Could the power of fake pills be used to treat some of our most common medical complaints? To find out, Dr Michael Mosley embarks on Britain's largest ever trial to investigate the placebo effect. He is heading to Blackpool to gather 117 people suffering from backache - one of the leading types of chronic pain - before trying to treat them with nothing but fake pills and the power of the mind. Working with experts from the University of Oxford, Michael discovers that the placebo effect is more than just a medical curiosity. The brain is actually capable of producing its own drugs, and these can be more powerful than prescription painkillers. Michael's volunteers come from all walks of life, but they have all suffered with bad backs for years and feel their conventional medication isn't up to the job. They include Stacey, who is struggling to keep up with her two energetic daughters, wheelchair user Jim, who longs to be able to get back on a boat, and poker player Moyra, who is looking for a painkiller which doesn't affect her performance. They think they are taking part in the trial of a powerful new painkiller, but their blue and white capsules actually contain nothing but ground-up rice. Can this fake treatment make a real difference? And how will the volunteers react when Michael reveals the truth? Michael also finds out about some remarkable placebo experiments from around the world, including a woman in Oxfordshire who experienced a near-miraculous recovery after undergoing fake surgery to fix her chronic shoulder pain. Plus a team in Lancashire who want to see if the placebo effect can cure a broken heart. And Michael discovers a team in Germany working on a placebo that works even if you know you are taking it, which might improve the lives of transplant patients. Michael also tests this out on himself - attempting to train his own body to respond to a fake treatment - a foul-tasting green drink - as if he were taking actual drugs.
Artificially intelligent machines are taking over. They’re influencing our everyday lives in profound and often invisible ways. They can read handwriting, interpret emotions, play games, and even act as personal assistants. They are in our phones, our cars, our doctors’ offices, our banks, our web searches…the list goes on and is rapidly growing ever longer. But how does today’s A.I. actually work—and is it truly intelligent? And for that matter, what is intelligence? The world’s brightest computer programmers are trying to build brighter machines by reverse-engineering the brain and by inventing completely new kinds of computers, with exponentially greater speed and processing power. NOVA Wonders looks at how far we’ve come and where machines are headed as their software becomes ever more…cerebral. How close are we from a world in which computers take over—from diagnosing cancer to driving our cars to targeting weapons? If we place more and more of our lives under the control of these artificial brains, what are we putting at risk?
Are we wholly responsible for our actions? We don’t choose our brains, our genetic inheritance, our circumstances, our milieu – so how much control do we really have over our lives? Philosopher Raoul Martinez argues that no one is truly blameworthy. Our most visionary scientists, psychologists and philosophers have agreed that we have far less free will than we think, and yet most of society’s systems are structured around the opposite principle – that we are all on a level playing field, and we all get what we deserve.
The latest discoveries in neuroscience present a new view of how the brain ages. Overturning decades of dogma, scientists recently discovered that even into our seventies, our brains continue producing new neurons. Scientists no longer hold the longstanding belief that we lose vast numbers of brain cells as we grow older. The normal aging process leaves most mental functions intact, and may even provide the brain with unique advantages that form the basis for wisdom. The aging brain is also far more resilient than was previously believed.
The adult brain is the apotheosis of the human intellect, but what of emotion? The study of emotion was once relegated to the backwaters of neuroscience, a testament to the popular conception that what we feel exists outside our brains, acting only to intrude on normal thought. The science has changed: Emotion is now considered integral to our over-all mental health. In mapping our emotions, scientists have found that our emotional brain overlays our thinking brain: The two exist forever intertwined.
When examining the adolescent brain we find mystery, complexity, frustration, and inspiration. As the brain begins teeming with hormones, the prefrontal cortex, the center of reasoning and impulse control, is still a work in progress. For the first time, scientists can offer an explanation for what parents already know -- adolescence is a time of roiling emotions, and poor judgment.
A child's brain is a magnificent engine for learning. A child learns to crawl, then walk, run and explore. A child learns to reason, to pay attention, to remember, but nowhere is learning more dramatic than in the way a child learns language. As children, we acquire language -- the hallmark of being human.
