Skip to main content

David Linden – Four Way Interview

David J. Linden is professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland, USA. The author of more than ninety scientific papers and the acclaimed book The Accidental Mind, he also serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Neurophysiology. His latest book is Pleasure.
Why Science?
It was either that or crime and science seemed slightly less risky.
Why this book?
This book is about how the pleasure centers of the brain are activated by food, sex, meditation, exercise, drugs, gambling, paying taxes and goofing around on the Internet. It required a lot of fieldwork but I was prepared to make that sacrifice for my readers. Pleasure is the first book to explain the biology of reward in a way that will make you feel smarter and give you a laugh at the same time. Plus, it will provide you with clever anecdotes about topics from lesbian bonobo sex to the neuroscience of weight loss to hallucinogenic reindeer urine that will make you the toast of your social circle.
What’s next?
More fieldwork, I think.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
My lab has several new efforts that have me very enthused. These rely upon implanting cranial windows in the skulls of mice and then placing the mice under a special microscope (called a 2-photon confocal microscope) that allows us to see into the middle of otherwise opaque living brain tissue. This technique is allowing us to make time-lapse movies showing how neurons, glial cells and blood vessels in the brain respond to exercise and motor learning and how recovery of function proceeds following brain damage from amphetamine drugs.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I, Mammal - Liam Drew *****

It's rare that a straightforward biology book (with a fair amount of palaeontology thrown in) really grabs my attention, but this one did. Liam Drew really piles in the surprising facts (often surprising to him too) and draws us a wonderful picture of the various aspects of mammals that make them different from other animals. 

More on this in a moment, but I ought to mention the introduction, as you have to get past it to get to the rest, and it might put you off. I'm not sure why many books have an introduction - they often just get in the way of the writing, and this one seemed to go on for ever. So bear with it before you get to the good stuff, starting with the strange puzzle of why some mammals have external testes.

It seems bizarre to have such an important thing for passing on the genes so precariously posed - and it's not that they have to be, as it's not the case with all mammals. Drew mixes his own attempts to think through this intriguing issue with the histor…

Foolproof - Brian Hayes *****

The last time I enjoyed a popular maths book as much as this one was reading Martin Gardner’s Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions as a teenager. The trouble with a lot of ‘fun’ maths books is that they cover material that mathematicians consider fascinating, such as pairs of primes that are only two apart, which fail to raise much excitement in normal human beings. 

Here, all the articles have something a little more to them. So, even though Brian Hayes may be dealing with something fairly abstruse-sounding like the ratio of the volume of an n-dimensional hypersphere to the smallest hypercube that contains it, the article always has an interesting edge - in this case that although the ‘volume’ of the hypersphere grows up to the fifth dimension it gets smaller and smaller thereafter, becoming an almost undetectable part of the hypercube.

If that doesn’t grab you, many articles in this collection aren’t as abstruse, covering everything from random walks to a strange betting game. What'…

A Galaxy of Her Own - Libby Jackson ****

This is an interesting book, even if it probably tries to be too many things to too many people. I wondered from the cover design whether it was a children's book, but the publisher's website (and the back of the book) resolutely refuse to categorise it as such. The back copy doesn't help by saying that it will 'inspire trailblazers and pioneers of all ages.' As I belong to the set 'all ages' I thought I'd give it a go.

Inside are featured the 'stories of fifty inspirational women who have been fundamental to the story of humans in space.' So, in some ways, A Galaxy of Her Own presents the other side of the coin to Angela Saini's excellent Inferior. But, inevitably, given the format, it can hardly provide the same level of discourse.

Despite that 'all ages' comment and the lack of children's book labelling we get a bit of a hint when we get to a bookplate page in the form of a Galaxy Pioneers security pass (with the rather worrying…