Jonathan Safran Foer, Shelby Freedman Harris, and Yaakov Stern Interviewed by Big Think

A novelist and two neuroscientists came by Big Think's offices this past week.


Jonathan Safran Foer, one of the most acclaimed young novelists of the past decade, spoke to us about his passionate belief in vegetarianism and the evils of factory farms (which generate 99% of the meat we consume).  He noted that these farms are not only unethical and cruel but is the number one cause of global warming. Foer also told us about his creative process for fiction, saying that fiction is more freeing but also scarier than writing non-fiction.

The director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, Shelby Freedman Harris is an expert on sleep disorders. She explained Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT), the therapy she uses help patients combat persistent nightmares, often associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. By rehearsing nightmares in their conscious minds (and working to change the scary aspect of the dream to something pleasant), Harris's patients are often able to overcome these nightmares without any sort of medication. Harris also discussed other bizarre disorders like sleep paralysis and REM Behavior Disorder.

Finally, Columbia University neuropsychologist Yaakov Stern talked to us about the how the brain copes with aging and sleep deprivation. Stern told us about his research on why some people are able to function with less sleep than other people. He also explained his theory of cognitive reserve which explains why some brains are able to overcome the damage caused by Alzheimer's disease better than others. Stern says education and activity make the brain more plastic and thus more able to effectively work around neural degeneration.

If you want to be notified when our video interviews with these luminaries are posted, please subscribe to the What's New at Big Think RSS feed.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Afghanistan is the most depressed country on earth

No, depression is not just a type of 'affluenza' – poor people in conflict zones are more likely candidates

Image: Our World in Data / CC BY
Strange Maps
  • Often seen as typical of rich societies, depression is actually more prevalent in poor, conflict-ridden countries
  • More than one in five Afghans is clinically depressed – a sad world record
  • But are North Koreans really the world's 'fourth least depressed' people?
Keep reading Show less

Banned books: 10 of the most-challenged books in America

America isn't immune to attempts to remove books from libraries and schools, here are ten frequent targets and why you ought to go check them out.

Nazis burn books on a huge bonfire of 'anti-German' literature in the Opernplatz, Berlin. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • Even in America, books are frequently challenged and removed from schools and public libraries.
  • Every year, the American Library Association puts on Banned Books Week to draw attention to this fact.
  • Some of the books they include on their list of most frequently challenged are some of the greatest, most beloved, and entertaining books there are.
Keep reading Show less
Videos
  • Oumuamua, a quarter-mile long asteroid tumbling through space, is Hawaiian for "scout", or "the first of many".
  • It was given this name because it came from another solar system.
  • Some claimed 'Oumuamua was an alien technology, but there's no actual evidence for that.