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.
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.
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.
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?
In this episode I visit a researcher who is studying memory by using machine learning and neuroimaging to detect and predict people's brain states. I also travel to Japan to meet with a team working on ways to record the content of peoples’ dreams.
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.
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.