Monday, September 6, 2010

Charlie Rose & the Brain Series

I've been watching a number of the videos produced by Charlie Rose and showing on the local PBS channel. Since my "attendance" has been spotty, I've gone looking for the whole series. Here it is.

Here's been holding round table discussions on a selected topic and doing one session per month starting back in October 2009. There are 10 so far and it appears that there will be 3 more in the series. Enjoy!

Today I watched the July 22, 2010 session called "The Disordered Brain". I thoroughly enjoyed it. This showed the progress from the mid-1800s when they first realized that functions were localized in the brain to the techniques now which can be used to decode signals and let paraplegics use electronics to control devices. The short bit about deep brain stimulation to overcome the paralysis and tremors from Parkinson's disease was particularly gratifying.

A few days ago I watch the June 22, 2010 session called "The Mentally Ill Brain". That was the most exciting in the series for me. I enjoyed watching Kay Redfield Jamison who suffers from bipolar disorder and Elyn Sachs who suffers from schizophrenia. What was particularly gratifying is how they are able to live a fairly normal and very productive life despite these devastating diseases. This clearly demonstrates the progress in science in helping people cope with these diseases. Science doesn't fully understand and certainly can't "cure" these diseases, but you can have a functional life despite them.

I've read Jamison's books Touched by Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament and An Unquiet Mind. It is fun to see her "in the flesh". I marvel at the Internet because it gives a person seven league boots to see and interact with people around the world. I think back to the tiny scientific societies like the Royal Society of the 17th century, the Lunar Society of the 18th century, and the medieval universities dating back to the 11th century. This allowed people to make connections with other scholars. The technology of today gives us access that is beyond the wildest dreams of scholars up to the 19th century. Only with electricity and the telegraph did the vision of global and near-real-time interaction become conceivable. The idea of watching a monthly session of brain researchers is something that I would never have thought possible when I was a kid. The future is so much more fun than the past.

What I find tragic is that humans seem determined to fight wars over old ideas/religions and destroy the future because some want to desperately to cling to frusty ideas of the past. Bizarre!

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