JournalistWe are David Kirkpatrick and Danny Hakim from The New York Times, and we've been investigating what was behind the fire at Grenfell Tower in London. Ask Us Anything!
Jun 30th 2017 by dannyhakim • 16 Questions • 4765 Points
Hi, I'm Steve Brown, the real estate editor of The Dallas Morning News. I've covered the beat in North Texas since 1980, following the fall and meteoric rise of one of the most vibrant housing markets in the country.
I'm also the 2017 chair of the National Association of Real Estate Editors, who met a few weeks ago for our annual conference in Las Vegas. Ask me anything!
Replies will be tagged "-SB"
And that's it, all! Thanks for joining us for another great AMA. For more Reddit happenings from The Dallas Morning News, be sure to follow us at u/dallasmorningnews
So, what was behind the fire at Grenfell Tower in London?
When you eat a steak does it also make you crave cock?
Nootropics is a very growing market. What are your thoughts on the use and/or the regulation of nootropics?
Hey! Love all the vintage Fortune covers... we've got a few of those floating around our office (Fortune is a sister brand at Time Inc).
How has the housing market changed in North Texas since you published this article in 2015?
The officials investigations of the fire are ongoing. What we know so far is that there was a faulty Hotpoint refrigerator that was the origin of the fire. The new facade of the building, which was put on last year, appears to have played a major role in allowing the fire to quickly engulf the building. A type of panel, or cladding, was used to resurface the building. The cladding has two thin sheets of aluminum around a flammable core of insulation, and that is seen as a significant factor in what happened. Additionally, there appear to be a number of other factors involved, including the broader design of the refurbished exterior. Grenfell Tower also had only one staircase, lacked fire alarms, sprinklers and a fire escape.
There are a host of chemical agents people consume with the goal of improving their cognitive function. It’s estimated that the sale of such drugs from improving cognition is a billion dollar a year business in the world. Most of these drugs and supplements induce the actions of natural neurotransmitters and modulate plasticity in ways that impact brain function. The drugs that are used off-label, designed to treat ADHD, are a case in point. A drug like Adderall is a stimulant that has the same general effects as the natural neurotransmitter, norepinephrine. There are about 20 chemical agents overall that are relatively well-known, distributed for sale and studied on some level, that are being sold in the nootropic marketplace. There is a significant body of evidence that at least some of these agents (not all) have positive “performance” or “cognitive” enhancing impacts. On the other hand, they are in a sense mind-altering and one consequence of their use is the downregulation of the processes that produces natural brain-generated transmitters. There are two consequences of this. You need to continue to take the stimulate or the boosting drug and you need to progressively increase the dosing of it to have a stable amplifying effect. When you’re off the stimulant, everything is turned down. Artificially establishing a situation over time in which you must have a stimulant to perform at a high level is a rather questionable life strategy.
We know that you can drive changes in the brain that are equivalent to taking a stimulant drug through an intensive brief period of brain exercise. I’ve earlier described brain exercises that we apply that are specifically designed to upregulate norepinephrine. We’ve shown that if you work at an exercise for a few minutes, before you enter a learning cycle, it accelerates learning rate and increases asymptotic learning achievements across a period of tens of minutes. If you do this everyday for several weeks, the upregulation of the release of the stimulant from the natural processes of the brain appears to be sustained out to the future. The difference? It’s all natural and it operates 24/7.
yeah I am in the process is actually analogue at first, and then everything is scanned and put together in photo shop and after effects. The pencil drawings are the way that I liked to work. we did a john Henry like race, animating in photoshop and adding texture, and the scanned pencil drawings won. but the breath is on photoshop with a wacom,
Prices have gone up by more than 20 percent in the last two years. And there's very little for sale in the area priced under $250,000 - only about 4,000 listings last time I checked. - SB
Who was the architect of the tower, have you visited any of their other buildings?
Architects will typically reuse details that they become familiar with, by looking at the projects that still stand you may be able to get an idea of the design intent behind this building. They are typically pressured into making projects cost less by the client, but often the drive for aesthetics comes from the themselves.
Good luck with you investigation, i'm interested to read the article when its published.
Do you feel you look like more of an albino orca, Lebanese house maiden, or morbidly obese Mexican?
I knew this was a bad idea but #2, a lebanese house maiden
One of the reasons people don’t think about brain health very often is because there has been no medicine to address issues of brain health. The child goes to the doctor, the doctor asks how they are, the child indicates that they’re fine, and the doctor concludes the child has a healthy brain. We also tend to translate brain health in terms of academic performance. The brain is a vascularized physical organ that can be in a sense flabby and in bad organic shape, just like any other organ. So inside every classroom at school, there are almost certain to be children in front of the teacher that have a very unhealthy brain. We know that the brain is degraded in its operations in ways that impact its general health by ongoing high stress in childhood. A child who has to live with high stress is impacted in ways that will frustrate their success in school and in life. A standard approach to this has been to blame the child for their failures and misbehavior. Now that we know so clearly that in fact their failures are substantially due to the neurological injuries that comes from very difficult childhoods there is a moral imperative to help them. Intensive brain-plasticity based restoration is a large part of the answer. I applaud any school site that understands this and undertakes the important task of helping these children to come back to the mainstream. It will be a better world when we identify every child that has this kind of unfortunate history and do whatever we can to help them be one of us.
Posit Science’s research team is conducting studies in very severely Adverse Childhood Experiences Impacted using a combination of meditation related practices, computerized brain training, social attachment related therapy, and life coaching. They’re seeing high success in helping these children in this large cohort. If you’d like to know more about that send me a PM.
In reporting a story like this, how much do you rely on "leaks" or documents being passed on to you that aren't immediately in the public domain? How do you obtain these documents?
