques hold the promise for the treatment of diseases like depression or schizophrenia.
Dallas Campbell delves into the Horizon archive to discover how our understanding of intelligence has transformed over the last century. From early caveman thinkers to computers doing the thinking for us, he discovers the best ways of testing how clever we are - and enhancing it.
2011 • Brain
Consciousness is perhaps the biggest riddle in nature. In the first part of this three part video series, we explore the origins of consciousness and take a closer look on how unaware things became aware.
Owen Suskind was a boy of considerable promise, until he developed autism at the age of 3. As Owen withdrew into his silent state, his parents almost lost hope that he find some way to interact with his world in some meaningful way. However, that way was found through animated films, especially those of the Walt Disney Company, which provided Owen a way to understand the world through its stories to the point of creating his own.
2016 • Brain
In this episode I visit a researcher who is studying memory by using machine learning and neuroimaging to detect and predict people's brain states. I also travel to Japan to meet with a team working on ways to record the content of peoples’ dreams.
How can a lie become true? In this episode, Dr. Aaron Blaisdell and I create a game show that is actually a giant “human Skinner Box” to observe the formation of superstitious beliefs. And Dr. Samuel Veissière helps me design and perform a placebo reverse exorcism, harnessing the power of belief in both science and religion to convince normal people that a spirit has possessed their bodies.
Are we alone in the universe? Even if we could contact aliens, what would we say? How would we say it? And, most importantly, should we even be trying to make contact at all? This episode takes me on a journey to compose and send my own personal message into outer space.
If I could live forever, should I? How does being reminded of our own mortality affect us psychologically? In this episode I speak with mortician and death positivity activist Caitlin Doughty and visit a cryonics facility trying to extend human life indefinitely. Will I take them up on their offer, or will I choose to die?
Normal people can become monsters, given the right situation. That’s the standard narrative of the Stanford Prison Experiment, one of the most famous psychological experiments of all time. But what if the cause of its participants’ cruel behavior wasn’t what we’ve always been told?
There are 100 billion individual neurons in the human brain. Working together, they allow us to make sense of, and move through, the world around us. Scientists have built replicas of the human brain with computers, but no one has ever successfully made a brain out of humans. On this episode, I’ll travel back to my hometown of Stilwell, Kansas, and turn it into a working brain!
How are our moral decisions influenced by factors we’re not aware of? A phenomenon known as Moral Licensing claims that when we do something good, we often subconsciously allow ourselves to then do something bad. In this episode, I take a look at whether those who donate money to charity become more likely to let a kid take the blame for a crime they know they committed.
Imagine a world in which you can think but cannot speak. For many stroke survivors, like former football star Junior and landlord Barry, this nightmare is a reality. Inspired by the experience of his brother-in-law, filmmaker Richard Alwyn has made an intensely moving, personal film about language and its loss. Alwyn's brother-in-law, journalist Dennis Barker, had a stroke in 2011 which left him speaking a bizarre, fluent gibberish – just one manifestation of the condition ‘aphasia' in which people lose or have a severely impaired ability to use language. Speechless tells the powerful stories of two men who can no longer take language for granted. Much of the film is made on the Neuro Rehab Unit of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London's Queen Square. There, Alwyn meets 55 year old Barry who has been in hospital for 4 months since a stroke left him barely able to speak. Courageous and determined, Barry's personality constantly triumphs where his language fails. And two years after his stroke when just 35 years-old, former Premier League and international footballer Junior Agogo is still visiting the Unit as he battles to find his way in the world with depleted language. “I had thoughts but I'm saying, where was my voice? I was baffled, man.” Speechless raises questions that straddle philosophy and science. Can we understand the world if we don't have language to name and describe it? Can we think without language? How much is our identity wrapped up in language? These questions are at the heart of conversations that Alwyn has with clinicians and therapists working to get Barry and Junior back into the world. Speechless is fascinating and moving, upsetting and uplifting in its depiction of the isolating and estranging condition, aphasia.
