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Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience

Team up with a brain expert and use the needle of neuroscience to burst popular myths about memory, dreams, and more.
Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 60.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from in general the great courses have excellent facts the great c have excellent facts from incredible amounts of science and logic classes to research methods and critical thinking and logic-
Date published: 2022-03-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very Disappointing Professor Viskontas is obviously a bright woman with a pleasant demeanor and is an excellent and engaging speaker. However, from the very beginning, I found the course by far the most disappointing of the dozens of Great Courses that I've gone through. The negatives, in no particular order are: - I found the goofy background distracting. I could have ignored it if it was not for the "brain impulse" tracking around. - I think it is a stretch to consider most of the topics presented as any kind of myth, unless they are considered so among cognitive neuroscientists. A more appropriate title might be "Random Interesting Topics from Neuroscience." - While I appreciate the challenges of tailoring one of these courses to "lay persons," her choice of phraseology was too simplistic and inaccurate. The brain isn't "wired." Neurons do not "commit suicide." If the brain evolved, it obviously isn't "designed perfectly" or "designed" period. - I expected the course to be from a more physical/biological neuroscience perspective and not so heavily from the psychological approach. I suppose I should have expected that since her Ph.D. is in Cognitive Neuroscience. - The reference to so many studies that "seem to indicate" just came across as presenting opinions that support one's perspective and not established scientific explanations. I understand and appreciate that so much is unknown and research is ongoing, but more facts or established conclusions would have been preferable. - I did not appreciate that she seemed to "get preachy" in Lesson 23, "Is Your Brain Unprejudiced?" This came across as purely psychological opinion and not neuroscience in the least. Of course people have prejudices and bias. That is no myth that needs to be exploded. I try to broaden my perspectives and knowledge base, which is one of the reasons I view The Great Courses, so I gutted it out and watched the complete course. I almost quit after the first three, but I persevered. Unfortunately, my negative experience was only intensified. I am an engineer by profession, and I understand my propensity toward the practical and fact based elements of life, but this course seemed to be more of a jumble of topics that were labeled as "myths" and then discussed in a shallow presentation with no coherent structure that would have been more appropriate in a social setting of light conversation. It was a waste of my time.
Date published: 2021-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 4.5 stars for Brain Myths Exploded ... Not a review, so much as my general impression of the course. Overall, I really enjoyed this course. This is my second course from Dr Indre Viskontas (the first was "12 Essential Concepts") and I found it to be largely worth my time. The first 22 lectures had relatively interesting material with excellent presentation, excellent illustrations (especially the 3D illustration of the human brain) and maintained my interest, easily. These lectures frequently stimulated my interest and kept me pondering on what I had learned and curious to learn more. This is usually what I hope for in a lecture series. When Lecture 23 started to feel like 'Critical Race Theory' repackaged, I skipped past the remainder of the lecture (for personal reasons of my own). Lecture 24 on 'technology's influence on the human mind' did not engage me as well as the first 22 lectures did and I will likely take a pass on Dr Viskontas's entire lecture series dedicated to that topic (at least for now). In terms of pure enjoyability (very subjective, I know), I would include this course in my top 35 (out of 375 courses). In terms of what I learned, I would also include it in my top 35. So, the top 9th percentile is not bad. Would I watch it again? Absolutely. Whether or not the content engages you, I don't think that anyone would argue that Dr Viskontas has a very pleasant presentation style. I would place Dr Viskontas in my top 10 professors, for presentation style alone. If the lecture titles look interesting to you, then I would recommend giving this course a chance. I believe that most people will easily conclude that it was worth their time. I watched the video and found that the graphics and illustrations made a positive contribution to the overall presentation.
Date published: 2021-08-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Some facts outdated, but learned a lot! At first it was hard to take someone who wears that much makeup seriously (her face is whiter than her arms), but after I critically thought my way out of that personal bias I started to listen and learned a lot of cool stuff. However, when she gets into glucose and how food impacts the brain, she seems to know nothing about ketones and the ketogenic diet. Maybe she didn't mention it or I missed it but it would've been nice to have some updated facts on the science of ketones in the brain replacing glucose.
Date published: 2021-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoroughly Enjoyable Lecture She made this topic so enjoyable that I’m actually sad there are only 24 sessions. The topic is interesting, she is witty, and she certainly increased my interest in the subject. I am now purchasing all her courses. I recommend this course for everyone, but especially teens as it may make them consider pursuing a career in the sciences. To be honest, my interest is generally ancient history and this course really opened my eyes. I also think it is timely with the myths, conspiracies, and untruths in our society. Facts can be refreshing. I hope you enjoy this course as much as I did.
Date published: 2021-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear, interesting, and effective. I had watched this professor's earlier course and knew this one would be good. She is careful to define terms or concepts and offers examples by way of illustration at every turn. The idea of examining misconceptions (myths) in popular understanding of neuroscience is a great format for the course. It was excellent!
Date published: 2020-07-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Straw man When discussing global warming, she sets up a straw man and then attacks that. While thousands of scientists disagree with her viewpoint, the silly straw man creation was quite obvious. Ironically, this was on a lecture of being objective.
Date published: 2019-12-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent topic and discussion Each lesson covered a common misconception in clear and convincing discussion. Very informative and well presented and very clear to even those without neuroscience background.
Date published: 2019-10-18
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Join an acclaimed neuroscientist for 24 lectures that bust popular myths about memory, dreams, emotions, consciousness, and more.