Hi Bobby, #Big fan! In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, what messages were those aliens sending you?
What do you think about brain training companies like Lumosity?
What was it like working out the deal for you to use Boris Karloff's voice for your Bison?
One way to evaluate the claims of the available brain training programs is to look at the underlying research. Independent researchers (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28092015) recently published the first systematic review of the science behind commercially available brain-training programs. They identified 18 companies and found that 11 companies had no clinical trials or empirical evidence indicating that they helped with healthy aging. The remaining seven companies were classified into three levels of evidence with the highest level requiring at least two well-designed randomized controlled trials, at least one of which met gold standards. BrainHQ outranked Cognifit, Cogmed, BrainAge2, My Brain Trainer, Dakim, and Lumosity by a large margin, with more than twice the number of highest-standards controlled trials than any other commercial competitor. Lumosity actually came in the bottom bracket of those companies shown to have evidence.
This work clearly demonstrates that when it comes to brain training, not all programs are alike. At the same time this does not mean that there is no value to the training exercises sold by these companies, it simply means that they sell things for which they have limited hard evidence that they actually work.
was not a deal, I was blindly falling deeper into it, and then I sent a long email, about what I was trying to do with the film, and how I felt it would honor him.. sometimes that is all it takes, I have had people have things like that work out with famous musicians IE, can I please use your song... answer... yes
So far the price increases in most markets are based on demand, not speculation. But I worry we are starting to see more flippers. No bubble yet here. - SB
How difficult is it for you to not step on greggshells considering you weigh the best part of a tonne?
Are there any domestic type of exercises that you'd endorse? I've heard there's lots of proof that learning a new language helps keep the brain fit. Anything else you'd recommend, besides exercise?
See earlier responses, for example: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/6k1k3a/i_am_neuroscientist_dr_michael_merzenich_a/djk94gz/?st=j4k3tcla&sh=38874a3b
Language learning is a good form of exercise but only if you take it seriously. The brain only changes for the better when it matters to you. Try every day at whatever you're learning to be just a little bit better at it. And then quite a bit better next month. An advantage of a form of learning in something like language is that the learning is staged and requires cross-modal integration. It requires that you refine your listening, your vocal control, the visual operations that contribute to reading it, and the translations of sound by letter - initially all at a slow rate with high error and ultimately at speed and accuracy, initially as a relatively passive receiver but ultimately in highly-flexible high-speed interaction as a receiver and producer. All of this is very good for your brain.
But of course there are thousands of other things that start simple and become beautiful and sophisticated at speed if you just think about them from that perspective and if you take the mastery of them with some level of seriousness.
Just want to give everyone a heads up that Dr. Merzenich is leading the design of BrainHQ, as is stated on their website: https://www.brainhq.com/
I'm not implying or stating that Dr. Merzenich is advertising or promoting BrainHQ, just saying that it's worth mentioning that he is directly involved with it, and for whatever reason didn't state it in the above reply. My personal opinion is that he likely wanted to mention he is involved, but for whatever reason did not.
You’re right, I assumed people would understand that BrainHQ represents an important aspect of my own life’s world. What I realized about 30 years ago is that the translation of our science out to the potential benefit of human populations who struggle had become a moral imperative. I tried my best as a scientist to conduct studies that guided the intelligent and effective translation of brain-plasticity based strategies that I was certain could help. In these efforts, I required that no program claims would be made without supportive research trials. Most of the money in company development was spent in outcomes research. I was permitted by UCSF to found 2 companies (Scientific Learning & Posit Science – BrainHQ) that undertook this translation, without their forcing me to leave my faculty position. I am the first faculty member on the San Francisco campus who was given such permission primarily because I convinced them that this effort was not about personal aggrandizement. Still, of course, I benefit in lots of ways by what these companies do. One way I benefit is by the fact that they give me immense pride in making a life effort to help people that struggle.
Some people think that a commercial effort is a basis of scientific contamination. I believe that if I hid the secrets of our science under a bottle and did not explain that BrainHQ represented my own best attempt to provide a strategy to help, I would be a moral coward.
What is the latest research on reversing short term memory loss? Also in specific ,memory loss from damaged hippocampus. Thank you.
Restoration of memory is commonly approached by applying either one of two general strategies. The usual training form is to practice remembering. This approach stems from a long history is cognitive experimental psychology where the natural therapeutic approach has been to address a weakness by practicing in ways that would be imagined to directly overcome it. For memory this means 3 things: practicing to remember longer strings or lists of information, practicing to recall things that you know belong together or that are associated, and learning tricks or strategies or methods to work around your failing memory. All of these strategies have compensatory value but none of them actually fix the fundamental neurological problems that usually apply to an individual with a failure memory. For example, older people lose their memory primarily for 2 reasons. The first is that the brain no longer represents information it's receiving or manipulating in as sharp or salient form. Because information is represented unreliably in a “fuzzy” neurological way it struggles to record it. Recovery of memory requires training that again refines, sharpens, increases the salience of, and recovers the reliability of the representation of the high-speed details of what you have just seen or heard or felt. Secondly, old brains are noisy and that nosiness results in problems of interference for any long sustained operation. It’s important that you train the brain in ways that suppresses and reduces that noisiness. All of these basic contributors to memory failure can be very positively engaged in most individuals by appropriate, intensive exercise. That exercise can come in natural forms or by engaging yourself in the right forms of computerized exercises.
Hi Chris, Very excited about the upcoming film, already donated to kickstarter. My question is: Do you consider this film (and your previous film) as existing better in context strictly with other animated features (or shorts) or do you wish or hope that it will be considered alongside other independent live action films? (and as a potential follow up: is one better than the other?)
