Naked Scientists Podcast

Naked Scientists episode

Sun, 21st Nov 2010

Smart Pills: Drugs to Boost Brain Power

Person solving Finnish crossword puzzle (c) Kallerna

IQ-elevating agents that can boost brain power are being used by over 10% of university students. But how do these cognitive-equivalents of anabolic steroids for the brain actually work, what are their effects and are they safe? Moreover, is the advantage they confer an ethical one? And if not, should universities be screening students ahead of exams to deter their use? Meanwhile, in the news this week, we find out how lasers can cut complications in cataract surgery, why some people are allergic to wine, we hook up with the highlights from the world's biggest neuroscience meeting including the discovery of how the eye talks to the brain, and we hear how scientists have solved a long-standing mystery relating the structure of the placenta...

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In this edition of Naked Scientists

Full Transcript

  • 02:09 - Laser cataract surgery a sight for sore eyes

    One of the world's most commonly performed surgical procedures - cataract surgery - could soon be revolutionised with a laser...

  • 05:51 - Why some people are allergic to wine

    A lot of us like a nice glass of wine at the end of the day, but for around 500 million people in the world, thatís not so much fun, as they have an allergy to wine. Itís apparently a bit like having a hayfever attack, with itchy eyes and sneezing. Now a group from the Universit...

  • 07:57 - Highlights from the Society for Neuroscience Meeting 2010

    This week, the the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience took place in San Diego, California. This is the largest meeting of neuroscientists from around the world who meet to discuss their latest research and the progress they're making in understanding how the brain w...

  • 14:30 - Bacteria cause colour change in aphids

    This week, researchers in Japan have shown that the colour of pea aphids can be changed by bacteria living inside them.

  • 17:20 - Plugging into the placenta

    Scientists have solved a long-standing mystery relating the structure of the placenta, the lifeline that connects mother and baby during embryonic development. For over 100 years anatomists have been scratching their heads trying to explain why...

  • 19:55 - Diversity in Rock Pools - A Marine Mesocosm

    A visit to any British seaside is never complete without a good poke around in a rock pool and luckily for them, some scientists get to do that as a day job! Planet Earth podcast presenter Sue Nelson travelled to the Anglesey coastline to meet Stuart Jenkins from the School of ...

  • 24:57 - Naked Engineering - Bistable Structures

    Meera and Dave explore the structures that can shape-shift from one shape to another - also known as bistable structures...

  • 32:52 - Cognition Enhancing Drugs

    We find out what impact cognition enhancers, or "smart drugs" have on the brain, and ask why so many students have started taking them illicitly...

  • 43:00 - Ethical Aspects of Enhancement

    Brain-boosting drugs raise some interesting ethical questions, ones that weíre likely to need to address more and more as our understanding of the human body increases. We talk ethics with Professor Julian Savulescu, Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics...

  • 50:09 - What happens when you stop taking cognition enhancing drugs?

    If these drugs are taken to help with exams, what happens when the exams are over? Does the body/brain go back to normal? Does this new found ability stay with the drug abuser? Or, worse yet, do things get worse, because the body is looking a crutch?



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