A baby's brain is a mystery whose secrets scientists are just beginning to unravel. The mystery begins in the womb -- only four weeks into gestation the first brain cells, the neurons, are already forming at an astonishing rate: 250,000 every minute.
Why is a party one of the most demanding and complex situations the human mind ever has to deal with? This programme investigates the extraordinary way that our minds work to allow us to communicate with other people.Professor Winston discovers how we recognise people, read their faces and bodies to understand what they’re thinking, and then charm them.Find out how to tell whether a smile is genuine, what happens when people 'click' with one another, and how to spot when someone's lying.
Personality explores what it is that makes us who we are and uncovers the universal battle we face to master our emotions and control our behaviour. Professor Robert Winston explores how our minds shape our personalities throughout our lives, and reveals how personality traits like extroversion and introversion develop.
The first programme in the series uncovers what happens in our minds when we learn, remember and have original ideas. It explores what we can do to improve our ability to learn and manipulate knowledge, and shows how eating fish oils can boost our brain power.
At 38 years old, Susan Polgar has reached heights that few women have ever equalled in the chess world. Despite the common assumption that men’s brains are better at understanding spatial relationships, giving them an advantage in games such as chess, Susan went on to become the world’s first grandmaster. Susan’s remarkable abilities have earned her the label of ‘genius’, but her psychologist father, Laszlo Polgar, believed that genius was “not born, but made”. Noting that even Mozart received tutelage from his father at a very early age, Polgar set about teaching chess to the five-year-old Susan after she happened upon a chess set in their home. “My father believed that the potential of children was not used optimally,” says Susan.
Brains and nervous systems do a lot of things, but overall their purpose seems to be to allow cells to communicate and behave together. But because gene's generally code for things that help reproduction, you can start to see harsh patterns in behavior.
Horizon follows the story of Richard Gray and his remarkable recovery from a life-changing catastrophic stroke. The film shows the rarely seen journey back to recovery. Recorded by his documentary film-maker wife Fiona over four years, this film shows the hard work of recovery. Initially bed bound and unable to do anything, including speak, the initial outlook was bleak, yet occasionally small glimmers of hope emerged. Armed always with her camera, Fiona captures the moment Richard moves his fingers for the first time, and then over months she documents his struggle to relearn how to walk again. The story also features poignant footage delivered in a series of flashbacks, in which we see and hear Richard at his professional best. He was a peacekeeper with the United Nations, immersed in the brutal war in Sarajevo, Bosnia. We also hear from the surgeons and clinicians who were integral to Richard's remarkable recovery, from describing life-saving, high-risk reconstructive surgery to intensive rehabilitation programmes that push the former soldier to his limits.
Rhod Gilbert is painfully shy. He might hide it well, but he can't even go into a cafe to buy a coffee. No joke. In fact, his social anxiety has had a massive effect on his life. Rhod's going to try find out why and what can be done. Talking to fellow shy comedian Greg Davies, other shy sufferers, and scientists, Rhod comes up with a radical solution for how we can all stand up to shyness. Rhod can stand up in front of 20,000 people and make them laugh for two hours solid. But he has always found it virtually impossible to talk to people one to one. From childhood, it has been a life-limiting condition. And in this Rhod is certainly not alone. It is estimated that nearly half the population in the UK have some manifestation of shyness and social anxiety. For many it is a minor irritation, for some it is a condition that can virtually destroy a life.
2018 • Brain
What new methods of analysis have been developed in the age-old struggle to discover if someone is telling the truth...or not? Some scientists have gone beyond the polygraph to model other ways of detecting whether we are getting a straight answer or being led down a crooked path.
2017 • Brain
Technology isn’t just changing our lives. It’s literally changing our brains -- and maybe for the better. In this episode, I’m a human lab rat in a groundbreaking study at UC Irvine, where scientists test how playing 3D video games affects my spatial memory. Will 10 days of gaming improve my ability to physically navigate a giant, 60-foot maze? And will an fMRI machine detect any physical changes to my brain?