What are the up and coming neighborhoods where you can still get a deal in Dallas? Asking for a friend.
Oak Cliff, Dallas' near south side and parts of Northeast Dallas are still priced below the area median. - SB
Do you think it's to late to change your characters name on SDRR to Lards Ulrich?
How do I increase (either temporarily or permanently) my brain plasticity to help me learn new things?
You're too wordy. Have someone punch that up and get back, there's something there
There’s a class of exercises that you can do that we know will upregulate the processes that control brain change itself. When we engage a brain to try to improve its faculties we are commonly trying to exercise this “modulatory control” machinery as a prerequisite as getting the most out of a brain training experience. In general, intensive, serious, new-skill learning commands the attention of the machinery that controls learning rate. If you’re a life-long learner, and especially if that learning applies to elaborating your operational skills and abilities it is likely that your brain plasticity / control machinery is in good shape.
Scientists have extensively studied the way this learning machinery is controlled. They’ve directly demonstrated ways to engage it that results in an amplification of its powers. We apply those strategies in specific brain exercises and have shown that when we precede learning by those exercises, learning is faster and asymptotic performance achievements are elevated. If you want to self-assess the status of this machinery consider your basic level of alertness, brightness, sparkiness, and connection with the world. If you’re on the sparky side of life this machinery is probably in pretty good shape.
One last point: a key neuromodulator of change in the brain is dopamine which is associated with pleasure, happiness, and positive good spirits. Generous people, people that are sympathetic to one another, people that are connected to one another with positive good spirits have healthy assets in this sphere. Be one of them.
1) Do the quality of our thoughts also change our brains? Can having positive self talk etc improve our brains?
2) Can I become smarter at 25 given I've been cognitively stagnant for the past 9 years? Is it possible?
Can you get smarter at 25? Half of the variance of adaptive intelligence is explained by variance in brain speed. Can your brain speed be accelerated? Not a problem. The right kind of brain exercises on a computer, or the right kind of natural activities, can contribute to an acceleration of the natural processes of your brain at every brain system level. When scientists studying intelligence tried to understand other factors that contributed to adaptive or fluid intelligence, they added 4 or 5 other key factors to that list. Fortunately for you, they are also all plastic. So can you recover your brain power, and make yourself “smarter”? Get to it. I should say that psychologists that study these issues have wrestled with the mutability of intelligence for a long time. There is still a strong body of psychology deniers, sort of like the global warming deniers, that seem to lack a full appreciation of our capacity to change our neurological abilities to change the machinery of our brain, by engaging in the appropriate forms of exercise.
In time, they will get over this.
As for changing your attitude, to change your capabilities; can you talk to yourself and drive yourself into a ditch? Or to improve your performance abilities? Learning and achievement is contextual. If I simply explain to individuals – adults or children – that they have a clear capacity to change their brain for the better, I increase the likelihood that over time, they will be better. If I simply educate children in the fifth grade that their brains are plastic, they will do better in the sixth grade. This is well-established science. Of course, the same applies on the negative side of life. My dear sweet mother-in-law, a master pie maker, began telling herself at about age 70 that she could no longer make a good pie. Pretty soon, she couldn’t. It is a very good idea to live life with a positive attitude.
Sorry for bombarding you with questions!
Do different parts of the brain express different levels of plasticity? If yes, what makes some parts more plastic than others?
Also, are NMDA and AMPA receptors absolutely necessary for plasticity? Do non-glutamatergic synapses exhibit plasticity as well?
How did you decide to dedicate yourself to a career in animation as opposed to non-animated films?
So I'm currently looking for a house in the Dallas market. I keep getting told that the market will cool down soon because all the new housing being built will catch up with the market. What are your thoughts? Wait or get in now?
There are very substantial differences across brain system levels in the extent to which plastic change can be induced by engagement or training. The way that the brain can change at any level is controlled by the sources and distributions of inputs to each location on that level. At lowest brain system levels those input distributions are relatively constrained. As you move up in cortical systems, more complex integration over greater representational distances, are in play. At highest-brain levels, connectivity effectively delivers information from almost all sources very broadly all across large functional brain regions. Very complicated integrated products can be represented at the top of brain systems. By contrast, at the entry levels, refinement is on a far more constrained and local scale. Still everything is plastic and as I acquire any ability I’m actually changing everything, at every level, all across engaged brain systems. Think of a simple behavior in which I am distinguishing whether I see the outline of a pear or other fruits. At the top of the brain, I am holding the expectation of a pear -like image as a constant-present memory (“working memory”) which is actually a representation of the expectation of the occurrence of a pear. By that process, everything across the brain system below, from the entry levels of the brain to this highest level, are going to be modified to improve my abilities to distinguish pears from other fruits. I’m going to refine the details on the bottom level, just as I refine the rapid recognition of pears or non-pears. It is the system that is plastically remodeling at every level. An important aspect of this process is the fact that the brain from the top, where things are most flexible, is actually broadly controlling what is permitted to change across the system by holding an ongoing representation of the “right answer” in memory. The brain is continually weighing success and when it identifies an achievement of success it releases those neurotransmitters that enable change at every system-level. The bottom line? The most magnificent plastic changes are expressed on the highest levels of brain systems. But at the same time, in any learning progression, important things are changing at every level, even though at the bottom those changes are far more constrained.
