WBUR Launches a Six-Week Series: Brain Matters
Compared to what we know about most of our organs, our brain remains a vast, unexplored terrain. The living brain functions within the confines of the hard, protective skull. Accessing the brain with current technology risks inflicting permanent brain damage. Even when scientists obtain brain samples, the samples cannot reveal the pulsing electrical activity within the brain. Comprised of billions of neurons, the brain has been described as the most complex object in the world.
Human Brains Compared to Brains of Other Animals
In other fields of medicine, physicians can learn about the human body through the study of other animals. However, in the case of the brain, the study of other animals’ brains provides limited information. No other animal speaks, creates art and music, has a sense of history, or is influenced by ethical concepts.
Growing Pressure to Find Treatments for Brain Disorders
Medicine has conquered many infectious diseases and has a growing understanding of cancers and heart disease. The progress in these areas highlights the lack of progress in treating illnesses of the brain. And the growing awareness of brain disorders is making brain research a priority. The focus on the brain is driven in part by the rapid increase of those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias for which there is no treatment and no cure. For those suffering from mental illness, PTSD, autism, and head trauma, the need to understand the brain and find effective treatments is just as pressing.
The WBUR Special Series
WBUR in Boston has developed a 6-week series exploring the human brain and what scientists currently know about a variety of human maladies. It also explains the tools that neuroscientists are developing to gain a better understanding of how the normal brain functions, and what happens when someone develops an illness of the brain. The series takes on a new brain topic each week, including dyslexia, trauma, addiction, music and language, memory and morality.
For those whose eyes glaze over as soon as the word “neuron” is mentioned, take heart! The writers have done a great job in making the material understandable for the general reader. Even if you have not cracked a biology book since the 10th grade, you will be able to follow the presentations. And if you are ready for a deeper dive, the website has additional interviews and materials that will open your eyes to this last frontier of medicine. The series airs on Thursdays, except for July 3. You can find the schedule for the series and transcripts of the segments that have already aired here