Ways in which Ginger Campbell’s Brain Science Podcast has Transformed Me

Congratulations to Dr. Ginger Campbell, whose Brain Science Podcast is about to celebrate its 10-year anniversary!

As a scientist, writer, trainer and software development head, my mission in life is to help people use knowledge to become more effective. (The CogZest slogan is “Thrive in the Sea of Knowledge” and CogSci Apps‘ is “Apply Knowledge”.) This is important because whereas there is plenty of excellent knowledge at our disposal, it tends to remain “inert”, as Alfred North Whitehead put it. (Compare the results of the recent presidential election in the U.S.A. where there was overwhelming information available against a vote for Trump, yet he prevailed.)

A major challenge for cognitive science researchers is to stay abreast of progress in its many disciplines. Neuroscience is particularly challenging given its complexity and rapid pace.

Since 2008, the Brain Science Podcast (“BSP”) has been an essential source of neuroscience information for me. In reviewing the list of BSPs, I was struck by the huge number of episodes that have had an impact on me, and that I thoroughly enjoyed. Many of these episodes have led me to read the books she recommends, and also to read related scholarly articles. In fact, my first book, Cognitive Productivity: Using Knowledge to Become Profoundly Effective, has five references to BSPs and it refers to several of the authors she interviewed.

So, to celebrate the anniversary of the Brain Science Podcast, I’d like to share with you some ways in which I have benefitted from and applied its knowledge gems.

  • The 2014 interview of Dr. Luiz Pessoa (author of The Cognitive Emotional Brain) led me to update the perturbance theory of emotion (in an upcoming paper) to better reflect graded aspects of consciousness. (Prof. Aaron Sloman and I had already, in the 1990s, argued against sharp distinctions between cognition and emotion. But we hadn’t taken a quantitative view of mental resources.)
  • The interviews of Dr. Seth Grant changed my understanding of how the brain computes. No longer is the neuron the unit of computation. Synapses themselves are computers! So deep, so beautiful, so well argued!
  • I had previously published about the connectome and consciousness, but several BSP episodes on this subject significantly updated my understanding of brain networks.
  • The body map episode (Sandra and Matthew Blakeslee) inspired me to develop a twist on the body scan to include not only scanning of the physical body, but of one’s peri-personal space too. This led me to update mySleepButton with a personalized body scan pack.
  • The interviews of Dr. Stuart Brown led me to think of serial diverse imagining (a sleep promoting method I developed) as a form of play. It made me realize that one could take advantage of bedtime as an opportunity for play that also promotes sleep. This made its way into a paper I wrote on “The possibility of super-somnolent mentation: A new information-processing approach to sleep-onset acceleration and insomnia exemplified by serial diverse imagining”.

In reviewing the list of Brain Science Podcast episodes, I’ve discovered a number of gems to listen to or re-listen to.

The Brain Science Podcast, with its probing questions, rich hyperlinked transcripts and audio, and apt summaries, is a truly excellent, cognitively potent trove of knowledge. Dr. Campbell highlights big ideas, while also allowing us to revel in details. She regularly emphasizes the process of science — for example, the 2014 interview of Dr. Gregory Hickok on mirror neurons has many lessons for all scientists. She conveys the enjoyment and importance of science, stimulating and inspiring me.

The BSP has also had a deep impact on my personal life and career choice. For most of my life, I’ve been heavily into fitness. I was going through a very challenging period in early 2009 when, on a walk, I listened to Dr. Campbell’s interviews of Dr. Ratey. Then I noticed that Ratey emphasized vigorous exercise. I paused and rewound the podcast. Vigorous. I was already familiar with Robert Thayer’s theory of moods as energy and activation states. But I hadn’t made the connection with vigorous exercise. And for the last few years before then, I hadn’t been pushing myself physically. So, I immediately increased the frequency and vigour of my exercising. I’ve been exercising hard six days a week ever since then. And I have also been worked standing up since about then. And I have felt great ever since!

I was also planning a career transition in 2008. The BSP inspired me to continue to pursue my passion for broad cognitive science and meta-effectiveness.

I could go on with more examples.

I can’t count the number of times I have recommended the BSP to scientists, professionals and others. And I will do it again here: check out the Brain Science Podcast to learn more about how your brain makes you who you are.

Thank you Dr. Campbell!

Published by

Luc P. Beaudoin

Head of CogZest. Author of Cognitive Productivity books. Co-founder of CogSci Apps Corp. Adjunct Professor of Education, Simon Fraser University. Why, Where, and What I Write. See About Me for more information.

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