Indre Viskontas

The beauty of science is that with each question that is answered, many more questions are raised; each discovery helps us develop more refined queries about the world around us.


University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Indre Viskontas is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of San Francisco and Professor of Sciences and Humanities at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she is pioneering the application of neuroscience to musical training. Professor Viskontas received her Bachelor of Science degree with a Specialist in Psychology and a minor in French Literature at Trinity College in the University of Toronto. She also holds a Masters of Music degree in vocal performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She completed her PhD in cognitive neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she studied the neural basis of memory and reasoning. Her post-doctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco explored the paradoxical facilitation of creativity in patients with neurodegenerative diseases.

By This Professor

Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience
12 Essential Scientific Concepts
How Digital Technology Shapes Us
Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience


Is Your Brain Perfectly Designed?

01: Is Your Brain Perfectly Designed?

Begin the course by debunking one of the most fundamental myths about the human brain. Along the way, discover how our brains are shaped by evolution and experience, which neurons are responsible for self-awareness and motor coordination, and why the brain is still very much a work in progress....

33 min
Are Bigger Brains Smarter?

02: Are Bigger Brains Smarter?

When it comes to brains, size doesn't matter as much as you think. Here, explore concepts including the Encephalization quotient (which compares brain mass to body mass), the "g" factor (a long-sought-after standard of cognitive ability), and the lessons scientists have learned from studying the brain of Albert Einstein....

30 min
Is Mental Illness Just a Chemical Imbalance?

03: Is Mental Illness Just a Chemical Imbalance?

According to Dr. Viskontas, major psychiatric illnesses aren't just the result of chemical concentrations in the brain. The focus of this lecture is an intriguing exploration of two disorders that have proven to be far more complicated and nuanced in our understanding of mental illness: schizophrenia and depression....

32 min
Are Creative People Right-Brained?

04: Are Creative People Right-Brained?

Think your brain is divided into a creative side and an analytical side? Think again. The two hemispheres of your brain are actually quite interconnected. Discover what neuroimaging has revealed about the way our brains think and create, and why it's all about collaboration-not competition....

28 min
How Different Are Male and Female Brains?

05: How Different Are Male and Female Brains?

We're always hearing about studies that find significant differences the brains of men and women. How should we be thinking about gender differences in the brain? How are these differences misinterpreted? What are the differences in the male and female amygdala and hippocampus? Which genders express which emotions more openly?...

31 min
How Accurate Is Your Memory?

06: How Accurate Is Your Memory?

In this lecture that unpacks the accuracy of your memories, learn how information is encoded, stored, and retrieved in the brain; examine how Alzheimer's disease and amnesia affect the brain's ability to remember; and explore the "Seven Sins of Memory," including absentmindedness, memory blocking, and misattribution....

30 min
Do You Only Use 10 of Your Brain?

07: Do You Only Use 10 of Your Brain?

Are you using your brain to its fullest potential? Here, clear up some of the mystery about how much of our brain power we're using. As you'll learn, you use a lot more of your brain than you think, whether you're practicing a new skill or simply zoning out in front of the television....

30 min
Do You Perceive the World as It Really Is?

08: Do You Perceive the World as It Really Is?

According to Dr. Viskontas, the biggest myth about our senses is that they reflect the world as it actually is. Using vision as an example, discover how your sensory system uses shortcuts and fills in details to create, from portions of the environment, the illusion that you're perceiving reality objectively....

29 min
Is Your Brain Too Smart for Magic Tricks?

09: Is Your Brain Too Smart for Magic Tricks?

We've all been fooled by a magic trick at one point or another. But we rarely stop to think about how magicians are simply manipulating pre-existing shortcomings in our minds. Here, explore some of the neurological principles magicians rely on, including selective attention, inattention blindness, and change blindness....

30 min
Is Your Brain Objective?

10: Is Your Brain Objective?