2017 • Brain
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK - causing more deaths in this group than car accidents, and even more than cancer. This means that the most likely thing to kill Dr Xand Van Tulleken is himself. And he wants to know why. Xand finds out what we know about why people develop suicidal thoughts, and whether there is anything that we can do about it.
We like to believe we’re in control. But if what we’re discovering about parasites is anything to go by, who is really in control is a lot more complicated, and a lot more interesting, than we ever imagined. So let “The Nature of Things with David Suzuki” help you get over the ick factor, and explore the world of parasites. So let “The Nature of Things with David Suzuki” help you get over the ick factor, and explore the world of parasites. Scientists have collected hundreds of examples of parasites that brainwash their hosts. And now researchers are starting to untangle these parasites’ evolutionary tricks of the trade. In the coastal estuaries of California, Professor Kevin Lafferty of the United States Geological Survey introduces us to a flatworm that lives in three hosts - a snail, a fish and a bird. This parasite’s influence is so profound that it tips the balance of the local ecosystem
Join us as we explore the revolutionary science of "neuroplasticity" - a concept that expands not just our knowledge of how our brains work, but how we use them. For centuries the human brain has been thought of as incapable of fundamental change. People suffering from neurological defects, brain damage or strokes were usually written-off as hopeless cases. But recent and continuing research into the human brain is radically changing how we look at the potential for neurological recovery. The human brain, as we are now quickly learning, has a remarkable ability to change itself - in fact, even to rewire itself. The Brain that Changes Itself, based on the best-selling book by Toronto psychiatrist and researcher Dr. Norman Doidge, presents a strong case for reconsidering how we view the human mind.
What if each of us could make the symptoms of an illness disappear? Cast a spell so powerful it would actually rid us of pain, help us walk, or breathe better? For centuries placebos have been thought of as fake medicine involving trickery and deceit, but Brain Magic: The Power of Placebo pulls back the curtains on the proof that placebos can have powerful – and real – effects on our mind and body. New research is proving that everything from sugar pills, to saline injections, to sham surgery, can have real healing power. Placebos won’t shrink tumours or cure diabetes, but they can be effective in subjective conditions – where self-appraisal plays a role. And, as we’ll discover in Brain Magic, neuroscience is revealing how our bodies’ response to treatment is heavily influenced by our expectations, prior experiences, our beliefs, and the social cues that surround us.
Could the power of fake pills be used to treat some of our most common medical complaints? To find out, Dr Michael Mosley embarks on Britain's largest ever trial to investigate the placebo effect. He is heading to Blackpool to gather 117 people suffering from backache - one of the leading types of chronic pain - before trying to treat them with nothing but fake pills and the power of the mind. Working with experts from the University of Oxford, Michael discovers that the placebo effect is more than just a medical curiosity. The brain is actually capable of producing its own drugs, and these can be more powerful than prescription painkillers. Michael's volunteers come from all walks of life, but they have all suffered with bad backs for years and feel their conventional medication isn't up to the job. They include Stacey, who is struggling to keep up with her two energetic daughters, wheelchair user Jim, who longs to be able to get back on a boat, and poker player Moyra, who is looking for a painkiller which doesn't affect her performance. They think they are taking part in the trial of a powerful new painkiller, but their blue and white capsules actually contain nothing but ground-up rice. Can this fake treatment make a real difference? And how will the volunteers react when Michael reveals the truth? Michael also finds out about some remarkable placebo experiments from around the world, including a woman in Oxfordshire who experienced a near-miraculous recovery after undergoing fake surgery to fix her chronic shoulder pain. Plus a team in Lancashire who want to see if the placebo effect can cure a broken heart. And Michael discovers a team in working on a placebo that works even if you know you are taking it, which might improve the lives of transplant patients. Michael also tests this out on himself - attempting to train his own body to respond to a fake treatment - a foul-tasting green drink - as if he were taking actual drugs.