From another perspective, as the brain is engaged in early life, it generates highly reliable “mini-columns” that represent the details of what you see or hear or feel in a highly devolved way. The initial maturation of a reliable analytic machine is a product of coincident input-dependent (Hebbian) plasticity. As the internal coupling in mini-columns grows, the cooperativity of the mini-column produces a more powerfully coordinated output. At the same time, these same changes are also read by brain processes that are contributing to progressive myelination. As these changes occur to confer reliability at the entry level of the brain system, they enable the same process to occur at the next system level. This plastic “maturation” is expressed level-by-level across brain systems. Everything sweeps forward.
Why is the teenage brain still squirrely? In a sense it’s because these changes have not progressed to a level in which it has become reliable and predictable in its operations at the higher brain levels. In this sense, you can think of the areas of the brain that are the most plastic as varying as a function of an individual’s age. Finally as you age, this process rolls backward. The highest level of operation in the brain becomes more plastic again. This time, it is expressing a weakness and not a strength because counterbalancing plasticity has degraded higher-order reliability.
somewhat accidentally, It started with a crush on Sue Bachmin, who was taking an animation class (isn't that how many things start) but then I made my first animated and when I played it in a room full of people I realized that the assembly of people taking in a piece of art is what I wanted, I did live action film, video, and performance, but animation was in many ways what people responded to the most, and granting agencies also, so it became my trade, it is lovely and very painful also. your mind is going like a bird, and your images develope as slow as trees. I love the feeling of losing yourself in a crowd that is experiencing the same thing you are, and letting your Ego quiet down and just take something in, I like being on both sides of the screen the melter, and the melted.
A couple of years ago I told folks to wait. That didn't work out so well. There will not be enough new houses built in this cycle to catch up with demand. So if you need to buy a house you should go for it. - SB
Do you really need 12 open mic comics on the same podcast?
I recently started a Paleo / Ketogenic diet and while the weight loss has been fantastic, the real amazing part for me has been the mental focus I've recently acquired. Things that I have struggled with work wise for months are suddenly clear. Can you talk about the relationship of the diet to memory and focus?
First of all, no. Second of all, I only have 3 comics on - 3 limit.
They're not open mics, they're middlers
I’m not familiar with the details of the arguments about the influence of a Paleo diet to memory and focus but people I respect have made arguments on a serious level and have related them to both brain and physical health. See Robert Lustig: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM See Dale Bredesen: https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/paperchase-aging/pdf/NjJf3fWGKw4e99CyC.pdf
For those who can't afford BrainHQ, what other domestic methods do you suggest to make their brains perform better and repel degradation?
First off, how do you spell magnesium. But if I were to guess approximately 3100 degrees celsius
Please take a look at my response to /u/venomeater69 for natural ways to maintain your organic brain health.
We very much wish we could provide it to every citizen in the world for free and hope that at some point in the future something close to that will be achieved. A BrainHQ subscription costs about $14 a month which is not too many cups of coffee and a person can do a lot in a month. Why not think about a several week long bootcamp once or twice a year where you take full advantage of that relatively small investment. If there is a reason why someone is devoid of resources, write a note to me and I’ll try to help.
Also note that quite a few public libraries now offer BrainHQ for the citizens of their community or town for free. If you’re lucky maybe your library can provide that for you. If not, you might ask them to consider providing that service.
Your wish is granted. Yes
Is there a correlation between rising ocean levels and your wading in the shallows?
Is there a level of plasticity that can occur outside the brain? For example, given enough time (even if longer than a typical human life span) could a paraplegic reroute certain functions via peripheral nerves to reconnect below the point of injury? I know in cases of heart blockages there is often evidence of angiogenesis trying to route blood around the blockages. Anything like this in the neural arena?
Of course plasticity is occurring on a substantial level within the spinal code and brainstem, that is to say below the forebrain itself. And peripheral nerves and sensory organs do have some level of regenerative power. It’s possible that some level of rerouting can occur but I can think of no illustration on a scale equivalent like that recorded in the tissues of the brain itself. I’ve long believed that it’s an understudied scientific issue. For example, we know that the quality of information from sensory receptors in the skin and internal organs progressively deteriorates as they die off at older ages. Is this die off use-dependent? Could we be doing things that better sustain them? We also know that we can recovery the integrity of the autonomic nervous system by brain exercises. Here we can see strong effects in the physical body expressed by changes in the power of actions recorded of course far outside the brain. These are not the kinds of things people have considered plastic but they clearly are.
The only place you could do this job for 40 years is in Dallas, NYC or Chicago. I was lucky. - SB
How can I know if I'm at risk for Alzheimer's?
In my mid 30s now, and noticing I'm not remembering things as well as I used to. Not sure if this is just a normal part of aging. I've done a commercial genetic test (23andMe), which was negative for increased Alzheimer’s risk, but my understanding is that Alzheimer’s is not strongly linked genetics anyway. Is there anything else I can do to get a sense for my current brain health, and potentially spot early warning signs of dementia?
Almost everybody is at risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. Or to put it in another way, risk is defined by (A) genetics (B) several hundred known vicissitudes that add to your risk of onset, (C) how you live your life in relation to the health of your brain. In the last case, how do you think you stack up? If you’re like 99% of the people in the world, you don’t really know what your brain is asking you to do to sustain its health and functionality. Genetics IS important and can clearly put you in a higher risk population but genetics is rarely definitive. We know that people in very high risk populations CAN sail through to the end of a long life without falling over the cliff.
Everyone should be monitoring their brain health from at least the middle of life onward. Calibrate yourself. One way to do this is to go to BrainHQ.com and complete exercises in the speed and attention categories. See how your performance relates to other individuals of your age. More generally, you can assess your speed of operations in any task that challenges you to recognize and respond to things at high speed. If you’re fast afoot, things are probably pretty ok inside. If you’re not, think about changing your approach to life with an ongoing consideration of brain health. I offer advice about this in a book I wrote called Soft Wired which you can find on Amazon. You need to adopt a life of continuous new learning. You need to challenge your brain to improve the very elementally faculties that control the speed, accuracy, and reliability of its operations. Even if you’re very slow and losing it, the brain is usually capable of relatively strong, even dramatic, restoration. I believe that recovery of speed with sustained accuracy is a pretty strong biomarker of recovered organic brain health.
