John Medina: “Brain Rules for Aging Well” @ Talks at Google (Transcript)

SPEAKER: Today, we welcome Dr. John Medina who has actually — we’re welcoming him back. He has been here in 2008 and 2010. Welcome back, John. And he’s a professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine. His books include “Brain Rules,” “Brains Rules for the Baby,” “Brain Rules for Aging Well,” which is the one that he’s going to talk to today, which I think can apply to everybody in this room.

And so yes, so let me welcome Dr. John Medina.

JOHN MEDINA: Well, it’s great to be back. I’ve done the last two over in the California offices, the San Francisco. So I appreciate the invitation to come back here. And thank you for taking part of your afternoon to spend with a developmental molecular biologist.

We are not known for giving compelling speeches, and you’ve just had lunch. So the professor perfectly understands if you need to kind of roll over and take a nap while it is I’m talking. But if you’re not, we’re going to be talking about this guy.

So third one in the series, “Brains Rules for Baby,” “Brain Rules” was kind of in the middle, and then “Brain Rules for Aging Well,” so birth, life, and death all at once at the same time, and do so in about 50 minutes.

Specifically, I’m going to be dividing this talk into three parts, and so doing, introduce the newest member of the trio. The title to talk is “The Importance of Friends, Learning and”– this is weird — “Nostalgia.” And we’re going to talk about some from brain science to behavior.

My research interests are the genetics of psychiatric disorders. I spent a long time thinking about how the brain develops in the womb at the level of cell and gene and then what happens when things screw up, and years later, you get a psychiatric disorder. So I have to speak three dialects of brain science.

I have to be at home in the behavioral world, and in the cellular world, and my home base, which is on the helix, the world of biochemistry and neurobiology.

So on the basis of some of that experience, I’m going to divide this introduction to the book, “Brain Rules for Aging Well,” into three parts.

Part one, I’ll talk to you a little bit about the origin of the book. And then I can’t do the whole thing. So what I thought I would do is that I would talk about the first chapter, which is the “Importance of Friendships,” part three in the last chapter, of “The Power of Reminiscing.”

And if there’s any time left at all, I’ll give a few comments about the middle of the chapter. We’ll have a hard stop, certainly, at 2 o’clock. And I’ll try and finish a little before then so that there is some time for Q&A; on the microphones. OK.

So this book is all about human behavior, as most of my books are, which means it’s a discussion about nature and nurture, and for all ages, as I hope to show. But I’d like to give you an example of how nature and nurture work together in this subject, and so illustrate the beginnings of the book.

What I have here is a list of lyrics. In their day, they were the number one song of their time. I’m going to tell you the lyrics. I’m not going to sing them. You’d see why I went into the molecular sciences if I tried to sing. I did marry a musician. If you recognize the melody, though, I want you to slip up your hand, if you don’t mind.

Everybody else, I would like you to look at the person who just slipped up their hand and assess their relative age. OK? Ready?

Here’s the first one:

“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed, now. It’s just a sprinkling for the May Queen. Yes, there are two paths you can go by. But in the long run –”

What is that song?

AUDIENCE: “Stairway to Heaven”?

JOHN MEDINA: “Stairway to Heaven,” 1971 album, 1975 was the single release. OK.

Lyric number two:

“A traffic jam when you’re already late, a no smoking sign on you cigarette break. It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. It’s like meeting the man of your dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife.”

Alanis Morissette off the album, “Jagged Little Pill,” 1991, very good.

Lyric number three:

“We break up. You call me. I love you. Ooh, we called it off again last night. But ooh, this time I’m telling you, I’m telling you, we are never, ever, ever —

AUDIENCE: Getting back together.

JOHN MEDINA: “–getting back together.” Yes, indeed, Taylor Swift, 2012, for the 3/4 of you that did not raise your hand. This is an example of nature and nurture.

And here’s how that works and what we’re going to be talking about today, which is the general sciences. Nature, you may have heard some of these songs in your tweens. Certainly, they were well-established and they sold lots of copy in their time. What year you were a teen depended upon when you were born. I can’t think of anything more nature than that.

But there’s a nurture component too. You didn’t all hear the same songs as a teenager. Some of you were 18 in 1971 when “Stairway to Heaven” was hitting the airwaves. Some of you were 18 in 1991 when Alanis Morissette was entering the airwaves. And some of you were 18 in 2012 when Taylor Swift was busy making her mark. Even when in a single country like this, the cultures are different.

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By Pangambam S

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