Discussions on the future of brain science and technology.

About the show

CogNation is a podcast by Rolf Nelson and Joe Hardy, two cognitive psychologists interested in the future of brain science and technology. We explore relevant topics in the areas of cognitive science, technology, AI, and philosophy. Although we dabble with dystopian implications of new technologies (such as the impending robopocalypse), we are led by our curiosity and try to keep it light and fun.

email: [email protected]

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  • Episode 29: Time Perception and Dopamine

    October 12th, 2020  |  Season 2  |  29 mins 51 secs

    Rolf and Joe discuss research on a dopamine-enhancing drug that improves time perception.

  • Episode 28: Chris Baty: National Novel Writing Month, Creativity, and Life as a Narrative

    August 10th, 2020  |  Season 2  |  1 hr 3 mins
    baty, brain, chris baty, cognition, creative, creativity, nanowrimo, national novel writing month, novel

    Chris Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) talks with us about why creativity feels good, the way it can spread to other aspects of our life, and in what ways life is (or is not) like a narrative.

  • Episode 27: The Connectome

    May 12th, 2020  |  Season 2  |  31 mins 23 secs
    brain, c elegans, cognition, connectome, fruit fly, neuron, neuroscience

    30 min episode
    A connectome is a representation of every connection between neurons in the brain. Recent brain-slicing technology, in addition to image recognition tools, has begun to make this science-fiction idea become a reality. Rolf and Joe discuss the recent publication of the largest completed connectome to date, that of the fruit fly drosophilia. The database for the connectome is publicly available, and includes huge amounts of data about every one of the approximately 25,000 neurons mapped to date.

  • Episode 26: COVID-19 and the Behavioral Immune System: Joshua Ackerman

    March 24th, 2020  |  Season 2  |  55 mins 35 secs
    behavior, behavioral immune system, brain, cognition, corona virus, covid-19, evolutionary psychology, joshua ackerman, michigan, pandemic, psychology, social psychology

    How do people behave in a pandemic? Joshua Ackerman of the University of Michigan talks about how we alter our behavior in the face of pathogens from the perspective of social and evolutionary psychology. A repertoire of responses (such as avoidance) referred to as the "behavioral immune system" is discussed as a way for humans to avoid pathogens BEFORE our biochemical immune system encounters them.

  • Episode 25: NASA Data Scientist Chris Mattmann

    February 22nd, 2020  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 2 mins
    ai, dark web, darpa, machine learning, mars, nasa, neuroscience, space exploration

    Chris Mattman, Principal Data Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks with us about bridging the gap between lab and data scientists, his work unearthing the dark web with DARPA's Memex program, machine learning in autonomous planetary rovers, and other cool stuff he's been doing.

  • Episode 24: Childrens' Learning and Play: Guest David Sobel

    January 27th, 2020  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 15 mins
    causality, child, children, childrens museums, development, learning, mind, museums, parent-child interaction, parenting, philosophy, psychology, scientific research

    David Sobel, a developmental psychologist from Brown University, talks to us about the importance of play in learning. He has recently been collaborating with researchers around the country to investigate how children interact with exhibits in childrens' museums. One recent finding we discuss is that parent-child interaction styles can have a strong influence on what children learn.

  • Episode 23: Flawless Predictions for the 2020s

    January 1st, 2020  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 20 mins
    ai, autonomous vehicles, bitcoin, farming, lasers, neuroscience, robots, smart highways

    The Cognation crew discusses the future. Rolf and Joe share their bold predictions for the upcoming decade, which include such insights as "CRISPR Chips, Made with CRISPR to be Crisper (TM)," Disney Bitcoin, and the Robopocalypse.

  • Episode 22: The Neuroscience of Free Will: Guest Aaron Schurger

    December 12th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  57 mins 12 secs
    conscious will, consciousness, free will, libet, neuroscience, philosophy, schurger

    Guest Dr. Aaron Schurger talks to us about his research on the meaning of the "readiness potential", which has been referred to as "the brain signature of the will". Although this neural signal was already famous from research in the 1960s, it was Benjamin Libet's infamous experiments in the 1980s that proportedly showed that the readiness potential preceded an act of free will by a few hundred milliseconds. More recently (in press), Dr. Schurger and his colleagues have convincingly demonstrated that the readiness potential is not in fact predictive of an act of free will, but instead comes from a lack of a proper experimental control.

