Segments in this Video

Barbara's Brain (02:11)


Dr. Eagleman presents a human brain, one of the most complex things that scientists have discovered in the universe.

What Makes Me? (03:24)

Human offspring remain helpless longer than any other species. Baby animals are born knowing how to walk, run, swim, or climb. The malleability of the brain allows humans to grow up to adapt to any environment on earth.

Pruning Possibilities (02:20)

By the age of five, the human brain has most of the brain cells it will have for its lifetime. By age two, neurons have more than 15,000 connections each. After that, neuron connections begin to reduce as smaller quantities of stronger connections are prioritized, forming skills.

Neglected Brains (03:59)

In 1989, 170,000 Romanian children were in orphanages, many kept in "appalling" conditions with little to no human contact. As a result, many ended up with severely underdeveloped brains, with symptoms such as small heads, severe attachment problems, and dramatically reduced neural activity.

Consequences of Neglect (02:10)

As a result of living in an orphanage until after their second birthdays, Tom and John Jensen experience learning disabilities still affecting their brains 20 years later. At the time of their adoption, they were speaking a gibberish language.

Teen Brain (03:23)

Due to genetics, the teenage body and brain simultaneously undergo changes that separate it from child and adult years. To examine this, Dr. Eagleman conducts an experiment measuring the stress response of an adult and two teenagers faced with a social experience.

Medial Prefrontal Cortex (02:13)

This part of the brain relates to emotional significance, with activity in the area peaking at age 15 when social situations are most weighted. Impulse control is poor during the teen years because of the brain development stage. Although the brain is mostly developed by the early 20s, studies show that even in adulthood, the brain can experience serious physical changes.

Recall (03:32)

A test required to receive a license as a cab driver in London requires such memorization that it became an object of interest for neuroscientists. Because of the brain's plasticity trait, personal identity is always in flux.

Charles Whitman (02:10)

Everything that human beings experience can permanently affect the brain, from love, to work, to friendship. Wiring of the brain is affected by all of these occurrences, which affects the personality. Medical related changes can also impact personality.

Whitman's Wish (03:26)

In 1966, an otherwise seemingly normal man, Charles Whitman, shot 13 people to death and wounded 31 others before being killed by police. Upon Whitman's death, his brain was examined by professionals who found a brain tumor.

Memory (02:40)

Memory is a cornerstone to personal identity. A memory is the hippocampus replaying an associative network of neurons over and over until it becomes an experience in the mind.

Changes (02:00)

Eagleman exhibits the way memories fade through an example of a memory of his own. Memories fade because there is a finite space in the brain for them. Current emotional state affects the way memories are recalled and judged, meaning memories may seem different from one life stage to the next.

Memory Experiments (03:39)

To understand memory, Professor Elizabeth Loftus describes how questions can contaminate memories depending on words used. Loftus concocted an experiment to discern whether false memories could be implanted into volunteers' memories. People will not only embrace false memories bestowed upon them, but they will embellish on them.

Implantation of Memories (02:26)

Loftus describes her own experience with her memory being tricked. All humans have unreliable memories, because memory is used for more than just recording the past.

Epilepsy Experiment (02:55)

A 27 year old epileptic man underwent an experimental surgery that involved removing parts of the hippocampus on both sides of his brain. His epilepsy was cured, but he was unable to create memories or plan for the future as a result. He was permanently stuck in the present moment.

Nun Studies (03:14)

Lengthening lifespans creates new concerns for brain health, as the brain's functions are just as important in later years as in formative. Research studies are performed on nuns and brothers in covenants because of their stability and uniformity of life. Their lifestyles are recorded and their brains are examined after death.

Cognitive Reserve (02:58)

Women whose brains were found to show signs of Alzheimer's after death but did not exhibit symptoms during life are found to have a few things in common, including leadership positions, a willingness to learn new things, and a tendency to engage in activities that keep the brain active. These activities protect the aging brain from disease and deterioration.

Experience of Consciousness (03:42)

Because brain cells and neurons still exist after death, it can be inferred that consciousness and life are about the interactions between the neurons rather than the neurons themselves. Eagleman employs drummers as a visual tool to analyze the brain's harmonious neural pathways.

Complex Rhythms (04:00)

Despite all we know about consciousness, the reason for its existence remains a mystery. Meaning is relative to each individual human and the brain is never completely finished.

Credits: What Makes Me? Part 2: The Brain with David Eagleman (02:02)

Credits: What Makes Me? Part 2: The Brain with David Eagleman

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What Makes Me? Part 2: The Brain with David Eagleman

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This episode of The Brain with David Eagleman series explores the question of how the brain gives rise to our thoughts, emotions, our memories and personality. Philosophers and great thinkers have for millennia pondered the question of how physical stuff can give rise to mental processes. Last century, the new field of neuroscience joined the discussion, and Dr. David Eagleman explains that to a neuroscientist, the answers to such questions lie in a deep understanding of the brain. The process of becoming who you are begins at birth. The human brain starts life remarkably unfinished, which accounts for the fact that babies are completely dependent on adults, compared to many mammals that can walk, fly and swim soon after they are born. A baby has almost as many neurons or nerve cells as an adult brain but instead of being connected to each other, the great majority are unconnected. Wiring up begins immediately, and rapidly, as the child’s brain starts to adapt to whatever environment – culture, habitat, language – it’s born into. Animals may be able to start life almost ready to go but they have none of the flexibility and adaptability of the human brain. The process of becoming a fully developed human takes a long time, and the brain doesn’t stop forging new connections when we become adults. As we make new memories, learn new skills, and have life experiences the brain is constantly and dynamically rewiring itself. It never stops. Nor do we – the human brain is always changing, and therefore so are we. From cradle to grave, we are works in progress. Distributed by PBS Distribution.

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: BVL114669

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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