Does Your Brain Have Self-Control?

March 2nd, 2012

Yesterday I interviewed Dr. Kelly McGonigal, author of “The Willpower Instinct”, on Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour.

We discussed how willpower and self-control work, how the brain functions with regard to willpower, and tips and techniques to short circuit your habits in order to build self-control. The interview was an hour well-spent with many lessons learned. You can view it below.

Additionally, I recommend The Willpower Instinct as a great read and tool for anyone searching for insight into the way their brains work.

Thinking About Epigenetics

March 1st, 2011

This morning, I was totally taken by the focus on epigenetics in this month’s issue of The Scientist magazine. It’s a fascinating area of study that looks at mechanisms of inheritance and development that fall outside the usual genetic mechanisms.

For years, researchers investigating inheritance focused solely on DNA and RNA as the blueprints for what makes us who we are. However, over the past 80 years research has amassed suggesting that there is much more to the picture. Namely, expression of genes can be controlled through one process termed imprinting or another called X-chromosome inactivation, and chemical modifications by structures, called histones, that wrap DNA into little bundles, and a process called methylation.

The various modifications to DNA or RNA affect the ways that genes get expressed (like if they get turned on or off, or are expressed more or less), but not the genes themselves. Darwinian natural selection and Mendelian genetics are still major forces acting on the genes themselves (so, don’t go off half cocked crying about Lamarckian ideas overturning over 100 years of evidence for the theory of evolution), but now we have a new tool to add to the toolbox to help us understand the very nuanced processes of adaptation and development.

From an article in The Scientist:

Eric Nestler, a psychiatrist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, explained that behavioral researchers “are moving to a far broader definition of epigenetics which simply refers to any lasting change in gene expression mediated by an alteration in chromosomal structure.” ”

What I find fascinating, is the idea that these modifications can arise during an individuals lifetime. It’s a mechanism that has the potential to explain how experience during someone’s lifetime can 1) effect changes in their behavior and 2) effect changes in the behavior of subsequent generations.

Epigenetics is no longer like genetics, which can look at individuals, but preferentially looks at changes to populations on a generational timescale. Rather, epigenetics diverges from genetics because it can explore changes within and between individuals on multiple timescales: second to second, minute to minute, year to year, or generation to generation.

Again, from The Scientist:

Szyf… speculates that behavioral epigenetics might end up showing that adult learning is simply development, continued. Perhaps, he says, “it’s all development, starting from preconception to death.” ”

If the articles from The Scientist aren’t enough for you, we did a review of epigenetic research on TWIS last year, and interviewed one of the leading epigenetic researchers, Dr. Andrew Feinberg, back in 2007. In both cases, the coverage starts in the second half of the program, so you will need to fast forward a little bit to get to the pertinent info.

Viruses Are Cool

May 25th, 2010

And, yes, they cause colds. But, when it comes down to it viruses are the sneakiest survivalists around… especially considering that they aren’t even alive.

Last Friday, I got to talk with Dr. Vincent Racaniello, Dr. Rich Condit, and Dr. Alan Dove (PhD turned science writer), virus experts the lot of them, on their show, This Week in Virology. Ostensibly, I was invited on the show to discuss my transformation from scientist grad student to scientist media person, but I was really just there for the virus science.

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to this podcast, I highly suggest giving it one. The hosts are Columbia University professors, and they eloquently discuss the finer details of the viruses that make you sick. However, it’s not a show for the scientifically faint of heart. These guys really dig into the nuts and bolts of the living dead. The conversation is fairly high level, but they do a great job of making it interesting. I found myself hanging on their words wanting to learn how the little things work.

But, I am a certified geek. I thrive on the details because to me they add nuance to the scientific story unfolding around my ears.

You will just have to see what you think for yourself. Check it out at www.twiv.tv.

Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour - Life, Language, and Science

May 7th, 2010

One of the books that the TWIS book club read this year was Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Dr. Daniel Everett of Illinois State University.

In the book, Dr. Everett tells the story of his years spent in the amazon jungle studying the language of a small tribe of Indians. There are ups and downs, thrills and spills throughout, but the most important part of the story is the language and how it changed the Dr.’s life forever.

You would be amazed at everything Dr. Everett went through in the name of science. I know I was when I read the book.

Even more amazing was getting to speak with him on the Science Hour. See for yourself…

What is TWIS

August 24th, 2009

We could tell you what TWIS is, but you are better off discovering the truth for yourself.

 

www.twis.org/audio

 

Please share this video and website with people who need TWIS.

Michio Kaku on Politics

June 1st, 2009

Excerpt from Dr. Kiki’s 2008 interview with Dr. Michio Kaku. Here he discusses selling science to politicians.

Michio Kaku on the Big Bang

May 14th, 2009

Dr. Michio Kaku talks about the Big Bang and the Large Hadron Collider… and Elvis.

Michio Kaku on Teleportation

April 23rd, 2009

The fourth installment of Dr. Kiki’s interview with Dr. Michio Kaku. This time Dr. Kaku talks about the physics and reality of teleportation.

Michio’s book is out now as a paperback. Here’s a link to buy the book on Amazon.

Distributed by Tubemogul.

Michio Kaku’s Favorite Topic

April 9th, 2009

Part two in a series of excerpts from Dr. Kiki’s interview with Dr. Michio Kaku in which he discussed his favorite topic from The Physics of the Impossible. Distributed by Tubemogul.

Michio’s book is out now as a paperback. I honestly had no idea that my timing of these video interviews would match so well. But, since it did, here’s a link to buy the book on Amazon.  

Michio Kaku on Physics of the Impossible

April 2nd, 2009

I interviewed Dr. Michio Kaku last spring. This is the first of several excerpts from the interview. Dr. Kaku talks about where he got his inspiration for his book, The Physics of the Impossible. Distributed by Tubemogul.

 

I plan to release the hour-long interview in its entirety in little bite-sized chunks over the next several weeks. There are some gems of wisdom to look forward to!