What does brain science have to do with the Anthropocene? We’re not entirely sure. But the Generation Anthropocene team is venturing into the world of the brain with the co-editor of the NeuroBlog to talk about it anyways. Neuroscientist Nick Weiler discusses powerful new techniques used to map the brain at the molecular scale and how the manipulation of mouse whiskers can teach us how the brain changes as we learn. Nick also takes a moment to explain why the concept of consciousness is best left to the philosophers rather than the neuroscientists… but that won’t stop him from commenting on it too. [correction: Nick has corrected a statement he mentioned in the interview regarding the size of a mouse brain. He previously said it was 50x smaller than a human brain when in reality, it is 2500x smaller.]
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Nicholas Weiler is a doctoral student in Neuroscience studying the effects of sensory plasticity on the synaptic molecular architecture of the mouse neocortex – basically, the way the brain changes with learning and memory. In addition to his interest in the brain he has always been passionate about words, their power, their histories, and their foibles. He is a founding member of NeuWrite-West, a science writing group at the Stanford School of Medicine dedicated to improving communication between science and society one paragraph at a time. He has been a contributor to the NeuroBlog since 2010. When not analyzing synapses or diagramming sentences, Nick can be found bicycling, juggling, climbing trees, or declaiming Shakespeare.
Mike Osborne is currently a fifth year PhD student using stable isotope and trace metal geochemistry to analyze coral records from the western Pacific. In particular, he is interested in decadal scale variability and dynamics in the El Niño/La Niña Southern Oscillation (ENSO) system. His current fieldwork is done in the Republic of Palau and Easter Island. In addition to his paleoclimate research, Mike has developed and taught science communication courses at Stanford. These courses are project-based and generally focus on 21st century environmental issues.
Leslie Chang is a recent graduate of Stanford University, where she studied Earth Systems and creative writing. She has been a correspondent for Generation Anthropocene since the podcast’s earliest days, and fully joined the team after graduating in June 2012. In her spare time, she might be found camping, cooking, or enjoying a book with a mug of coffee. She is an avid fan of NPR, sea otters, SNL, and anyone who posts interesting articles to Twitter. That could be you.