Sioux Falls Atheists
Sioux Falls Atheists and Atheism, Agnostics and Humanism

Sioux Falls Atheists endorse Brain Myths Exploded for debunking
many of the misconceptions we have regarding our brains.

Brain Myths Exploded
Lessons from Neuroscience
Lectures by Professor Indre Viskontas

Brain Myths Exploded (2017)
24 lectures, 12 hours
Brain Myths Exploded at TheGreatCourses.com

With its 86 billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of intricate connections, the human brain is mystifyingly complex. Which explains why, despite lightning-fast advancements in neuroscience, there’s still a lot that we don’t understand. And even what we think we understand may not be completely accurate. In fact, much of what the public thinks about the brain is based on popular myths that have perpetuated despite the passage of time and the proliferation of brain research.

These myths include the idea that you’re only tapping 10% of your brain’s potential; that creative people are dominated by the right side of their brain; that your brain is perfectly capable of juggling multiple tasks simultaneously; that there’s a hidden message in your dreams; and that our dependence on technology is making us less and less intelligent, just to name a few.

These and other popular myths all derive from the fact that the brain, for all its complexity, is still very much an imperfect system. As popular Great Courses instructor and award-winning professor Dr. Indre Viskontas of the University of San Francisco puts it, “for all its beauty, the brain can be messy, random, and inefficient. It can be prone to mistakes from the lowest levels of perception to the highest levels of complex decision making.”

To start building a more straightforward, accurate understanding of current breakthroughs in neuroscience, and how they’re reshaping what we thought we knew about the brain, you have to start by shattering popular brain myths. Exploring these myths is also a fun way to engage with neuroscience—to get an accessible look at an often-intimidating field of study—as well as a chance to think more deeply about who you are and why you do the things you do.

Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience is an eye-opening, rewarding course in which Dr. Viskontas guides you through the neuroscience of everyday life, separating myth from reality, fact from fiction, and truth from falsehood. Each of these 24 lectures focuses on a single powerful, prevalent brain myth, and uses it as a launch pad from which to explore myriad topics in neuroscience: decision making, memory, dreams, emotions, neuroplasticity, consciousness, mental illness, and much more. How has neuroscience helped us conquer the human mind like never before? What uncharted territory still remains to be mapped? This course, whether you choose to experience the lectures in order or by your interests, is the perfect place to find the answers.

Three Principles of the Brain

According to Dr. Viskontas, when busting the myths about the brain, it’s important to keep several key ideas in mind. These fundamental principles form the architecture of Brain Myths Exploded, and they serve as a scaffold on which you can hang new information about the brain as it’s discovered and reported in the news.

  • The brain is not perfectly designed. Contrary to what you may think, the human brain is a product of evolutionary forces, and as such is a constant work-in-progress filled with short cuts that can help us—but that also leave room for potentially harmful errors.
  • No brain region is an island. The power of the brain lies in the interconnectedness of its parts (including the amygdala and the hippocampus), as well as the malleability with which it wires and rewires itself with everything you experience in life.
  • There are two systems of thought. Our behavior is influenced by two kinds of thinking: the slow, deliberate, rational type that we think guides most of our decisions, and the fast-thinking, automatic processes that actually influence us much more than we know.

Popular Myths, Hidden Truths

Each lecture in this course is a stand-alone examination of one particular myth related to neuroscience. But Dr. Viskontas doesn’t just settle for obliterating these myths once and for all. Instead, she replaces these myths with scientific facts gathered from experiments, research, and case studies. The result is an eye-opening adventure into the latest understanding of why the brain works the way it does. And the truth is much more interesting.

  • The bigger your brain, the smarter you are. While there is a correlation between the size of an individual’s brain and some measures of his or her intelligence, it’s only moderate. One has to consider a host of other factors, including the amount of white matter in the brain, which can indicate how quickly your neurons communicate with each other.
  • Our memory is an accurate, objective record of the past. Our memories are anything but objective. The truth is that every time you pull out the “file” that contains a memory, you have to “rewrite” the whole story. And your current beliefs and emotional state affect how that memory gets rewritten and stored once again.
  • Our senses reflect the world as it exists. While evolution has given us a powerful sensory system, it doesn’t capture the world as it is. Instead, our brains pick and choose only tiny bits of information, and fill in the details to give us a perceptual experience of the world we can actually use.
  • Our dreams have secret meanings. Contrary to what Freud believed, there is currently little evidence to suggest the subconscious uses dreams to communicate its desires. Neuroscientists have come up with several theories about why we dream, including one that posits we dream in order to consolidate our memories, and process emotions.
  • Our brains are unbiased. Unfortunately, prejudice is ingrained in the human brain, and our behavior can be affected by biases of which we’re not aware. These implicit biases can hijack our rational minds and lead us to behave in uncharacteristic ways.

Other topics you’ll explore through the lens of mythbusting include:

  • how magicians use the brain’s own weaknesses to convince us of their tricks;
  • controversies about brain differences between men and women;
  • the level of addiction we have to social media tools like Facebook and Twitter;
  • which specific neurons play a role in how we socialize with other people; and
  • the importance we should give to brain games and brain foods.

Indre Viskontas is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of San Francisco and a Professor of Sciences and Humanities at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She holds a Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Viskontas has published more than 40 original papers and book chapters related to the neural basis of memory, reasoning, and creativity in top scientific journals. A sought-after science communicator, she is a cocreator and cohost of the popular science podcast Inquiring Minds.

24 Lectures - 30 minutes each

1: Is Your Brain Perfectly Designed? 13: Can Brain Games Make You Smarter?
2: Are Bigger Brains Smarter? 14: Does Your Brain Shut Down during Sleep?
3: Is Mental Illness Just a Chemical Imbalance? 15: Are Your Decisions Rational?
4: Are Creative People Right-Brained? 16: Are You Always Conscious while Awake?
5: How Different Are Male and Female Brains? 17: Are Other Animals Conscious?
6: How Accurate Is Your Memory? 18: Can You Multitask Efficiently?
7: Do You Only Use 10% of Your Brain? 19: Are Dreams Meaningful?
8: Do You Perceive the World as It Really Is? 20: Can Brain Scans Read Your Mind?
9: Is Your Brain Too Smart for Magic Tricks? 21: Can Adult Brains Change for the Better?
10: Is Your Brain Objective? 22: Do Special Neurons Enable Social Life?
11: Do You Have 5 Independent Senses? 23: Is Your Brain Unprejudiced?
12. Can Certain Foods Make You Smarter? 24: Does Technology Make You Stupid?

 

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Brain Myths Exploded
Lessons from Neuroscience
Lectures by Professor Indre Viskontas

Sioux Falls Atheists endorse Brain Myths Exploded for debunking
many of the misconceptions we have regarding our brains.