Final point: If you have confirmation that you carry the APOe4 marker, take brain health exercises especially seriously. You should be working everyday deploying strategies designed to sustain the elaborated, healthy, high-speed operation of your brain.
They won't build the second 42-story tower but eventually something will be built there. Land prices are too high for a dog park. Sorry dogs. - SB
Who were you more scared to sit next to at the Cellar table, Patrice or Colin?
I used to be deep in the whole nutrition/homeopathy cult and now I tend to discount anything that even remotely sounds like woo. So I can't tell you how much it bothers me that every article I've seen on mindfulness meditation shows it produces positive changes in the brain as determined through fMRI studies in illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. Could you elaborate on how a simple exercise of consciously focusing on your breath with a quiet mind is able to change how the brain unconsciously handles business?
The brain has evolved strategies to control its state of arousal and alertness, flexibly living from a high-alert to a pensive thoughtful, quiet pre-sleep moment. The ideal brain can move under direct control to deal with high operational powers on either the quiet or the lively, active, noisy sides of life. Many people struggle in controlling their reactivity in managing to operate effectively in a noisy higher-anxiety world. One of my favorite studies of meditation was conducted in a wonderful laboratory at the U of Wisconsin to determine whether or not meditation altered processes that impacted anxiety or arousal in the brain. The initial study indicated that the responses recorded in practiced meditators were no different in control subjects. Surprised by this outcome, the researchers looked at the responses of individuals who sought meditation training. They immediately discovered that their machinery was distorted and sustained their ongoing higher-anxieties. When they were trained their brains were dramatically changed in the normal-ward direction. Because these shifts in neurological engagement are so powerful it’s a great advantage for a brain to be able to move at will to a quiet, uncluttered, thoughtful, highly-focused mode. If you practice this as a habit, you have the power to move from active engagement in the world to the thoughtful quiet moment. And you’re far better off for it. Not every citizen needs to engage in meditation practices but if you’re on the anxious side of life, it might be a very useful aspect of how you think about neurological self-improvement.
We’ve conducted several studies, and are conducting an ongoing study in an aging population, on the separate and integrated benefits of meditation and brain training. Everything to this point indicates that they might have even more value together. A holistic approach might be greater than the sum of the parts in at least many individuals.
Who is the next BIG comedian to die, and why is it Artie Lange?
I apologize if this is somewhat broad, but could you discuss the role of neurotrophic factors in plasticity and adult neurogenesis?
I love Artie I would never say that to him. Keep all the mean shit to me you piece of gaaaarbage
Neurtrophins are key enablers of plasticity and sustained brain health. Measures of neurotrophins are canaries in the coalmine for determining the physical and functional status of your brain health. In almost every clinical indication, in which people are neurologically and psychiatrically struggling, the production of these “growth factors” is downregulated. And in condition after condition, that relatively consistent finding has led to the hypothesis that that downregulation is central to all kinds of neurological weaknesses and diseases. Healthy brains make more neurotrophins. When we exercise the brain extensively, we need upregulation of neurotrophins and once it’s upregulated we see that its production is sustained over the longer term. Neurotrophins are one of the primary chemical indices we use – on that long list of chemical and physical changes in brains – to demonstrate that we have driven the brain in a positive brain-health-recovery direction.
I could of course talk about this in a lot more depth in a nerdy extension in neuroscience. If you’re interested in that ask me a follow-up question privately.
Hi Bobby, #Big fan! Was it troubling staying still on the flat bed when Jesse, Randolph and Rae were helping you escape from the park?
Hi Dr. Merzenich!
Was wondering if you have studied brain plasticity as it relates to hearing loss. There is some interesting research regarding the reorganization of the brain following a hearing loss and following amplification. As far as I know, there is no definitive link between hearing loss and mental decrease but I am taught that a loss may in fact be linked. What is your opinion on this?
I really wanna laugh at that reference but I don't know what the fuck you're talking about. #gofuckyourmother #loveyou
Actually there is quite compelling evidence that hearing loss, or the chronic tinnitus that is often associated with it, are very significant risk factors for the early onset of dementia. Language listening is obviously one of our most important sources of incoming information and play such a central role in the maintenance of our social cognition powers. As language listening and usage are degraded the higher level machinery that supports our language-related manipulations and thoughts are impacted. In hearing loss, as with almost any other serious vicissitudes, a person should be especially concerned about assuring that their life strategies include some level of natural or regular computer-based brain exercise.
When you lose your hearing, your neurological representations of language necessarily adjust and now in a sense you’re recognizing what you hear with new machinery operating in a new way. If I attempt to correct that hearing by amplifying sound, either by application of a hearing aid or by introduction of a cochlear implant, I enable a correction. However, merely amplifying sound is just stage 1 of recovery. Most people don’t realize that beyond turning on the hearing aid the brain has to make large-scale plastic readjustment to maximize effective hearing aid use. Given the hearing loss, hearing aid or cochlear implant-based correction is a very good idea. With or without that aid, continuous brain training to get the most out of your residual hearing should be a part of your life.
You're a delightfully lovable creep, Bobby. What was the meanest thing you said about Vos at the roast the other night?
Does your work in neuroplasticity extend to the idea of changing from a "talent" to a "growth" mindset, or is it more concerned with actual medical conditions like Alzheimer's? If it does extend that far, do you have any advice?
