Gladwell Podcasts Examine Brain Issues

Dana_podcastIMAGE_finalAs neuroscience enthusiasts already know, there are countless podcasts out there about brain-related topics. To inform my Cerebrum podcasts, I’ve sampled many of them to pick up tips on how to explain research that can often be complex and difficult to understand.

One such podcast that does a masterful job of explaining both chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and false memory is Revisionist History, a podcast by Malcolm Gladwell, a former New Yorker staff writer and the author of Tipping Point, Blink, and other New York Times best seller nonfiction works. The podcast labels itself as a “journey through the overlooked and misunderstood.”

The CTE episode, entitled “Burden of Proof,” focuses on Owen Thomas, a captain of the University of Pennsylvania football team who committed suicide several years ago. Gladwell builds the episode from a talk on the topic of “proof” that he gave to students at Penn in 2013. He used CTE, a neurodegenerative disease found in people who have had multiple head injuries, to make his point.

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The Blitz is On

Earlier this month, the senior vice president of the National Football League’s health and safety policy spoke at a hearing in Washington, D.C., where he was asked if there is a link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Jeff Miller replied, “The answer to that is certainly, yes,” moving the ball down the field in a longtime debate among independent researchers, former athletes, and the NFL.

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Ann McKee, M.D.

Alongside Miller stood Dana Alliance member Ann McKee, M.D., whose latest study was just referenced in a story on CTE in the New York Times on Sunday, March 27. At the hearing, McKee presented findings from her ongoing research on the relationships between traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative disease, and contact sports. As director of the Brain Bank for Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, she has been making headlines over the past several years for revealing that “deceased athletes, including at least 90 former NFL players, were found to have had [CTE].”

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Tackling the Issue of CTE in Sports

football CTEWith another football season on the horizon, coupled with last week’s induction of legendary linebacker Junior Seau into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the controversial topic of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is back on the front burner. CTE is a type of degenerative brain disease that has become a hot button issue in the world of contact sports.

Following Seau’s retirement in 2010 after an extraordinary 20-year career, his family began to notice bouts of insomnia, depression, extreme mood swings, and emotional withdrawal. “It was hard,” his daughter, Sydney, told Yahoo Sports. “[W]e were all reaching for someone that wasn’t exactly reaching back, even though…we knew that he wanted to.”

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Neuroscience and Society: Traumatic Brain Injury

Whether in the context of sports or the military, stories about traumatic brain injuries have become more frequent over the past several years as attention given to these injuries has grown. In October 2012 the AAAS and the Dana Foundation held a joint event on current TBI research and potential treatments, as part of the public series Neuroscience and Society.

Speakers at the event included Capt. James L. Hancock, M.D., Deputy Commander of Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Afghanistan, and researchers Col. Jeffrey Ling, M.D., Ph.D., and Dana Alliance member Ann McKee, M.D.

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The Science and Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury

Planning on being in the D.C.-area on October 23? If so,
please join us at the American Association for the Advancement of Science
(AAAS) auditorium for the free public event, “The Science and Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury.” Part of the Neuroscience and Society Series co-sponsored by AAAS and
the Dana Foundation, the discussion will address current traumatic brain injury
(TBI) research, particularly in the context of sports and the military.

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