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]

CogNation on social media


  • Episode 34: Tom Vanderbilt: Beginners

    March 22nd, 2021  |  Season 2  |  51 mins 30 secs
    beginners, book, brain, cognition, learning, neuroscience, psychology, skill, tom vanderbilt, vanderbilt

    We talk with author Tom Vanderbilt about his new book, Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning.

  • Episode 33: Flawless Predictions For 2021

    January 22nd, 2021  |  Season 2  |  47 mins 58 secs
    2021, brain, cognition, cognitive science, future, jet pack, predictions

    Enough with 2020. Rolf and Joe present their predictions for what lies ahead in 2021.....

  • Episode 32: On Consciousness with Bernard Baars

    January 2nd, 2021  |  Season 2  |  1 hr 14 mins
    baars, bernard baars, brain, cognition, cognitive science, consciousness, global workspace theory, philosophy

    Joe and Rolf talk to Dr. Bernard Baars, a leader in the field of consciousness research. Dr. Baars has recently published "On Consciousness", which is a compendium on his work integrating research in psychology and neuroscience on what consciousness is and how it functions.

  • Episode 31: Music and the Brain: Guests David Rosen and Scott Miles

    December 7th, 2020  |  Season 2  |  49 mins 55 secs
    brain, cognition, david rosen, eeg, music, scott miles, secret chord laboratories, surprise

    David Rosen and Scott Miles of Secret Chord Laboratories ( talk to Joe and Rolf about musical preference, the role of surprise in these preferences, what's going on in the brain, and how COVID is affecting the way we listen to music.

  • Episode 30: When Microwaves Continue to Attack

    November 23rd, 2020  |  Season 2  |  28 mins 41 secs
    brain, china, cognition, cuba, embassy, frey effect, microwave, pulsed microwave radiation

    An update on Episode 4, where we first discussed the phenomenon of the "Frey Effect" in which sounds are heard as a result of pulsed microwave radiation. Does this give a clue about further incidents in the US embassy in China?

  • 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).