Since May of 2016, I’ve had the good fortune to interview the authors of our monthly Cerebrum articles for a podcast. Why a podcast? We suspect that visitors to Dana Foundation website—with already quite a bit to read—would welcome an audio option. We also thought it would be valuable to hear some of the top researchers in the field offer their opinions and explain some of the complex advances and public policy issues that they write about in Cerebrum, the Dana Foundation’s magazine-style series.
This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded to three men who did basic research, discovering molecular mechanisms that control the circadian rhythm. The discoveries by Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young “explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions,” write the Nobel committee.
They and other researchers have continued to add details to our understanding of this critical system. In a story for Cerebrum in 2014, Paolo Sassone-Corsi described two relatively new areas of research: circadian genomics and epigenomics:
It somehow seemed appropriate that this year’s Cerebrum anthology arrived at our offices just in time for the start of Brain Awareness Week (BAW), the global campaign to raise awareness on the progress and benefits of brain research. Cerebrum has the same goal that inspired the Dana Foundation’s idea for BAW in 1996. We just go about it a little differently.
Two years ago we published a Cerebrum article, “The Brain Games Conundrum: Does Cognitive Training Really Sharpen the Mind?” Complicating the issue for our co-authors, Walter R. Boot and Arthur F. Kramer—both neuroscientists who had spent years studying cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and aging—were two open letters to the neuroscience community from more than one-hundred scientists, one objecting to effectiveness claims made by brain-game companies and the other a rebuttal saying brain training has a solid scientific base.
Near the end of a Q&A with Boot and Kramer following the article’s publication, Boot predicted that “maybe in ten years we might know enough to make more definitive recommendations.”
Boot’s prediction was reaffirmed earlier this week with the publishing of a comprehensive evaluation of the scientific literature on brain games in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest. Seven scientists, including Boot, reviewed more than 130 studies of brain games and other forms of cognitive training. The evaluation included studies of products from industry giant Lumosity.
In our September Cerebrum article, “The Human Connectome Project: Progress and Prospects,” David Van Essen, Ph.D., and Matthew Glasser, Ph.D., write about an ambitious six-year collaboration between neuroscientists at various institutions to map the brain with the help of 1,200 volunteers and ever evolving magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. In this new podcast, the pair discuss their role, some of the unexpected surprises, and what they hope to discover in the project’s next phase.