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TEDTalks [electronic resource]: Tom Wujec, Three Ways the Brain Creates Meaning

Tom Wujec studies how we share and absorb information. He's an innovative practitioner of business visualization - using design and technology to help groups solve problems and understand concepts. Much of his work focuses on areas of the brain that enable us to comprehend words, images, feelings, and connections. In this TEDU talk, Wujec asks: How can we best utilize our brains to help us better engage with big ideas?

TEDTalks [electronic resource]: Rebecca Saxe, How We Read Each Others' Minds

Sensing the thoughts and feelings of others may be a natural talent for most people, but how do we do it? Rebecca Saxe studies the way we think about the inner lives of our fellow humans. In her laboratory at MIT, she uses fMRI scans to identify what happens in our brains when we consider the motives, passions, and beliefs of others. In this TEDTalk, Saxe shares some of her fascinating findings and what they tell us about the way we judge others' actions.

TEDTalks [electronic resource]: Beau Lotto, Optical Illusions Show How We See

Beau Lotto is founder of Lottolab, a hybrid art studio and science lab. With glowing, interactive sculpture - and good old-fashioned peer-reviewed research - Lotto is illuminating the mysteries of the brain's visual system. In this TEDTalk, he describes his goal of creating color games that evoke the neurology of perception and cognition. Viewers receive a fun, first-hand look at our versatile sense of sight and how evolution has shaped our awareness of what's really around us.

TEDTalks [electronic resource]: Pawan Sinha, How Brains Learn to See

Pawan Sinha researches how our brains interpret what our eyes see - and, equipped with that knowledge, he gives blind children the gift of sight. In this TEDTalk, he details his groundbreaking investigation into the neurology of the human visual system, as well as his insights into engineering, autism, and other subjects. Sinha explains how his vision-restoring treatment can help us better understand what processes the brain undergoes as it learns to gather and extract meaning from visual data.

TEDTalks [electronic resource]: Daniel Tammet, Different Ways of Knowing

Daniel Tammet has linguistic, numerical and visual synesthesia - meaning that his perception of words, numbers, and colors are woven together into a new way of perceiving and understanding the world. In this TEDTalk, the linguist, writer, and educator shares his art, his passion for languages, and a glimpse into his unique way of perceiving the world. Tammet is the author of Born on a Blue Day, about his life with high-functioning autistic savant syndrome, and runs the language-learning site Optimnem.

The Case of ESP [electronic resource]

This fascinating documentary examines scientific evidence for and against the existence of psychic phenomena such as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis. It also examines how those who believe in such phenomena are applying their knowledge. Most of those who believe in ESP (extrasensory perception) use their personal experience or anecdotal evidence to support their belief. However, since the 1930s scientists have conducted laboratory experimentation to test ESP in a controlled environment. Early experiments involved the use of cards with different patterns, while later testing was much more sophisticated. Most such experimentation has revealed evidence that ESP exists, but there are many skeptics in the scientific community.

Life Sentence [electronic resource]: Using Words to Share Reality-the Real Thing

People have an amazing capacity to decipher the meaning of human speech, even when familiar words are pronounced with different accents and intonations, or when only some of the words in a particular sentence are heard. In this program James Burke explains how we understand what people are saying, making the point that the brain is as important to hearing as the ears. And although the same words may trigger different associations from person to person, semantics, syntax, and grammar go a long way toward allowing us to share with others our individual perception of reality.

A Code in the Nose [electronic resource]

Smell is the most mysterious and romantic of the five senses. It is also the least understood. This lack of understanding derives partially from the fact that smell cannot easily be described. However, it is known that smell conveys the strongest and most long-lasting of our memories. It takes only the faintest scent to remind us of the time when we first smelled it and bring emotions connected with it rushing back. This Horizon program tells the story of the race to be the first scientist to unravel the sense of smell, and of biophysicist Luca Turin and his radical theory.

Many Happy Returns [electronic resource]

This documentary focuses on extraordinary stories of reincarnation. Research has revealed that the strongest evidence for reincarnation comes from interviewing children from ages three to five. The program introduces two normal children-one in England, one in India-who can vividly remember aspects of their previous lives. Their accounts have been investigated, and the details have checked out. These remarkable findings are among many such cases of children living in different parts of the world who have astounded adults with their detailed accounts of previous lives.

The Private Eye [electronic resource]: How the Senses Perceive Reality

Like a team of private eyes, the five senses pick up clues from outer stimuli and then, with input from the brain, put those clues together to form an understanding of reality. But does this process provide an accurate representation of what's going on in the physical world? In this program James Burke describes the physiology of human perception and explains why the brain sometimes arrives at the wrong conclusions as it works to make sensory data conform to an individual's expectations. The functioning of sense receptors as they deliver messages to the brain is illustrated using colorful, detailed animations.

This Way Up [electronic resource]: The Reality of Spatial Orientation

Without consciously realizing it, human beings navigate the world through an ongoing process of calculating and correcting in response to perceptions about their surroundings. In this program, host James Burke uses 3-D models and a tub of gelatin to illustrate the vestibular system and how it works with the brain to gauge distance, perspective, and spatial orientation. Burke also explains the extraordinary way in which the brain fills in naturally-occurring blank spots in vision and weeds out superfluous data when the eyes gaze at something of interest, suggesting that "reality" is based partly upon the mind.

Sensory Overload [electronic resource]

In this episode, Dr. John Marsden takes his own sensory journey to discover some surprising facts about the human senses. Our senses are absolutely necessary for our survival, yet they're completely taken for granted by most of us. It is generally assumed we have five of them, but this has been shown to be wrong. Some scientists say we have nine, some say 21. In fact, there is no agreement about how many we have. Dr. Marsden delves deeper to find out how our senses work. He experiences the world's most expensive taste, hears a sound that literally makes him feel sick, and discovers what it is like to be completely deprived of all of his senses.

George Vithoulkas [electronic resource]: Homeopath

The questions sound strange at first: "Are you afraid of heights?" "Do you have a fear of cancer?" "Do you like soft-boiled eggs?" But no matter how baffling they seem to a first-time patient, they will eventually help homeopathic specialist George Vithoulkas chart a path of treatment-one designed with the individual's overall wellbeing in mind. Combining several case studies, this film elicits in-depth discussion from Vithoulkas about his homeopathic treatment philosophy and his busy Athens-based practice. Viewers watch as Vithoulkas treats a middle-aged man with back problems and psoriasis, a young man with what appears to be some form of post-trauma disorder, and others.

Breaking Barriers [electronic resource]: Chronic Pain

An 86-year-old woman with osteoarthritis...a young man with severe back pain brought on by heavy lifting...a middle-aged woman with rheumatoid arthritis and a car-crash injury worsened by a sexual attack...all three are featured in this film's alternative medicine case studies. Shot at Boston's Lemuel Shattuck Hospital when a pilot program focusing on chronic pain was in full swing, the documentary follows health care professionals using conventional and alternative medicine to combat patient stress and suffering. Ted Kaptchuk, director of the Pain and Stress Relief Clinic at LSH during that time, describes the many non-Western methods used in attempts to reduce pain and distress. Meditation, acupuncture, Ayurvedic treatments, and support groups are some of the strategies presented.

Eyes and Ears [electronic resource]

This program is devoted to the senses that bring information of more distant events. The camera shows a reckless driver careening down a road-and then takes the viewer inside his eye, where the image of the potential crash site is pictured. The camera enters the ear, showing how the linked bones vibrate in response to a sound, and by using a computer graphic sequence, shows how the eye focuses on an image.
2005; 1984

Deafblind [electronic resource]: World Without Sight and Sound

We think in words-without access to them, how does one construct thoughts? Adam and Mark are 12-year-old boys born deaf and blind. With no exposure to language, how do they communicate with their parents? This fascinating program provides a window into the world of those who are deafblind. Gaela and Graham, two remarkable deafblind adults who lost their hearing after childhood, describe their lives and experiences-including how Graham jet skis. Using special effects that simulate sensory deprivation and compensation, the video illustrates how people such as Gaela and Graham are able to lead fulfilled, even adventurous lives.
2005; 2000

Shedding Light on Curved Mirrors [electronic resource]

Most of us have experienced the amusement (and possible embarrassment) that goes with standing in front of a distorted funhouse mirror. What many people don't realize is that convex and concave mirrors are actually quite useful. Beginning with a basic discussion of reflection in flat mirrors, this video shows how curved mirrors are used in a wide variety of industrial and safety-related applications. Viewers learn how convex mirrors are important tools in automobile driving, traffic management, and security due to their outwardly curved surfaces…and likewise, how concave mirrors produce images and how concave reflectors are incorporated into designs for headlights, satellite dishes, solar cookers, and more. The concept of angle of incidence is discussed in detail. As a departure poin [...]

Breaking the Wall of Bad Taste [electronic resource]: How Psychophysics and Neurophysiology Can Improve Our Food Choices

If only we could trust flavor as a guide to a healthy diet - instead, our taste for food depends on a complex combination of factors, including appearance, texture, odor, and pungency, as well as on our earliest eating habits formed during infancy and childhood. As one of the acclaimed initiators of the field of molecular gastronomy, Per Møller analyzes food sensation, reward, and appetite under a holistic approach that includes psychophysics, neurophysiology, neuropsychology, and neuroeconomics. Møller is a professor at the University of Copenhagen, where he directs a Master's-level course on food choice and acceptance, and the editor in chief of Flavor Magazine, a multidisciplinary journal focusing on all aspects of flavor. In this Falling Walls lecture, Møller offers unique insigh [...]

Breaking the Wall of Sensory Overload [electronic resource]: How Primate Neuroscience Reveals the Mechanisms of Our Perception

We know that attention disorders such AD/HD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, affect more than four percent of the population and are connected to other neuropsychiatric disorders. However, the neural circuits and computations underlying attention remain poorly understood. Stefan Treue, professor of cognitive neuroscience and biological psychology at the German Primate Center and University of Göttingen, is providing a more rigorous description of the correlates and signatures of attention in neural activity - and thereby starting to identify the sources of attentional influences on neural activity and perception. Treue was recently honored with the prestigious Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize from the DFG (German Research Foundation) for his experimental study of the prim [...]

False Memories [electronic resource]: Skepticism, Susceptibility, and the Impact on Psychotherapy

The early 1990s saw a dramatic rise in the use-or misuse-of repressed memory as a psychoanalytic tool. While more and more therapists were encouraging their adult patients to revive supposedly long-buried recollections of childhood sexual abuse, a small minority of experts began to question that methodology-chief among them a cognitive psychologist named Elizabeth Loftus. This film shows how Dr. Loftus challenged the trend of memory "recovery" even as she expanded and enriched the study of human memory in contemporary psychology. Interviews with Loftus are combined with fascinating accounts of her role as an expert witness in the trial of George Thomas Franklin as well as her groundbreaking studies in imagination inflation, the uncertainty of eyewitness testimony, and the positive us [...]