Are we wholly responsible for our actions? We don’t choose our brains, our genetic inheritance, our circumstances, our milieu – so how much control do we really have over our lives? Philosopher Raoul Martinez argues that no one is truly blameworthy. Our most visionary scientists, psychologists and philosophers have agreed that we have far less free will than we think, and yet most of society’s systems are structured around the opposite principle – that we are all on a level playing field, and we all get what we deserve.
The latest discoveries in neuroscience present a new view of how the brain ages. Overturning decades of dogma, scientists recently discovered that even into our seventies, our brains continue producing new neurons. Scientists no longer hold the longstanding belief that we lose vast numbers of brain cells as we grow older. The normal aging process leaves most mental functions intact, and may even provide the brain with unique advantages that form the basis for wisdom. The aging brain is also far more resilient than was previously believed.
The adult brain is the apotheosis of the human intellect, but what of emotion? The study of emotion was once relegated to the backwaters of neuroscience, a testament to the popular conception that what we feel exists outside our brains, acting only to intrude on normal thought. The science has changed: Emotion is now considered integral to our over-all mental health. In mapping our emotions, scientists have found that our emotional brain overlays our thinking brain: The two exist forever intertwined.
When examining the adolescent brain we find mystery, complexity, frustration, and inspiration. As the brain begins teeming with hormones, the prefrontal cortex, the center of reasoning and impulse control, is still a work in progress. For the first time, scientists can offer an explanation for what parents already know -- adolescence is a time of roiling emotions, and poor judgment.
A child's brain is a magnificent engine for learning. A child learns to crawl, then walk, run and explore. A child learns to reason, to pay attention, to remember, but nowhere is learning more dramatic than in the way a child learns language. As children, we acquire language -- the hallmark of being human.
A baby's brain is a mystery whose secrets scientists are just beginning to unravel. The mystery begins in the womb -- only four weeks into gestation the first brain cells, the neurons, are already forming at an astonishing rate: 250,000 every minute.
Why is a party one of the most demanding and complex situations the human mind ever has to deal with? This programme investigates the extraordinary way that our minds work to allow us to communicate with other people.Professor Winston discovers how we recognise people, read their faces and bodies to understand what they’re thinking, and then charm them.Find out how to tell whether a smile is genuine, what happens when people 'click' with one another, and how to spot when someone's lying.
Personality explores what it is that makes us who we are and uncovers the universal battle we face to master our emotions and control our behaviour. Professor Robert Winston explores how our minds shape our personalities throughout our lives, and reveals how personality traits like extroversion and introversion develop.
The first programme in the series uncovers what happens in our minds when we learn, remember and have original ideas. It explores what we can do to improve our ability to learn and manipulate knowledge, and shows how eating fish oils can boost our brain power.
At 38 years old, Susan Polgar has reached heights that few women have ever equalled in the chess world. Despite the common assumption that men’s brains are better at understanding spatial relationships, giving them an advantage in games such as chess, Susan went on to become the world’s first grandmaster. Susan’s remarkable abilities have earned her the label of ‘genius’, but her psychologist father, Laszlo Polgar, believed that genius was “not born, but made”. Noting that even Mozart received tutelage from his father at a very early age, Polgar set about teaching chess to the five-year-old Susan after she happened upon a chess set in their home. “My father believed that the potential of children was not used optimally,” says Susan.
Brains and nervous systems do a lot of things, but overall their purpose seems to be to allow cells to communicate and behave together. But because gene's generally code for things that help reproduction, you can start to see harsh patterns in behavior.
