David J. Linden, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His laboratory has worked for many years on the cellular substrates of memory storage in the brain, among other topics. He has a longstanding interest in scientific communication and serves as the Chief Editor of the Journal of Neurophysiology.
In this broad discussion with D.J. Grothe, David Linden challenges widespread beliefs about the brain, such as that people only use ten percent of it and that it is amazingly designed, arguing instead that the brain is “accidental.” He talks about why, as a brain scientist, he writes about topics such as love, God and sexual orientation. He describes the downsides of how the brain has evolved by including systems from previous brain “models,” and how this has given rise to those qualities that most profoundly shape our human experience. He discusses the neuron, and how it is a “lousy processor of information,” describing how evolution has nonetheless used it to build “clever us.” He talks about how our brains have constrained us, and may have physically led to the necessity of marriage, family and long childhoods. He surveys various claims regarding the enhancement of our cognitive capacities, such as playing Mozart to babies in utero, vitamins, smart drugs, mental exercises, and physical exercise. He talks about the brain science of homosexuality. And he argues that the brain has evolved to make everyone a “believer,” describing the similarities between belief in science and in religion, that both are similar “branches of the same cognitive stream.”