  • Episode 21: Pain perception and treatment: Guest Mike Trujillo

    November 3rd, 2019  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 1 min
    brain, hird, karuna labs, mind, pain, pain modulation, pain perception, trujillo, virtual reality

    Guest Dr. Michael Trujillo of Karuna Labs talks to us about pain perception and recent research on understanding how pain works.

  • Episode 20: Improving medical treatment in hearing loss: Guest Erick Gallun

    October 21st, 2019  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 4 mins
    audiology, audition, brain, cognition, healthcare, hearing, hearing loss, mind, va

    Dr. Erick Gallun joins us today to talk about the latest in audiology research, and how it can be applied to help those with a range of hearing problems. His research has focused on rehabilitation with Veteran's Association (VA) patients. Rapid-response medical care and an understanding of how hearing is affected by brain damage are critical areas in need of research. Advances in portable computing have made widespread assessment possible, and Virtual Reality applications show promise for cost-effective and standardized assessment.

  • Episode 19: Concussions, TBI, and Sports

    September 19th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 29 secs
    brain, cognition, concussion, football, nfl, tbi, traumatic brain injury

    Joe and Rolf discuss recent evidence to help understand the relationship between playing high-impact sports and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

  • Episode 18: The Psychology of Religion with David Wulff

    August 11th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  54 mins 16 secs
    brain, cognition, david wulff, psychology, psychology of religion, religion

    David Wulff, author of the comprehensive "Psychology of Religion: Classic and Contemporary", talks with us today about some of the issues that psychologists grapple with in studying religion. How can a researcher take a fair and unbiased approach to a topic so fraught with issues of personal belief and faith? How important is belief anyway -- must one sacrifice the intellect to engage in religious practice? David discusses his recent research; his measure of religious tendencies, called the "Faith Q-Sort", has been used internationally to understand how religion manifests differently across individuals

  • Episode 17: Stanley Milgram and Obedience to Authority

    July 25th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 11 mins
    asch, authority, brain, cognition, milgram, obedience, social psychology

    In the 1960s, the social psychologist Stanley Milgram performed some of the most famous experiments in psychology history, demonstrating that ordinary people could do terrible things in certain circumstances. Joe and Rolf look into the meaning of these experiments from a contemporary view. How are they holding up over 50 years later, and what else have we learned about obedience?

  • Episode 16: Dopamine with Michael Frank

    July 3rd, 2019  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 22 mins
    brain, brown university, cognition, dopamine, genetics, michael frank, motivation, neuroscience

    Dr. Michael Frank of Brown University talks to us about dopamine -- how it works in the brain, what his research has done to elucidate the function of dopamine circuits, and some of the genetics behind it. A really fascinating dive into a great topic.

  • Episode 15: Speech Synthesis From Neural Signals

    June 17th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  47 mins 13 secs
    brain, cognition, language, mind, speech, speech synthesis

    Joe and Rolf discuss recent research finding that recordings from the brain can be used to reconstruct the speech that is being thought about. Getting into the prospects of mind-reading and other futuristic possibilities, they discuss some of the limitations of research in the area and what makes progress so difficult.

    Source material: Speech Synthesis from Neural Decoding of Spoken Sentences by G. Anumanchipalli et al. (2019)
    YouTube video of the model

  • Episode 14: Color, Concepts, and Design: Guest Karen Schloss

    June 4th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 4 mins
    brain, cognition, color, concepts, design, neuroscience, psychology, recycling

    Our guest is Karen Schloss, who studies the way in which color is imbued with meaning through a lifetime of associations with objects (like bananas and fire trucks) and concepts (like love and politics). We discuss her research, including topics such as:

    1. What color should recycling bins be?
    2. A tool that can help designers use color-concept associations in their work
    3. The "blueberry problem" (why is is that blueberries aren't very blue?)
    4. How to market a blue banana
    5. What color heaven and hell should be