November 13, 2017 9:38 pm

Tuesday, Consciousness Is on Our Minds

Our line-up of StarTalk All-Stars hosts gets a little stronger this week as cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin hosts her first episode alongside comic co-host Chuck Nice and their guest, philosopher and Co-Director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness David Chalmers, as they explore consciousness and the mysteries of the human brain.

Ben Ratner's photo of Heather Berlin, Chuck Nice and David Chalmers in the StarTalk All-Stars Studio.

Left to right: Heather Berlin, Chuck Nice and David Chalmers. Credit: Ben Ratner.

StarTalk Radio fans will know Heather from her guest appearances on our series of episodes StarTalk Live! Big Brains at BAM and StarTalk Live! at the Bell House: The Space Between Your Ears but when she made the switch from guest to host she was a natural. You’ll discover a lot about consciousness on this episode, especially how scientists today are trying understand consciousness and the mysteries that still remain.

You’ll hear about the “easy” and “hard” problems of understanding consciousness, which I think is a fascinating part of the episode. Simply put, the “hard” problem is trying to explain the relationship between physical process and experience and the “easy” problems are explaining how specific brain mechanisms enable functions to be performed. It’s helpful that David, who was at the forefront of defining these problems, is in studio to easily guide us through these complex, yet immensely interesting ideas.

As if that wasn’t enough philosophical quandary for your brain, later on in the episode Heather and company talk about “readiness potential” – brain activity that happens right before an action – and it’s one of the coolest things I’ve heard in the realm of neuroscience.

We dive into a lot more on this episode including Dissociative Identity Disorder, pain vs. pleasure, sentience, free will, and more. If you like this type of conversation – a blend of science and philosophy – the themes of this episode reminded me of our Season 6 StarTalk Radio episode, Extended Classic: “Are You Out of Your Mind?” with Oliver Sacks, featuring Neil’s interview with the late neurologist, his good friend. It’s one of my favorite episodes we’ve ever done.

Be sure to listen tomorrow night, and if you like what you hear, revisit our classic episode with Oliver Sacks, and Heather’s previous appearances on the StarTalk Podcast Network.

Please join us tomorrow night for StarTalk All-Stars at “What is Consciousness?” with Heather Berlin at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on our All-Stars channels on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too. And remember that you can also catch next week’s StarTalk All-Stars episode one week early on TuneIn, at

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Ian Mullen