For most of the Earth's history, life consisted of the simplest organisms; but then something happened that would give rise to staggering diversity, and, ultimately, life as complex as that which we see today. Scientists are still struggling to figure out just what that was.
2015 • Nature
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.
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.
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.
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.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK - causing more deaths in this group than car accidents, and even more than cancer. This means that the most likely thing to kill Dr Xand Van Tulleken is himself. And he wants to know why. Xand finds out what we know about why people develop suicidal thoughts, and whether there is anything that we can do about it.