262: Matthew Cobb | The Past And Future Of Neuroscience In “The Idea Of The Brain”

Welcome Professor Matthew Cobb of the University of Manchester, author of The Idea of the Brain: The Past and Future of Neuroscience, to episode 262 of the show. His latest book is about the history of neuroscience, and its recent roots, and how that develops the idea of the brain, while our current understanding of the brain is still very limited. Inspirations come from other researchers, as well as Danish scientist Nicolas Steno of the 17th century.

Professor Cobb is is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester, and got his Ph.D. in Psychology and Genetics from the University of Sheffield in England. He had a postdoctoral position at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. Others books of his include The Egg & Sperm Race and Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code. He has studied animal behavior, human psychology, science history, and more.

Show notes:

  • how Professor Cobb got into the study of the mind, neuroscience, and fly larvae growth and processes
  • the way that Nicolas Steno informed the way Professor Cobb looks at the mind
  • the reductionist view, and how it does not allow for picking up on information regarding detailed nuance
  • his upcoming book on smell, and how that relates to the virus of our current pandemic, with its attachment to smell receptors
  • how one structure of the brain is not alone in processing information, separate from other regions of the brain
  • Eve Marder, and her study on the small number of neurons in the lobster’s stomach, with associated models of these neurons
  • research in the field done in Manchester and the UK region
  • fly maggots and their neurons, as well as the priorities that their narrow neural system requires
  • how maggots have biological clocks in the same light as humans and other animals
  • replacement of neurons and memories in small animals
  • being skeptical of science that has come before, versus going with the research that has been read (question inspired by Professor Cobb’s recent interview with past interviewee Michael Shermer)
  • a message for all

It was good to have Professor Cobb on the show. You can check out The Idea of the Brain on Amazon, his upcoming book Smell with Oxford University Press, follow on Twitter @MatthewCobb, or look at his academic biography.

241: Brian Sweis | Decision-Making Brain Processes, Neuromodulation, And Disorder-Based Research

Image result for brian sweis

The year of 2019 is shortly coming to a close, and we start to bring it home with episode 241, featuring guest Dr. Brian Sweis of the University of Minnesota. He was listed as one of the recipients of the Forbes 30-under-30 description in the category of Science for 2019, and his focus is neuroscience.

He completed the PhD part of his MD/PhD program in 2018, and continues through his MD at this time. His research exists “…at the intersection of affective, behavioral, and cognitive neuroscience and clinical psychiatry and neurology, particularly focused on neuromodulation interventions.” The work he does “… aims to understand how the brain processes information during decision-making and how lasting changes in the synaptic mechanisms of plasticity, particularly in the context of addiction and other psychiatric disorders, give rise to maladaptive behaviors.”

Show notes:

  • how Dr. Sweis got to where he is in the MD/PhD neuroscience program at the University of Minnesota
  • why is it relevant that one study the intersection of multiple fields like affective, cognitive, and behavioral science, along with neurology and neuroeconomics
  • what some of Dr. Sweis’ work on neuromodulation efforts looks like in terms of description and example
  • how there are biomarkers that are more or less reliable than others to inform researchers of an attribute in place
  • why decisions are multi-faceted, and can arise from distinct circuit-specific neural computations
  • the difference between decisions made from an emotional standpoint, versus from a logical basis, and how each can be beneficial in different scenarios
  • the kinds of animal and human trials that are done to research how the brain is impacted, and what kinds Dr. Sweis performs
  • what it means to look at decision-making in a neuroeconomic way, assessing comparative values to choices
  • how disorders can alter how stored information is processed
  • some of the scientists and advisors along the way that have guided or informed Dr. Sweis, along with the reasons why

I can see why Dr. Sweis was selected for the Forbes designation, and enjoyed discussing with him while he currently is in a study program. He has long-term goals for research, teaching, and medical work, which is a full-throttle set of items. Some of his research application qualities remind me of Dr. Daniel Z. Lieberman from episode 201, who discussed his research on dopamine. Dr. Sweis also mentioned my interview with Dr. Robert Sapolsky in this episode, and I have always liked Dr. Sapolsky’s book Behave.

You can check out Dr. Sweis’ material on his University of Minnesota page, follow him on Twitter, or look at some of his publications.