Pleasure is vital for our survival - without it we wouldn't eat or have sex, and would soon die out as a species. But how does pleasure work and what gives us the most pleasure in life?
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.
Consciousness is perhaps the biggest riddle in nature. In the first part of this three part video series, we explore the origins of consciousness and take a closer look on how unaware things became aware.
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.
Imagine a world in which you can think but cannot speak. For many stroke survivors, like former football star Junior and landlord Barry, this nightmare is a reality. Inspired by the experience of his brother-in-law, filmmaker Richard Alwyn has made an intensely moving, personal film about language and its loss. Alwyn's brother-in-law, journalist Dennis Barker, had a stroke in 2011 which left him speaking a bizarre, fluent gibberish – just one manifestation of the condition ‘aphasia' in which people lose or have a severely impaired ability to use language. Speechless tells the powerful stories of two men who can no longer take language for granted. Much of the film is made on the Neuro Rehab Unit of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London's Queen Square. There, Alwyn meets 55 year old Barry who has been in hospital for 4 months since a stroke left him barely able to speak. Courageous and determined, Barry's personality constantly triumphs where his language fails. And two years after his stroke when just 35 years-old, former Premier League and international footballer Junior Agogo is still visiting the Unit as he battles to find his way in the world with depleted language. “I had thoughts but I'm saying, where was my voice? I was baffled, man.” Speechless raises questions that straddle philosophy and science. Can we understand the world if we don't have language to name and describe it? Can we think without language? How much is our identity wrapped up in language? These questions are at the heart of conversations that Alwyn has with clinicians and therapists working to get Barry and Junior back into the world. Speechless is fascinating and moving, upsetting and uplifting in its depiction of the isolating and estranging condition, aphasia.
2017 • Brain
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.
What if each of us could make the symptoms of an illness disappear? Cast a spell so powerful it would actually rid us of pain, help us walk, or breathe better? For centuries placebos have been thought of as fake medicine involving trickery and deceit, but Brain Magic: The Power of Placebo pulls back the curtains on the proof that placebos can have powerful – and real – effects on our mind and body. New research is proving that everything from sugar pills, to saline injections, to sham surgery, can have real healing power. Placebos won’t shrink tumours or cure diabetes, but they can be effective in subjective conditions – where self-appraisal plays a role. And, as we’ll discover in Brain Magic, neuroscience is revealing how our bodies’ response to treatment is heavily influenced by our expectations, prior experiences, our beliefs, and the social cues that surround us.