Psychology. Neuroscience. Drugs. All can be tools of interrogation. In this episode, an expert shows me how to coerce unsuspecting subjects into signing false confessions; a police psychologist questions me about my personal life after I am injected with a truth serum; and I match wits against a new brainwave-reading lie-detection method developed at Northwestern University.
Do psychedelic drugs really bring about self-healing and personal enlightenment? New research says they may. In this episode, I travel to the Amazonian jungle of Peru to experience the mind-expanding effects of the psychedelic brew Ayahuasca.
Would you reroute a train to run over one person to prevent it from running over five others? In the classic “Trolley Problem” survey, most people say they would. But I wanted to test what people would actually do in a real-life situation. In the world’s first realistic simulation of this controversial moral dilemma, unsuspecting subjects will be forced to make what they believe is a life-or-death decision.
Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience -- and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it. How does this happen? According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we're all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it "reality." Join Seth for a delightfully disorienting talk that may leave you questioning the very nature of your existence.
Memory is not a photo album where your images of the past are faithfully recorded. The latest neuroscience discoveries show that memory can be affected in many ways and with surprising results: false memories, distortions, modifications and deja vu. To what extent can we rely on our memories?
2016 • Brain
Host Ted Danson discovers a town in Belgium with a radical approach to mental health. Plus, see why NASA's newest "star" is a world-famous chef. Host Ted Danson discusses new advances in medicine with the Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Doctors experiment with a new surgical treatment for mental illness: deep brain stimulation
Michio Kaku, best-selling author and physicist, imagining the not-so-distant future, offers his projections for advancements in humanity's understanding of the brain over the next century. Kaku envisions a world in which progress in neuroscience and biotechnology will demystify the human mind.
What happens when your brain is deprived of stimulation? What effect does being cut off from interaction with the outside world have on a person? What effect does it have on me, when I am locked in a windowless, soundproof isolation chamber for three days? In this episode of Mind Field, I take both an objective and a very intimate look at Isolation.
In the 1940s Dr. Walter Freeman gained fame for perfecting the lobotomy, then hailed as a miracle cure for the severely mentally ill. It was hailed by the New York Times as "surgery of the soul," a groundbreaking medical procedure that promised hope to the most distressed mentally ill patients and their families. But what began as an operation of last resort was soon being performed at some fifty state asylums, often to devastating results. Little more than a decade after his rise to fame, Walter Freeman, the neurologist who championed the procedure, was decried as a moral monster, and lobotomy one of the most barbaric mistakes of modern medicine. American Experience presents The Lobotomist, the gripping and tragic story of an ambitious doctor, the desperate families who sought his help, and the medical establishment that embraced him. From award-winning producers Barak Goodman and John Maggio (The Boy in the Bubble, The Fight), this one-hour film features interviews with Dr. Freeman's former patients and their families, his students, and medical historians, and offers an unprecedented look at one of the darkest chapters in psychiatric history.
Alzheimer’s disease strikes at the core of what makes us human: our capacity to think, to love, and to remember. The disease ravages the minds of over 40 million victims worldwide, and it is one of the greatest medical mysteries of our time. Join investigators as they gather clues and attempt to reconstruct the molecular chain of events that ultimately leads to dementia, and follow key researchers in the field who have helped to develop the leading theories of the disease. Along the way, meet individuals from all walks of life who will reveal what it’s like to struggle with Alzheimer’s. Among them, members of a unique Colombian family who have learned that their genetic predisposition all but guarantees early onset Alzheimer’s. Yet there may be hope. Join these courageous patients participating in clinical trials, and then go behind the scenes of the major drug trials to see how researchers target and test therapies that may slow and even prevent Alzheimer’s.
Through interviews with leading psychologists and scientists, Neurons to Nirvana explores the history of four powerful psychedelic substances (LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA and Ayahuasca) and their previously established medicinal potential. Strictly focusing on the science and medicinal properties of these drugs, Neurons to Nirvana looks into why our society has created such a social and political bias against even allowing research to continue the exploration of any possible positive effects they can present in treating some of today's most challenging afflictions.
