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The Origins Podcast with Lawrence Krauss
Mark Mattson: Building the Brain: Glutamate as Sculpture and Destroyer
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Mark Mattson: Building the Brain: Glutamate as Sculpture and Destroyer

A conversation with the former Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging about new and important ideas of brain development.

You’ve probably heard of Serotonin, or Dopamine. Those are the sexy neurotransmitters that get all the press. However, you have probably not heard of Glutamate. Which is a shame because it is probably the most important neurotransmitter in the brain, responsible in large part for its growth, and also its plasticity.

Mark Mattson is a neuroscientist with a distinguished career as Director of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. While initially interested in developmental biology in animals, Mattson’s work in endocrinology led him to become to study the effect of hormones on the brain. Eventually he began to focus on the role of the Glutamate in neuroplasticity and Alzheimers disease. He realized how essential that neurotransmitter was for understanding the very formation of the brain, the growth of neurons, and the formation of axons and dendrites, as well as its key role in brain functions including learning and memory .

I first got to know Mark when we co-organized a workshop on Pattern Processing in the Human Brain, where we invited well known neuroscientists as well as computer scientists and AI researchers to come together to discuss areas of joint interest. The idea was to explore key features that may underlie consciousness, and also to explore how to ensure how to avoid the error-prone brain functioning such as one finds in Schizophrenia as AI systems are developed. The public event associated with the workshop was entitled Creativity and Madness, and involved a dialogue between me and actor Johnny Depp.

Most recently, Mark has written a fascinating book, entitled Sculptor and Destroyer, to describe and explain the importance of Glutamate in brain formation and functioning. We had a fascinating discussion about that, and also how he became interested in the brain after initially planning to become a veterinarian. I hope you find the discussion as enlightening as I did.

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The Origins Podcast with Lawrence Krauss
The Origins Podcast features in-depth conversations with some of the most interesting people in the world about the issues that impact all of us in the 21st century. Host, theoretical physicist, lecturer, and author, Lawrence M. Krauss, will be joined by guests from a wide range of fields, including science, the arts, and journalism. The topics discussed on The Origins Podcast reflect the full range of the human experience - exploring science and culture in a way that seeks to entertain, educate, and inspire. lawrencekrauss.substack.com