Bonnie was dating Nathan Fillion from Castle and Firefly, and she dumped him and ended up marrying Vos. I put up a photo on the big screen of Fillion and read his credits. Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy and a network ABC show with 170 episodes, 100,000 an episode
Then I read Vos' that started with Maxwell's and Poughkeepsie - what a bad choice she made
Neuroplasticity has created within your skull that person that is you by massive schedules of change up to this point in your life. It has provided you with a machine that is the basis of you and that is absolutely unique in the world because it has been created through quadrillions of moments of change. You are incredibly highly specialized in all kinds of ways. There has never been anyone else in the world in its long history exactly like you and there will never be another. Still, you are a work in progress. Do you want to change what you are? Or how you operate? Or what you’re good at? Go for it. Dramatic transformation can often be achieved at any age. Many individuals squander this great human gift.
Many people seem to be endowed with special talents or abilities. It’s difficult to sort out the contributions on the path to special talent that come from life’s experiences from variations in genetics. But one thing that is certain is that high achievement in any domain is dependent on a heavy level of directed practice. That directed practice is all about changing, strengthening, refining, and increasing the power of that machine controlling those special abilities. No great artist, no great athlete, no great inventor arrives at that position of high achievement without a long history of progressive history of refinement and growth in their power. You distinguish growth from talent. I say talent is a product of growth. Growth is a requisite of talent.
What was that weird noise you made getting out of the car that one time?
Dr. Merzenich, At the age of 19 I contracted viral Encephlomyelitis from a presumed enteroviral source. It was a long and ardorous healing process, and I can tell it made changes to my memory. My visual memory seems to be taking over for the pneumonic memory. (I now recall test material better by "reading the words in the textbook again in my minds eye" during tests, as opposed to word memorization, which mine has deteriorated.)
My question is, can neuroplasticity be jump started by inflammatory challenges such as encephalitis?
We have studied brains that have suffered diffuse broad damage in an attempt to try and understand plastic changes associated with brain poisoning (e.g., PCBs, antipsychotic meds, antidepressants, chemotherapeutic meds, heavy metals, and brain infections like meningitis, encephalitis, cerebral malaria, tick diseases, et alia). We’ve also supported training studies conducted in a number of these populations including large trials in Canada and in the U.S. in individuals that have brains affected by HIV/AIDS, brains treated with chemotherapeutic drugs, and brains altered by very diffuse head injury (e.g., as occurs in professional contract-sports athletes). In all such instances, as has been well documented, almost every aspect of brain function is degraded by the infection or poison, although there is some differentiation by condition as a function of the specific drug, poison, viral or bacterial agent. Virtually every change that is expressed negatively can be improved by reengagement. It’s all plastic. These changes are best documented in breast cancer survivors where the “brain fog” induced by chemo has been described in controlled trials as almost completely overcome by intensive training. Importantly, in the largest and most controlled by these trials, the women who participated actually continued to improve substantially to achieve above-normal performance in a non-training period after an initial intense training epoch. Scientists have also recorded strong recovery of function in individuals whose brains have been broadly impacted by HIV/AIDS infections. In these and other studies, imaging and brain recording measures confirm a substantial physical restoration of brain health in these damaged-brain individuals.
It should be noted that when you have a history of brain infection or brain poisoning, that’s another of a long list of unfortunate set of happenstances that should focus some of your attention on brain health pretty much for the rest of your life.
Do you actually do bang bangs in real life and if so what is your favorite cuisine pairing?
What is your professional opinion, and your personal opinion, about this little corner of reddit called r/Tulpas?
Yes unfortunately I have, it would have to be dinner then chinese
Isn’t the brain wonderful in its ability to create powerful and elaborate constructions that seem “real”? Hey, that’s all it does. Do you think the world out in front of you, with it’s bright and dull colors, is “real”? It is in the sense that our sensory organs provide us with, if not linear, at least systematic reconstruction of its physical dimensions and qualities. In every other respect, it is a neurological fiction. One of the greatest of its fictions is you. Isn’t it also great that it can attach you so strongly to the other fictional characters that you love (of course they have a physical atomic reality)? Do you want to create another one that has no physical atomic reality? That’s OK by me.
Brain plasticity applies to “mental actions” just as well as it applies to your operations in interaction with the physical world. When I rehearse my part in life’s drama I am changing by brain of course. Just as I change it I systematically improve my ability to use a tool or master a craft. It’s all plastic.
Were you drawing from personal experience with your scene in Sirens? It all seemed so real
My father died from Alzheimer’s. Per your intriguing intro, will you help us understand how to throw the switch? What, exactly, should we be doing to sustain or even grow our abilities, to successfully manage our organic brain health, to improve our lot in life, and keep ourselves safer? Thank you!
Oh when I had the coke bottle stuck in my ass. No I've never used a coke bottle
We’ve conducted series of studies in animal models in which we’ve studied brains near the end of the animal’s life and contracted a long list of physical, chemical, and functional brain assets to the status of those assets in the brains of young adult animals in their “prime of life”. In those studies we’ve asked: “What’s different?” The answer: everything. Then we ask, “What’s stronger in an old brain?” Answer: nothing. Old brains are less reliable. They’re slower, less intact, less well-served by the vasculature of the brain. They’re less responsive to immunological challenge. They disconnect, simplify, chemically degrade, reduce in sophistication, dis-elaborate, and lose attentional control. Then we ask, “How many of these assets that distinguish very old brain from prime of life brains can be overcome by brain training?” The answer is all of them.
What do I need to do to drive these changes? Do I have a brain that looks like it’s approaching the cliff?
