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Episode 30: Deep Brain Stimulation


Deep brain stimulation is like a pacemaker for your brain: it can stop tremors, wake you from a coma, and maybe even make you smarter. All these miraculous results, but nobody knows exactly how it works. Maybe I'm crazy, but I always find it reassuring when I talk to a scientist and find out that they don't know what's going on either.

For this episode I spoke with Dr. Michele Tagliati, a neurologist at Mt. Sinai, and a leader in the field of DBS. He's approaching the question from a clinician's perspective: tweaking parameters and discovering which techniques work best for patients suffering from Parkinsons and other movement disorders. I didn't have enough time to include it in the podcast, but we also talked about the researchers who are coming from the other direction, using computer models of brain circuitry to try and predict how certain kinds of electrical stimulation will affect actual brains. The idea is that these two lines of research will eventually meet somewhere in the middle: if we can understand enough about how it works, we may be able to apply this technique to all sorts of neurological disorders. I might even be able to do the Sunday Times Crossword without making up words.

He didn't ask, but my theory is that it has something to do with electricity. In your brain.

—Jonathan Coulton


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Episode 29: Internet Addiction


Dear PopSci readers:

Welcome to yet another of the PopSci blog's fantastic new features! Every Tuesday, starting now, contributing troubadour Jonathan Coulton will beam down an episode of his "Podcast from the Moon," along with a witty commentary on what the heck he was thinking when he called Dr. So-and-so (always a scientist or investigator featured in this month's issue of Popular Science) and teased him about his research. Just click on the "subscribe" button after the post below to get free episodes delivered to your iTunes account each week.


Do you find it hard to stay away from the Internet for several days at a time? Do you stay online longer than intended often or very often? Yeah, me too. I used to have a problem with the Internet, but then I got a phone that can be used as a Bluetooth modem: problem solved! I said, "Problem solved!" Is this thing on?

This week I rationalize my way out of my addiction to the Web. Some researchers at Stanford University conducted a study to find out whether there is such a thing, and their results suggest that at least some of us may want to scale back a bit. (Hey Agathon of Gorgamosh! Put down the broadsword and pick up your baby, OK?)

Sometimes I think this office-on-the-moon business might work against me. Maybe it's because they're "serious about their work" or whatever, but the scientists who ran the study didn't really want to answer my tough questions or laugh politely at my feeding-tube jokes. Instead I spoke to PopSci contributor Jebediah Reed (who was more than happy to do both) about his take on their results. —Jonathan Coulton

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