Your Brain on Music (start time: 6:18): Most people love music, whether it’s opera music, jazz, rock-n-roll, gospel, nursery rhymes or another genre. Whether you’re a trained professional or someone who just likes to sing in the shower or listen to your favorite playlists, you’ve likely felt the power of music in shaping your thoughts, feelings and behavior. But how?
Many scientists have been researching how music affects the human brain, and how music can help treat many neurological and other disorders. Today, host Susan Moran interviews Indre Viskontas, a cognitive neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology at the University of San Francisco. She’s also a classically trained opera singer and a director. Her 2019 book is How Music Can Make You Better. And Dr. Viskontas also directs communications for the Sound Health Network, an initiative that promotes research and public awareness of the impact of music on health and well-being. She also hosts a podcast called Inquiring Minds.
Host, Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Shannon Young Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Chronic pain is a debilitating condition for millions of people worldwide. But what role does our brain play in processing pain? Cognitive neuroscientists are gaining a better understanding of how our brain processes pain. Using advanced imaging techniques, they can now measure and model brain systems linked to our pain and emotions. This is shedding new light on interventions for people who suffer from chronic pain.
In this How on Earth episode, Jill Sjong speaks with Tor Wager, Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience at Dartmouth College, and formerly Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at CU Boulder. Jill also speaks with Charlie Merrill, a Boulder-based physiotherapist and Clinical Advisor at Lin Health, a digital integrative pain clinic. Charlie Merrill works extensively with local athletes, many of whom suffer from chronic pain.
Your Brain on Nature (start time: 5:49): You may think it’s a no-brainer: that nature is good for your mental and physical health. After all, a walk in the woods or even an urban park brightens your outlook on life, at least for a little while. Turns out, the notion that being outside in nature boosts our mood, and even our creativity, has historical roots at least as deep as Aristotle. A new book by journalist Florence Williams explores the history of our biophilia, and particularly emerging neuroscience that reveals just how our bodies and minds are affected by getting out in the natural world. The book is called The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative (Norton, 2017). The book stemmed from an article Williams wrote in National Geographic. A former Boulder resident, Williams will return to Boulder to give a talk about her book on Tuesday, February 28th, at the Boulder Book Store, at 7:30 p.m. She’ll also speak in Denver, on Wednesday, March 1st, at Tattered Cover Book Store, at 7:00 p.m.
Hosts: Maeve Conran, Susan Moran Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Maeve Conran Executive Producer: Joel Parker Additional contributions: Beth Bennett, Joel Parker, Shelley Schlender
In today’s spring pledge-drive show we play clips from an interview with Jo Marchant, author of the new book Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body. (Stay tuned for the extended interview on next Tuesday’s show.) And we highlight another book, Sex in the Sea: Our Intimate Connection with Sex-Changing Fish, Romantic Lobsters, Kinky Squid, and Other Salty Erotica of the Deep, by Marah Hardt. Call KGNU (303-449-4885) or pledge online (www.kgnu.org) and you will have the chance to make either of these books yours.
Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Joel Parker Additional contributions: Beth Bennett Executive Producer: Joel Parker
Brains (starts at 4:35) This week on How on Earth we interview Professor Marie Banich, from the University of Colorado here in Boulder. Dr Banich uses cutting edge methodologies, particularly structural and functional MRI, to examine the role of the prefrontal cortex, as well as other brain regions, in executive function. Today she tells us about work that was recently funded by NIH to characterize how these systems change over the course of development.
Hosts: Beth Bennett and Joel Parker Producer: Beth Bennett Engineer: Joel Parker Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Do Fathers Matter? (start times: 9:55 and 20:58) Today’s How on Earth show is part of the KGNU fall membership pledge drive. During this show we preview an upcoming feature of the book: “Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked” by science journalist Paul Raeburn. It may seem obvious that fathers matter. And of course, they do. But just how they are affected by parenthood, and how they in turn affect their kids, is not so obvious, as Raeburn shows. He looks at the latest research in anthropology, animal behavior, neuroscience and genetics to uncover many surprises.
Hosts: Joel Parker, Susan Moran, Kendra Krueger, Shelley Schlender Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker Executive Producers: Jane Palmer and Kendra Krueger
1964 Alaska Earthquake (start time 04:37) This week 50 years ago, in 1964, the Beatles were huge, Alaska had only been a state for a mere five years, and the theory of plate tectonics was in toddlerhood. This Thursday, March 27, also marks the 50th anniversary of the magnitude 9.2 Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964.
This earthquake changed our thinking about how the world works by showing us the hard way that tsunamis can arrive before the ground even stops shaking, that we can look in sedimentary records to recognize past great earthquakes offshore in places like the Pacific Northwest, and that these huge earthquakes rip the Earth open along a plane rather than in bits and pieces. What you’ll hear on today’s show is just the tip of the seismic iceberg: How the earthquake confirmed subduction, which is where one tectonic plate plunges under another. Beth Bartel speaks with Dr. Mike West, the Alaska State Seismologist and Director of the Alaska Earthquake Center, about his recent paper, “Why the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake Matters 50 Years Later,” published in Seismological Research Letters.
Neuroscience of Dying (start time 12:38) If there’s one thing more certain than taxes—pardon the reminder—it’s death. It may be certain, but it’s still one of life’s biggest mysteries. On today’s show, we explore what neuroscience can tell us about chemical and hormonal releases that can occur as we near the threshold of death.
For instance, many people have written about so-called near-death experiences. It’s when your heart stops. You walk effortlessly toward a tunnel. You see a blast of white light. You might call it Heaven. Visions like these that people report they’ve had have some biochemical underpinnings.
To help us understand the limited but fascinating body of scientific research regarding the neurobiology and chemistry of dying, Susan Moran talks with Dr. Ilene Naomi Rusk. Rusk is a psychologist who specializes in neuropsychopharmacology and co-directs The Brain and Behavior Clinic in Boulder.
Hosts: Beth Bartel and Susan Moran Producer: Beth Bartel Engineer: Shelley Schlender Executive Producer: Jim Pullen Additional contributions: Jane Palmer and Ted Burnham
Boulder is for Robotics (start time 4:00). “It starts really with the fact that a lot of robotics materials, sensors and manufacturing are here in Colorado.” Boulder as a hub for robotics? You bet. KGNU’s Tom McKinnon reports from the first Boulder is for Robotics meetup, which drew over 100 participants. Learn about some local projects, from robots for agriculture to robots for kids.
The Neurology of Compassion (start time 12:50). “Someone on the street asks you for money. Do you give or not? What drives that decision?” Researchers Jessica Andrews-Hanna and Yoni Ashar from University of Colorado’s Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab talk to us about the causes and effects of compassion. The first of their studies on compassion looks at charitable giving. What determines whether a person will decide to donate part of their earnings? They also talk to us about their current study, which involves using brain scans to evaluate the effect of compassion meditation.
Hosts: Tom McKinnon & Beth Bartel Producer: Beth Bartel Engineers: Jim Pullen and Shelley Schlender Additional contributions: Breanna Draxler & Susan Moran Executive producer: Shelley Schlender