Rhod Gilbert is painfully shy. He might hide it well, but he can't even go into a cafe to buy a coffee. No joke. In fact, his social anxiety has had a massive effect on his life. Rhod's going to try find out why and what can be done. Talking to fellow shy comedian Greg Davies, other shy sufferers, and scientists, Rhod comes up with a radical solution for how we can all stand up to shyness. Rhod can stand up in front of 20,000 people and make them laugh for two hours solid. But he has always found it virtually impossible to talk to people one to one. From childhood, it has been a life-limiting condition. And in this Rhod is certainly not alone. It is estimated that nearly half the population in the UK have some manifestation of shyness and social anxiety. For many it is a minor irritation, for some it is a condition that can virtually destroy a life.
2018 • Brain
What new methods of analysis have been developed in the age-old struggle to discover if someone is telling the truth...or not? Some scientists have gone beyond the polygraph to model other ways of detecting whether we are getting a straight answer or being led down a crooked path.
2017 • Brain
Technology isn’t just changing our lives. It’s literally changing our brains -- and maybe for the better. In this episode, I’m a human lab rat in a groundbreaking study at UC Irvine, where scientists test how playing 3D video games affects my spatial memory. Will 10 days of gaming improve my ability to physically navigate a giant, 60-foot maze? And will an fMRI machine detect any physical changes to my brain?
Psychology. Neuroscience. Drugs. All can be tools of interrogation. In this episode, an expert shows me how to coerce unsuspecting subjects into signing false confessions; a police psychologist questions me about my personal life after I am injected with a truth serum; and I match wits against a new brainwave-reading lie-detection method developed at Northwestern University.
Do psychedelic drugs really bring about self-healing and personal enlightenment? New research says they may. In this episode, I travel to the Amazonian jungle of Peru to experience the mind-expanding effects of the psychedelic brew Ayahuasca.
Would you reroute a train to run over one person to prevent it from running over five others? In the classic “Trolley Problem” survey, most people say they would. But I wanted to test what people would actually do in a real-life situation. In the world’s first realistic simulation of this controversial moral dilemma, unsuspecting subjects will be forced to make what they believe is a life-or-death decision.
What is memory? How do our memories change from childhood to adulthood? How we can build up greater brain reserves to power our mind into old age? Brain epigenetics, how the expression of our DNA can be changed by our experiences, is an intriguing new area of science with huge health implications.
Professor Shapiro reaches back into history to show that artists, architects and mathematicians have also employed visual “tricks” to baffle and entertain us by manipulating perspective and challenging our ideas of what is real and what is fake.
In part 3, Prof. Shapiro shows us that the brain is challenged to process some stimuli from the eyes and sometimes "guesses" what you are seeing. Join him as he takes us through visual perception challenges like the "Curveball Illusion". Has he thrown you for a loop yet?
In part 2, Prof. Arthur Shapiro takes us through visual illusions that show how our brain processes retinal impressions from light and dark. Watch as things "move" while they are standing still. It will be hard to believe your eyes after watching this program!
Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience -- and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it. How does this happen? According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we're all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it "reality." Join Seth for a delightfully disorienting talk that may leave you questioning the very nature of your existence.
Memory is not a photo album where your images of the past are faithfully recorded. The latest neuroscience discoveries show that memory can be affected in many ways and with surprising results: false memories, distortions, modifications and deja vu. To what extent can we rely on our memories?
2016 • Brain
Host Ted Danson discovers a town in Belgium with a radical approach to mental health. Plus, see why NASA's newest "star" is a world-famous chef. Host Ted Danson discusses new advances in medicine with the Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Doctors experiment with a new surgical treatment for mental illness: deep brain stimulation
What happens when your brain is deprived of stimulation? What effect does being cut off from interaction with the outside world have on a person? What effect does it have on me, when I am locked in a windowless, soundproof isolation chamber for three days? In this episode of Mind Field, I take both an objective and a very intimate look at Isolation.