2013 • Brain
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity. Part 6: Who Will We be In ‘Who will we be?’ Dr. David Eagleman journeys into the future, and asks what’s next for the human brain, and for our species. Mother nature has evolved a brain that is eminently flexible, able to rewire itself according to whatever environment it finds itself in, which means that as technological advances continue apace, our technology is on a crash course with our biology.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity. Part 5: Why Do I Need You In ‘Why Do I Need You?’ Dr. David Eagleman explores how the human brain relies on other brains to thrive and survive. This neural interdependence begins at birth. Dr. David Eagleman invites a group of babies to a puppet show to showcase their ability to discern who is trustworthy, and who isn’t.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity. Part 4: How Do I Decide The human brain is the most complex object we’ve discovered in the universe, and every day much of its neural circuitry is taken up with the tens of thousands of decisions we need to make. ‘How do I decide?’ is a journey through the unseen world of decisions, and how they get made.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity. Part 3: Who is in Control ‘Who Is in Control?’ explores the great deception that greets us each morning when we awake: it feels as though we are in conscious control of our lives but the truth is that we are not. Instead almost every action, every decision, every belief that we hold is driven by parts of the brain that we have no access to.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity. Part 2: What Makes Me Episode two, ‘What Makes Me?’, explores the question of how the brain gives rise to our thoughts, emotions, our memories and personality. Philosophers and great thinkers have for millennia pondered the question of how physical stuff can give rise to mental processes. Last century, the new field of neuroscience joined the discussion, and Dr David Eagleman explains that to a neuroscientist, the answers to such questions lie in a deep understanding of the brain.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity. Part 1: What is Reality Dr. Eagleman takes viewers on an extraordinary journey that explores how the brain, locked in silence and darkness without direct access to the world, conjures up the rich and beautiful world we all take for granted.
Memory is the glue that binds our mental lives. Without it, we’d be prisoners of the present, unable to use the lessons of the past to change our future. From our first kiss to where we put our keys, memory represents who we are and how we learn and navigate the world. But how does it work? Neuroscientists using cutting-edge techniques are exploring the precise molecular mechanisms of memory. By studying a range of individuals ranging—from an 11-year-old whiz-kid who remembers every detail of his life to a woman who had memories implanted—scientists have uncovered a provocative idea. For much of human history, memory has been seen as a tape recorder that faithfully registers information and replays intact. But now, researchers are discovering that memory is far more malleable, always being written and rewritten, not just by us but by others. We are discovering the precise mechanisms that can explain and even control our memories. The question is—are we ready?
After millennia of speculation about what goes on inside the human brain, we now have the tools to explore its hidden reaches. These tools are leading to research that may help those suffering from afflictions such as epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease. They are also shedding light on the mystery of consciousness and what makes us who we are.
Imagine if you could plug your brain into a machine that would bring you ultimate pleasure for the rest of your life. The only catch? You have to permanently leave reality behind. Hayley Levitt and Bethany Rickwald explore Robert Nozick’s thought experiment that he called the Experience Machine.
Have you noticed how the full moon looks bigger on the horizon than high overhead? Actually, the two images are exactly the same size -- so why do we perceive them differently? Scientists aren't sure, but there are plenty of intriguing theories. Andrew Vanden Heuvel unravels the details of focus, distance and proportion that contribute to this mystifying optical illusion.
Could you have come up with Einstein's theory of relativity? If not - why not? This is what Marcus du Sautoy, professor of mathematics, wants to explore. Marcus readily admits that he is no genius, but wants to know if geniuses are just an extreme version of himself - or whether their brains are fundamentally different.
Most of us think that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is just over fussy tidying. But it's actually much more serious. Sophie has to check that she hasn't killed people, looking for dead bodies wherever she goes, Richard is terrified of touching the bin, and Nanda is about to have pioneering brain surgery to stop her worrying about components on her body - that her eyebrow might not be aligned or that she has bad breath. Professor Uta Frith meets the people living with OCD, looks at the therapy available and asks what neuroscience can offer by way of a cure.