Contrary to what you might believe, we don't weight evidence equally before building personal beliefs. Instead, we're beholden to confirmation bias. Is this a bug our brains could do without? Is it an evolutionary advantage? Can it also lead to sublime experiences (like appreciating a piece of music)?...

31 min
Do You Have 5 Independent Senses?

11: Do You Have 5 Independent Senses?

Discover why your senses aren't as separate as you think-and why you actually have more than five. Topics in this lecture include proprioception (sensing where you are) and synesthesia (a neurological condition in which the stimulation of one sense causes the involuntary activation of a different sense)....

28 min
Can Certain Foods Make You Smarter?

12: Can Certain Foods Make You Smarter?

In this lecture on "brain food," consider the scientific truths behind the food fads that make headlines; test out the myths associated with foods like fish oil, vitamins, power drinks, chocolate, and tea; and ponder the potential of smart pills (known as nootropics) such as Adderall and Ritalin....

31 min
Can Brain Games Make You Smarter?

13: Can Brain Games Make You Smarter?

An increased focus among scientists on neuroplasticity (changes in the brain's biology) has led to a flurry of brain-training games and tools aimed at improving our cognitive skills. Here, probe the potential of these games, and consider some alternate ways to train your brain, including exercising and socializing....

30 min
Does Your Brain Shut Down during Sleep?

14: Does Your Brain Shut Down during Sleep?

What, exactly, happens when you fall asleep? Why do our brains need sleep in order to function? What are some of the neurological dangers of not getting enough sleep? What are the sleep patterns of other animals, and how do they compare to our own? Dr. Viskontas provides some answers....

28 min
Are Your Decisions Rational?

15: Are Your Decisions Rational?

When we make decisions, we're actually swayed by things that any truly rational human being would ignore. Why do our brains work this way? Explore the "mental laziness" hardwired into our nature, and why we easily fall prey to superficial judgments. Central to this idea: the brain's two thinking systems....

29 min
Are You Always Conscious while Awake?

16: Are You Always Conscious while Awake?

In this lecture, probe the eternal "problem" of consciousness-perhaps the most difficult topic in all of neuroscience. How have scientists tried to determine what consciousness is and how it works? Along the way, examine several theories, including the intriguing idea that consciousness is nothing more than a neural afterthought....

31 min
Are Other Animals Conscious?

17: Are Other Animals Conscious?

Continue exploring consciousness with a consideration of its appearance in other animals. Scientific studies in animals ranging from primates to octopi have uncovered some illuminating insights into how animals can potentially show complex behaviors (including compassion, self-recognition, and generosity) we typically associate exclusively with conscious humans....

29 min
Can You Multitask Efficiently?

18: Can You Multitask Efficiently?

Multitasking is a critical skill in today's world. But does it really work as well as you think? Dr. Viskontas lays bare the neurology of the multitasker and uses key studies to draw several powerful conclusions, including that doing two things at once is impossible when both tasks require your conscious attention....

30 min
Are Dreams Meaningful?

19: Are Dreams Meaningful?

Consider some of the potential roots (and purposes) of dreams and how neuroscientists study them. While dreams continue to remain mysterious, some theories posit that dreams play a role in consolidating your memory, and that they can be driven by emotional events (including traumatic ones)....

31 min
Can Brain Scans Read Your Mind?

20: Can Brain Scans Read Your Mind?

Discover what neuroimaging can-and can't-tell us about how the human mind works. First, examine what brain scans are actually showing us. Then, consider three regions of the brain prone to common misunderstanding in the media: the amygdala, the reward circuitry, and the prefrontal cortex....

30 min
Can Adult Brains Change for the Better?

21: Can Adult Brains Change for the Better?

Just because you're an adult doesn't mean you can't still learn and master new things. After considering how neuroplasticity works in a toddler's brain, explore how exercise and musical training are two ways to influence the growth of new neurons and the formation of new synapses (known as neurogenesis)....

29 min
Do Special Neurons Enable Social Life?

22: Do Special Neurons Enable Social Life?

From mirror neurons to von Economo cells, learn the role that special neurons might play in human social behavior. Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience have expanded our understanding of how we interact with and understand people, but myths about these special neurons abound....

31 min
Is Your Brain Unprejudiced?

23: Is Your Brain Unprejudiced?

You might not be racist, but your brain likely is. How did neuroscientists come to this startling conclusion? And what can we, as individuals, do about it? Find out in this fascinating lecture on the neurology of prejudice, implicit and explicit biases, stereotyping, and in-group preferences....

31 min
Does Technology Make You Stupid?

24: Does Technology Make You Stupid?

In this final lecture, ponder several prevalent myths about the relationship between technology and the brain. Among these: smartphones are killing our attention spans, social media is addictive (and leads us to be less social), computers make us less intelligent, and search engines are destroying our memory....

32 min