In the 1940s Dr. Walter Freeman gained fame for perfecting the lobotomy, then hailed as a miracle cure for the severely mentally ill. It was hailed by the New York Times as "surgery of the soul," a groundbreaking medical procedure that promised hope to the most distressed mentally ill patients and their families. But what began as an operation of last resort was soon being performed at some fifty state asylums, often to devastating results. Little more than a decade after his rise to fame, Walter Freeman, the neurologist who championed the procedure, was decried as a moral monster, and lobotomy one of the most barbaric mistakes of modern medicine. American Experience presents The Lobotomist, the gripping and tragic story of an ambitious doctor, the desperate families who sought his help, and the medical establishment that embraced him. From award-winning producers Barak Goodman and John Maggio (The Boy in the Bubble, The Fight), this one-hour film features interviews with Dr. Freeman's former patients and their families, his students, and medical historians, and offers an unprecedented look at one of the darkest chapters in psychiatric history.
Alzheimer’s disease strikes at the core of what makes us human: our capacity to think, to love, and to remember. The disease ravages the minds of over 40 million victims worldwide, and it is one of the greatest medical mysteries of our time. Join investigators as they gather clues and attempt to reconstruct the molecular chain of events that ultimately leads to dementia, and follow key researchers in the field who have helped to develop the leading theories of the disease. Along the way, meet individuals from all walks of life who will reveal what it’s like to struggle with Alzheimer’s. Among them, members of a unique Colombian family who have learned that their genetic predisposition all but guarantees early onset Alzheimer’s. Yet there may be hope. Join these courageous patients participating in clinical trials, and then go behind the scenes of the major drug trials to see how researchers target and test therapies that may slow and even prevent Alzheimer’s.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity. Part 6: Who Will We be In ‘Who will we be?’ Dr. David Eagleman journeys into the future, and asks what’s next for the human brain, and for our species. Mother nature has evolved a brain that is eminently flexible, able to rewire itself according to whatever environment it finds itself in, which means that as technological advances continue apace, our technology is on a crash course with our biology.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity. Part 5: Why Do I Need You In ‘Why Do I Need You?’ Dr. David Eagleman explores how the human brain relies on other brains to thrive and survive. This neural interdependence begins at birth. Dr. David Eagleman invites a group of babies to a puppet show to showcase their ability to discern who is trustworthy, and who isn’t.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity. Part 4: How Do I Decide The human brain is the most complex object we’ve discovered in the universe, and every day much of its neural circuitry is taken up with the tens of thousands of decisions we need to make. ‘How do I decide?’ is a journey through the unseen world of decisions, and how they get made.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity. Part 3: Who is in Control ‘Who Is in Control?’ explores the great deception that greets us each morning when we awake: it feels as though we are in conscious control of our lives but the truth is that we are not. Instead almost every action, every decision, every belief that we hold is driven by parts of the brain that we have no access to.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity. Part 2: What Makes Me Episode two, ‘What Makes Me?’, explores the question of how the brain gives rise to our thoughts, emotions, our memories and personality. Philosophers and great thinkers have for millennia pondered the question of how physical stuff can give rise to mental processes. Last century, the new field of neuroscience joined the discussion, and Dr David Eagleman explains that to a neuroscientist, the answers to such questions lie in a deep understanding of the brain.
Memory is the glue that binds our mental lives. Without it, we’d be prisoners of the present, unable to use the lessons of the past to change our future. From our first kiss to where we put our keys, memory represents who we are and how we learn and navigate the world. But how does it work? Neuroscientists using cutting-edge techniques are exploring the precise molecular mechanisms of memory. By studying a range of individuals ranging—from an 11-year-old whiz-kid who remembers every detail of his life to a woman who had memories implanted—scientists have uncovered a provocative idea. For much of human history, memory has been seen as a tape recorder that faithfully registers information and replays intact. But now, researchers are discovering that memory is far more malleable, always being written and rewritten, not just by us but by others. We are discovering the precise mechanisms that can explain and even control our memories. The question is—are we ready?