First of all, calibrate yourself. I recommend considering your brain speed as an index of your brain health, just as it provides an index of an animal’s brain health. When the brain is operating at speed with high reliability it means that your positive switch is still on. If you’re problem-solving and if you’re fast in mental operations then you’ve sustained your competitive edge. If you recognize any slowing at all and if your grandchild can now whoop you at a game then you probably need some serious brain work. If your situation is still relatively positive you can accomplish keeping yourself in a safe position by adopting natural lifestyle changes. If your situation is a little more questionable you might consider engaging in progressive computerized exercises designed to drive your brain speed and accuracy back to a youthful performance level. Fortunately, these elemental abilities are plastic and strong rejuvenation is commonly achievable. I don’t want to be too promotional but another simple thing you could do is visit BrainHQ.com and compare your performance to others in your age group.
In the ACTIVE trial computerized brain exercises focused on processing accuracy at speed were applied in a controlled trial conducted more 15 years ago. At the beginning of the trial the average age was around 74. Individuals who trained for 10 hours at the trial outset, then an additional 2-4 hours a year later and an additional 2-4 two years after that had strong improvement in everyday life. They were more active in their communities and had only around half as many driving accidents. They were significantly less likely to develop senior depression and significantly more likely to sustain effective control of their everyday lives. Ten years after training initiation and 7 years after the last “dose” of brain training (they only received 14-18 hours overall), scientists asked: “What happened to these people? What was their fate?” The answer: 48% fewer had developed dementia than in the random-assigned control population. While these studies are preliminary they’re consistent with our perspective that recovering and sustaining high-speed high-accuracy performance in a brain is a very good thing for all concerned. My guess is that this includes you.
P.S. on BrainHQ the exercise used in the ACTIVE trial is called “Double Decision”. This task was developed by Karlene Ball from UMB and Daniel Roenker UWK.
What do you think of neuroprotective mechanisms following injury to the brain? Be it a concussion, stroke, or cardiac arrest, there have been studies showing a delayed onset of symptoms, approximately a day or two after injury. How do you think the brain is responding to this? Or, why do you think this delay happens? Sorry if this is too broad. Thanks!
Stop with the fucking, stop getting real, don't make statements. Either be funny or fuck yourself
When you have a concussive injury, or a stroke, or often when you have a heart attack or heart failure, or spend a period in the ICU of a day or more and you suffer from delirium, these are commonly expressed by a compromise of the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier seals off the brain compartment from the blood compartment, which is important for brain function in two ways. First, chemical agents from blood change the excitability of brain tissues, and thereby disable them functionally. They radically increase the noisiness of the brain and the brain rapidly adjusts to this change by plastically changing its speed of operations. In all of these conditions, brain slowing is the signature aspect of the incurred impairments. It has to slow down to sustain control. A break in the blood brain barrier also enables the passage of infectious agents from blood to directly enter brain tissue. The brain responds by walling off viruses and bacteria, with amyloid – a natural brain chemical which helps protect the brain. Unfortunately, by that protection, it creates an inclusion called an amyloid body, which is a forerunner—an expression – of impending Alzheimer’s disease. This is why all of these conditions increase the risk of an earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Basically, especially in older brains, they initiate the processes that put it into play. It is very important that you do whatever you can to sustain the integrity of your blood brain barrier!
We are conducting trials at Vanderbilt University in which we are trying to help people who have a scheduled serious surgical procedure in which we anticipate a likely compromise of their blood-brain barrier. We know that the barrier is plastic, and we know that we can probably increase its resilience to breakdown when it is put through the strings of a long and elaborate surgical operation. We will know soon whether we can decrease the probability of its compromise as a consequence of an individual going through this body and brain altering experience. We have also been applying training in individuals that have suffered from concussion and stroke as well as individuals who have been through a period of delirium in ICU, with one of our objectives being the restoration of the integrity of the blood brain barrier.
When most people think about brain remodeling or brain recovery conferred by intensive training, they think about it in neurological terms. It turns out that something is different about a relationship between the vascular supply to the tissue to the brain and the brain tissues themselves is also plastic, and can be very positively impacted by the right forms of intensive training. In an individual that is struggling because of such a history, the training has a dual purpose: a recovering high speed, high accuracy performance characteristics, and restoring this very special vascular to brain tissue relationship.
Will you dress up as Victor, the Just for Laughs mascot?
In the early days of your research, the accepted idea was that the brain was static and that the only change in structure and function that occurred during mid-late life was degeneration. What was some of the early evidence and findings that led to the acceptance of the idea of neuroplasticity? What made you go against the largely accepted school of thought?
I think I already am. I look very similar right now. Just paint me green and take my clothes off
First of all, there were prior studies conducted primarily in the domain of physiological psychology that argued contrary to the predominant view that the brain was continuously plastic. They just weren’t taken very seriously by the neuroscientific mainstream. My transformation came from two sources: a research team that I lead at the University of California contributed to the invention of a device called the cochlear implant and we realized in its application that what can appear to be an almost miraculous recovery in listening ability must be attributed to brain remodeling. These devices shocked the sector of the hearing range that normally only represents highest frequency sounds with only a very crude simulation of the normal patterns of input representing intelligible speech. Not surprisingly, the speech that most individuals initially heard was very degraded. In time, a miracle occurred. They heard everything. And, they described what they heard as sounding completely natural, just as it sounded before they lost their hearing. This was not a miracle accounted for by our engineering. The brain did it by changing itself to account for this recovered power.