Throughout the history of mankind, the subject of identity has sent poets to the blank page, philosophers to the agora and seekers to the oracles. These murky waters of abstract thinking are tricky to navigate, so it’s probably fitting that to demonstrate the complexity, the Greek historian Plutarch used the story of a ship.
Charlie Elmore suffered a brain injury in a snowboarding accident four years ago. Now she's going to retrace the steps of her dramatic recovery and meet other young people adjusting to life after serious brain injuries, including 19-year-old car-crash survivor Callum, avid skier Tai and fashion buyer Hannah, who has to re-learn how to walk and talk after she collapsed whilst out shopping and hit her head on the pavement. With their help, Charlie embarks on a courageous journey to improve understanding of this 'invisible' disability, which is the biggest cause of acquired disability in young adults in Britain, and discovers the hidden ways it affects her own life too.
2015 • Brain
Throw away all of your preconceived ideas about the behaviour and nature of teenagers. New research suggests that without our turbulent teen years the human race would be, as Dr. David Bainbridge puts it in Surviving:) The Teenage Brain, "short lived and stupid."
The wheels in your brain are constantly turning, even when you're asleep or not paying attention. In fact, most of your brain’s activities are ones you’d never be aware of … unless they suddenly stopped. Nathan S. Jacobs takes us inside the always active, surprisingly spontaneous brain.
Dr Michael Mosley and Professor Alice Roberts investigate if male and female brains really are wired differently. New research suggests that the connections in men and women's brains follow different patterns, patterns which may explain typical forms of male and female behaviour. But are these patterns innate, or are they shaped by the world around us? Using a team of human lab rats and a troop of barbary monkeys, Michael and Alice test the science and challenge old stereotypes. They ask whether this new scientific research will benefit both men and women - or whether it could drive the sexes even further apart.
We all like to think we are in control of our lives - of what we feel and what we think. But scientists are now discovering this is often simply an illusion. Surprising experiments are revealing that what you think you do and what you actually do can be very different. Your unconscious mind is often calling the shots, influencing the decisions you make, from what you eat to who you fall in love with. If you think you are really in control of your life, you may have to think again.
Roses are red, violets are blue but according to the latest understanding these colours are really an illusion. One that you create yourself. Horizon reveals a surprising truth about how we all see the world. You may think a rose is red, the sky is blue and the grass is green, but it now seems that the colours you see may not always be the same as the colours I see. Your age, sex and even mood can affect how you experience colours. Scientists have unlocked the hidden power that colours can have over your life - how red can make you a winner, how blue makes time speed up, and more.
Horizon uncovers the truth about how you really make decisions. Every day you make thousands of decisions, big and small, and behind all them is a powerful battle in your mind, pitting intuition against logic. This conflict affects every aspect of your life - from what you eat to what you believe, and especially to how you spend your money. And it turns out that the intuitive part of your mind is a lot more powerful than you may realise.
It is a feeling we all know - the moment when a light goes on in your head. In a sudden flash of inspiration, a new idea is born. Today, scientists are using some unusual techniques to try to work out how these moments of creativity - whether big, small or life-changing - come about. They have devised a series of puzzles and brainteasers to draw out our creative behaviour, while the very latest neuroimaging technology means researchers can actually peer inside our brains and witness the creative spark as it happens. What they are discovering could have the power to make every one of us more creative.
Our minds store our entire lives, our memories and our deepest desires. Tell no one, and our thoughts remain our own. But our brains are biological computers. Computer hackers can tamper with our email. Could brain hackers someday be able to rewrite our thoughts?
A 200,000 year old jawbone tells the story of an elderly woman who was kept alive thanks to the kindness of her companions. From this first known example of human compassion to modern day heroes, the final programme in the Human Instinct series explores the most complex of instincts. The instinct to put others first.