After millennia of speculation about what goes on inside the human brain, we now have the tools to explore its hidden reaches. These tools are leading to research that may help those suffering from afflictions such as epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease. They are also shedding light on the mystery of consciousness and what makes us who we are.
Imagine if you could plug your brain into a machine that would bring you ultimate pleasure for the rest of your life. The only catch? You have to permanently leave reality behind. Hayley Levitt and Bethany Rickwald explore Robert Nozick’s thought experiment that he called the Experience Machine.
Have you noticed how the full moon looks bigger on the horizon than high overhead? Actually, the two images are exactly the same size -- so why do we perceive them differently? Scientists aren't sure, but there are plenty of intriguing theories. Andrew Vanden Heuvel unravels the details of focus, distance and proportion that contribute to this mystifying optical illusion.
Could you have come up with Einstein's theory of relativity? If not - why not? This is what Marcus du Sautoy, professor of mathematics, wants to explore. Marcus readily admits that he is no genius, but wants to know if geniuses are just an extreme version of himself - or whether their brains are fundamentally different.
Most of us think that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is just over fussy tidying. But it's actually much more serious. Sophie has to check that she hasn't killed people, looking for dead bodies wherever she goes, Richard is terrified of touching the bin, and Nanda is about to have pioneering brain surgery to stop her worrying about components on her body - that her eyebrow might not be aligned or that she has bad breath. Professor Uta Frith meets the people living with OCD, looks at the therapy available and asks what neuroscience can offer by way of a cure.
Throughout the history of mankind, the subject of identity has sent poets to the blank page, philosophers to the agora and seekers to the oracles. These murky waters of abstract thinking are tricky to navigate, so it’s probably fitting that to demonstrate the complexity, the Greek historian Plutarch used the story of a ship.
Charlie Elmore suffered a brain injury in a snowboarding accident four years ago. Now she's going to retrace the steps of her dramatic recovery and meet other young people adjusting to life after serious brain injuries, including 19-year-old car-crash survivor Callum, avid skier Tai and fashion buyer Hannah, who has to re-learn how to walk and talk after she collapsed whilst out shopping and hit her head on the pavement. With their help, Charlie embarks on a courageous journey to improve understanding of this 'invisible' disability, which is the biggest cause of acquired disability in young adults in Britain, and discovers the hidden ways it affects her own life too.
2015 • Brain
Throw away all of your preconceived ideas about the behaviour and nature of teenagers. New research suggests that without our turbulent teen years the human race would be, as Dr. David Bainbridge puts it in Surviving:) The Teenage Brain, "short lived and stupid."
The wheels in your brain are constantly turning, even when you're asleep or not paying attention. In fact, most of your brain’s activities are ones you’d never be aware of … unless they suddenly stopped. Nathan S. Jacobs takes us inside the always active, surprisingly spontaneous brain.
Dr Michael Mosley and Professor Alice Roberts investigate if male and female brains really are wired differently. New research suggests that the connections in men and women's brains follow different patterns, patterns which may explain typical forms of male and female behaviour. But are these patterns innate, or are they shaped by the world around us? Using a team of human lab rats and a troop of barbary monkeys, Michael and Alice test the science and challenge old stereotypes. They ask whether this new scientific research will benefit both men and women - or whether it could drive the sexes even further apart.
It is a feeling we all know - the moment when a light goes on in your head. In a sudden flash of inspiration, a new idea is born. Today, scientists are using some unusual techniques to try to work out how these moments of creativity - whether big, small or life-changing - come about. They have devised a series of puzzles and brainteasers to draw out our creative behaviour, while the very latest neuroimaging technology means researchers can actually peer inside our brains and witness the creative spark as it happens. What they are discovering could have the power to make every one of us more creative.
A 200,000 year old jawbone tells the story of an elderly woman who was kept alive thanks to the kindness of her companions. From this first known example of human compassion to modern day heroes, the final programme in the Human Instinct series explores the most complex of instincts. The instinct to put others first.