Brains & Bourbon Ep15: A Ginger Tom Collins with Kelly Zalocusky

A couple weeks ago, we sat down with Stanford Neuroscience graduate student Kelly Zalocusky over a Ginger Tom Collins to discuss the dopamine reward system, risk tolerance in rodents, and nut caching in squirrels, among other topics.

You can also listen to individual segments of this show here.

Here's the breakdown:
Part 1 (26:23) Dopamine System (extended)

“Anyone who has ever gotten out of bed at 6 in the morning knows that you need motivation in order to initiate movement”

Part 2 (26:48) Dopamine and Risk-Seeking Behavior in Rats, Rat fMRI, and the Not My Field game show

“Have you been able to make the risk-seeking rats into humdrum rats?”

Part 3 (20:05) Squirrels

“It turns out that they bury walnuts at the distance you would bury walnuts if you were planting a walnut orchard.”

Ask a Neuroscientist: A Spectrum of Handedness

Ask a Neuroscientist: A Spectrum of Handedness

Are you left handed? Right handed? Somewhere in between? 

What is commonly thought of as "left" and "right" handedness, is probably more accurately described as a spectrum. Where we lie on that spectrum (from strongly right handed, to strongly left handed) can depend on the task we are performing. For example: you might be strongly left handed when it comes to writing, but you find it more natural to open a jar with your right hand. Or when you open the lid of a hinged box, you do so with either left or right hand. 

We don't really have a good handle on what it is about the brain that makes us handed (or footed). But we do know that other animals also show similar preferences. So it's possible that handedness is some kind of fundamental feature of the way brains generate movement, and interface with muscles. 

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The Brain Training Game: Who Wins and Who Loses?

The Brain Training Game: Who Wins and Who Loses?

Computer games are a guilty pleasure many of us indulge in when we think our co-workers aren’t looking over our shoulders, and using this pastime to make ourselves smarter feels a lot like cheating! So does this strategy actually work? Should you buy in to the brain training game, or cast your bets elsewhere? 

Although brain games are based on sound principles, scientists are still reluctant to embrace their effectiveness. The crux of whether brain training programs meet their claims is whether specific task training can generalize to intelligence and every day cognitive function. 


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Brains & Bourbon Ep14 Law & Neuroscience

This week on Brains & Bourbon, we chat with Hank Greely about the ethics and laws of neuroscience. Topics include the legal and ethical concerns of personal genomics (such as 23 and Me), using fMRI as a complimentary tool for lie detection, establishing justice in cases of mental or psychiatric instability, bringing back extinct animals, and more!

Hank Greely is a Professor of Law at Stanford University, and serves as the chair of the California Advisory Committee on Human Stem Cell Research, director of the Stanford Law School’s Center for Law and the Biosciences as well as the new Stanford Program In Neuroscience and Society, or “SPINS.”

Here is a video of the Tasmanian Tiger, Aka, the Thylacine that we discussed in the interview: