Big life events, like the death of a spouse, do not change the structure of your brain over time.
More gray matter is not necessarily better. - Georgopoulos
Caller asks about stress from 9/11, Fukushima, etc.
Georgopoulos - They alter the network, they traumatize people and lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. There are tremendous changes to the brain.
Kerri - Are the brains of children particularly vulnerable?
Georgopoulos - They are more sensitive but they are more easy to heal and more easy to adapt.
Moving on to the next guest and hive minds.
Bees head butt one another when negotiating where to locate a hive.
"It is a vert slow, deliberative process." Jason Castro on how bees make decisions on where to locate a hive.
So how does that link to humans brains?
The hive in our heads is made up of individual neurons.
Does this apply to all decisions we make? asks Tom.
So in the case of an alarm clock going off. One set of neurons says 'get up." Another set says "stay in bed." Your neurons duke it out by accumulating votes for either side. The mechanism is comparable to bee behavior.
Different groups of cells (neurons) are inhibiting each other just like the bees inhibit one another.
One caller points out that our guest, Jason Castro, sounds like David Brooks.
Janie - Do they bees have instant run-off voting? When there are multiple options how do bees determine which are viable?
Jason Castro - This study looked at the case of 2 bees. But in the wild, there will be multiple choices. The waggle dance will help eliminate even more than 2 choices.
Jason Castro - Even though we feel like we are steering a straight path, we are constantly making decisions on what we should be doing and shouldn't be doing.
Scientists have recently discovered that parts of our DNA - long thought to be permanently in place - jump around in our brain, turning on previously dormant genes and triggering new traits and behaviors even in closely related individuals.
These jumping genes can help us adapt to new situations, but the randomness of the movement can also have unintended negative side effects.
Guest Gary Stix: Evolution selects for fitness. So the ability to allow neurons to function better...react more quickly....the ability to adapt is something that may have been preserved for this process of jumping genes.
There are more of these jumping events that occur and allow a brain to adapt to a (new) situation. It seems to provide a benefit during a time of stress.
In the neuron there is a full complement of DNA. And there is a copy and pasting process...a long segment of DNA gets copied and pasted. It happens randomly but happens often enough. It may insert itself into a gene. It may turn on a protein.
The changes made by jumping genes can be positive or negative.
Kerri - this could affect pschiatric problems.
Stix - Yhis problem is random. You are turning on genes all over the place. It can turn on a gene that turns on a circuit that affects the overall functioning of the brain.
Jumping genes may be associated with autism or schizophrenia.
There is a whole set of research based on twins studies. The jumping genes change identical twins' brains in the womb. indentical twins are not identical. - Stix