Follow Your Nose: Cracking Smell's Code • 2018

Category: Brain
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"Follow Your Nose" seeks to unlock the secrets of olfaction. How do we perceive smells? What messages do they contain? How do they alter and influence our brain and behavior?

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Brain Overload

While the human brain can only process a limited number of tasks at the same time, our current information society is pushing its capacities to the extreme. Is there a point where our brain becomes incapable of processing the information it receives? Can we adapt?

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Engineering the Brain Deploying a New Neural Toolkit

A new generation of technology is revolutionizing neuroscience, allowing a closer study of the brain than had ever seemed possible. The techniques are hybrids of optics, genetics, and synthetic biology with the ability to manipulate brain activity, often in real time. Through direct stimulation of neural connections, some of these techniques hold the promise for the treatment of diseases like depression or schizophrenia.

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The Placebo Experiment

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.

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The Adult Brain: To Think By Feeling

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.

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Reality?

Part 1 of this eight-part series of shorts introduces the world of the visual scientist. Beyond boggling your mind, Prof. Arthur Shapiro explains how and why you see what you see -- and what part of what you see is actually "real", as opposed to how your mind fills in the blanks.

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The Myth of Responsibility

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.

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