In parallel, we were conducting studies on the basic organization of great sensory systems of the brain and very early on showed that the changes that occurred following damage to a peripheral nerve innervating the hand manifested powerful adult brain remodeling. We quite quickly showed that we could drive such changes very easily by manipulating inputs from the skin, or by training in an animal of any age. That led us to conduct studies in which we trained animals to define the rules that govern plastic change. We saw that plasticity was rule-based, and following those rules, we could change the brain positively or negatively in performance and in its operational powers at will.
After a long series of studies designed to optimize this level of control, we have looked for models in which we could translate this science out into the world, to the benefit of struggling human populations. Initial focus was on children that struggle in their language abilities, and struggled to learn to read, and struggle in their cognitive development in school. Up to this point, we have trained more than 6 million such children in American public schools. Our interest then turned to individuals in the adult world, in adult populations, who acquire problems in life, expressed as psychiatric illness, or neurological injury or illness. Because everyone’s brain is plastic, every individual that struggles on planet earth can improve their functional abilities and brain health through appropriate forms of intensive brain remodeling.
Finally, it is not just about the struggling. It is about every one of us. It is about every individual making the most out of life. About working to improve their operational performance abilities; on the job, in life, in the things that matter to them. It includes you.
Can you comment on how your findings could help improve brains of those with some form of addition? (alcohol, drug, video games,...) Given some research indicates their ability to reason diminishes. thank you
There are three aspects of related science in play that I can comment about. First, we know that a brain that has not evolved highly stable operations puts its owner at high risk for onset of a serious addiction. For example, children that have multiple adverse childhood experiences are delayed in their development and are left with brains that are commonly attentionally impaired. They struggle to control the child’s impulses. They struggle to suppress inappropriate responding. If a child in their early life has four categories of adverse childhood experiences against them, as shown by the Kaiser Health Initiative Research, they are 15 times more likely to develop a serious addiction as a teenager or young adult. So, the first line of attack in addressing issues of addiction are to strengthen those brains in ways that reduce the probability that addiction will be in such a child’s future. Second, we have been training individuals in small studies with ongoing addictions of alcohol or drugs and we now know that we can plastically drive changes in the brain that can plausibly help in recovery. For example, we have preliminarily shown that we can reduce craving for the addicted substance. It should be understood that we do not view brain training alone as likely to be effective in addiction related therapy because we think other life coaching and other cognitive and social therapeutic strategies almost certainly have to come into play.
Finally, the chronic addict has neurological changes that arise in their brain as a consequence of the addiction. Those changes weaken an individual operationally in elementary and in complex higher order processes. For example, ultimately, they slow down the brain and impair the individual’s cognitive and other abilities. Ultimately, they distort the machinery that contributes centrally to the individual’s sense of well-being and happiness. Things that should be central in the individual’s life and affections (like their marriage partner, or their child, or the natural beauties of life) can be weak as rewarding or stimulating sources of experience for them. And, the rebalancing and recovery of the rewards of these abilities is a very valuable aspect of recovery.
Scientists have shown that improvements in cognitive status resulting from therapy, directly predict that the person will stay off the drug or the alcohol once they leave the clinic and recovery of their attachment to the people that are at the core of their lives. Again, brain training and exercise in the appropriate forms can contribute to the recovery of these lost or degraded faculties.
There is a saying in academia that 'mathematics is a young man's game'. This is disheartening to many researchers who reach 30 without proving something important, and evidence seems to suggest that most of the best theorems in mathematics were proven by people younger than 30. Is this just a remarkable coincidence, or is something going on here? Maybe it is not related to cognitive ability, per se, but a willingness to take on a daring and seemingly hopeless task and keep at it for up to a decade. I'd be interested in your take on this phenomenon.
I would like to address your wonderful question just a little bit hypothetically. So, as I integrate information and I advance my powers in thinking outside the box, it is an advantage not to know too much. It is an advantage to have a certain level of intrinsic unreliability. Because, in a sense, the more I drive structured representation in my brain, the more I imbed the rules of formulaic mathematics, the more constrained I am for engendering the truly original solution. In a sense, the older brain always bears the weight of its experiences, which can be constraining and limiting. We have a tendency to think that the more we know, the more original we will be. Actually, knowing a little from an isolated position (like, for example, working in the patent office, and not in the university laboratory) can be a big advantage. I have noticed that over the years, some of the most original scientific thought has come from the more surprising places where people have the advantage of a level of intellectual obscurity. On the other hand, you can go to a scientific meeting in my country and in my discipline, and find a thousand people who hold the same, virtually identical, scientific religious convictions.
I think mathematics might present a special problem in this respect, because it commands the mastery of symbolic manipulation that is rule based, that ultimately makes a hide bound creature out of an originally very open minded individual. I really don’t know any way to get over deeply established hide-boundedness. On the other hand, your brain is plastic. It is possible for old dogs to learn new tricks.
Hi Dr. Merzenich, do you have any experience with hemifacial spasm?
Since the predominant hypothesis of origin seems to lie in the facial nerve (a nerve enervating the muscle of the face and not the brain) there is relatively little that I could say about it except that any widespread engagement of those muscles will result in a very powerful feedback from sensory receptors from muscles, skin and other tissues in the face to the brainstem (which could contribute to generating an enduring problem). I’m uncertain as to whether or not there might be a brain plasticity-related strategy to impact it but it’s not impossible to think there might be.
If I were you I would have someone stimulate the surface of my face (as I was blindfolded) and see if I could accurately reconstruct the locations of felt stimuli on the effected as well on the unaffected side. If you can’t, have that person help you with a 20-minute daily training session and see if you can improve your sensory feedback from the face. It’s possible that any weakening from that highly correlated activity fed back to the brain from skin and muscles could be on a path to at least limited improvement and generation of these strong co-contracting events. Of course you might also find that such an exercise is valueless. In which case, sorry for bringing it up.