Episode 1: Inhibiting

Our first episode is out! You can find it below, via Soundcloud, and from what I understand, iTunes will know about this soon too. One thing at a time. It’s summer. It’s Friday. Happy weekend.

Episode 1 is about leeches. Yes, leeches. Remember leeches? Scourge of summer camp? Well, turns out we can learn a lot from them.

Wikimedia Commons

Leeches don’t even have a brain in the same way that you or I do, which makes them an odd pick for a podcast about the brain. Leeches have two sort-of brains, one on each end, with a bunch of clusters of nerve cells called ganglia (plural of ganglion) in the middle, like a spinal cord, but not (they are invertebrates, meaning they don’t have a backbone).

Wikimedia Commons

In Inhibiting, student host Lea Bourgade talks with Dr. Ian Greenhouse, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley (soon to be assistant professor at the University of Oregon in Eugene). Ian does not study leeches. Ian studies the human motor system. He zaps brains to get muscles to twitch, not just for fun, but to test ideas about how the brain might be communicating with the muscles. Ian and Lea talk about a study by Serapio Baca & colleagues, who used leeches to test similar ideas, but in a much messier way. Probably don’t be eating lunch. Enjoy!




Details & links:

Recorded: June 6, 2017

Released: July 29, 2017

Student Host: Lea Bourgade, a first-year student at Stanford University

Guest: Ian Greenhouse, a postdoctoral researcher in the neuroscience of human motor control, currently at the University of California, Berkeley & soon to be at University of Oregon in Eugene (now recruiting graduate students!).

Show & tell: Widespread Inhibition Proportional to Excitation Controls the Gain of a Leech Behavioral Circuit (not paywalled, for some reason!) by Serapio Baca, Antonia Marin-Burgin, Daniel Wagenaar, and William Kristan, Jr.

Thanks to: Stanford Storytelling Project for much guidance (Will Rogers, Jonah Willihnganz, Jake Warga, Jenny March), Thinking Matters for all kinds of support (Tiffany Lieuw, Parna Sengupta, Ellen Woods), the Generation Anthropocene podcast for advice (Michael Osborne and Leslie Chang), and Dan Kurtz, developer of Binky, for feedback on early versions of this episode.

We checked: Decathlon is a real sport, but Ian was thinking of biathlon, and it was invented when the Norwegian military competed at skiing and shooting rifles, sometimes at the same time. Oh, and that syphilitic seaman with hemiballismus? Verified.


I of the Vortex by Rodolfo Llinas

Daniel Dennett

Theme music: Podington Bear


Got a question about something else we talked about? Leave a comment and we’ll get back to you!

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