Neuroscientist Hannah Critchlow asks what the latest brain research might be telling us about ideas of free will, nature and nurture, and destiny.
At the dawn of neuroscience, it was an established principle that all of the neurons in the brain are created before birth and repair of a damaged brain isn’t possible. By the 1960s, experimental evidence was emerging indicating that at least some parts of the brain might actually be able to adapt, regenerate, and change.
For many, this meant a brighter and more optimistic view of human potential - a world in which we might see ourselves more as a blank slate, free from the destiny of our genetic inheritance.
However - we are now on the cusp of a new frontier in neuroscience. Developments in imaging technology and computational power are enabling mapping and exploration of the brain like never before. What are we learning? Hannah looks at whether we are, in fact, more like hard-wired machines, running on circuits we can’t alter. What if, by knowing more about our individual brain's wiring we might be in a better position to take decisions about the things that we can control?
Or - if everything we do is largely pre-determined by the physical structures of the brain, what does that mean for predicting our destiny?
Gina Rippon - Cognitive neuroscientist and author of The Gendered Brain
Kevin Mitchell - neurogeneticist and author of Innate
Colin Blakemore - neuroscientist
David Edwards - Director of The Centre for the Developing Brain at King’s College London
Sharon Begley - science journalist and author of The Plastic Brain
Hugo Spiers - cognitive neuroscientist
Produced by Peggy Sutton and Rich Ward
A Somethin’ Else production for BBC Radio 4
Radio 1 Breakfast Show host Greg James digs into the BBC's archives, taking some of the week's news stories as a starting point for a trip into the past.
Greg, who describes himself as a "proud radio nerd", is let loose in the vast BBC vaults, home to a treasure trove of radio and television programmes as well as some revealing documents. He says "As someone who spends too much time searching for oddities online, the opportunity to gain access to one of the greatest media resources on the planet was too good to miss."
This audio journey uncovers some surprising moments. As the UK prepares for the state visit of President Trump, Greg discovers some of his first encounters with British broadcasters - and also finds that searching for 'trump' in the archives delivers an unexpected series from the early 1980s.
The Elton John biopic Rocketman arrives in our cinemas this week and the BBC archives reveal that Elton's journey to global success had a very bumpy start. And following the announcement that Yorkshire-born Simon Armitage will be the next Poet Laureate, we hear from a long-overlooked Yorkshire writer who wrote hundreds of royal poems. And there's an art review format which Greg describes as 'astonishing': two Beryls consider paintings by an artist called Beryl.
Producer Paula McGinley
We assume the instruments we know and love today will be around forever. What if they're not? What new forms and ideas could take their place? Hannah Catherine Jones takes you into the world of the prototype, meeting instrument inventors challenging traditions and shifting boundaries.
Sarah Kenchington is an artist and inventor living on a derelict farm in the Campsies, Scotland. Her curiosity for how instruments would sound if they were freed from humans led to a life-long endeavour. Twenty years later and she's still tinkering with her semi-mechanical orchestra, complete with hurdy-gurdy, 100-year old gramophone and ping pong machine.
Savinder Bual is an artist, animator and now instrument-inventor. She's fascinated with the pineapple - a fruit that symbolises Britain's dark colonial history whilst being a fun, popular motif. By spinning the pineapple head, she realised its leaves could pluck strings and make music. That discovery led to her making a complete orchestra of pineapple instruments.
The Mi.Mu gloves were invented by a team of scientists, technologists and e-textile designers. Using your movements to trigger sounds from a computer, they allow the performers the flexibility to move on stage without being connected to a computer. But if the sound isn't coming from the gloves themselves, does this still make them an instrument?
Hannah enlists the expertise of Adam Harper (musicologist, music critic, former church organ player), important grime figurehead Elijah (who runs the record label Butterz), multi-instrumentalist and producer Swindle, and the luthier Bill Bunce.
Hannah Catherine Jones is an artist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, conductor and founder of the Peckham Chamber Orchestra.
Produced by Eliza Lomas.
Ex-inmate Carl Cattermole explores the power of concerts that have taken place in jails.
Music lover Carl recently served an 18-month prison sentence. While inside, he found solace by listening to music through his headphones - but never had the experience of listening to music with others. He was aware that, over the years, several concerts have taken place inside prisons and so, on release, he set out to find out about these musical events – discovering how the communal experience of prison concerts can transform lives.
Ex-offender Erwin James talks about folk singer John Martyn’s performances at Long Lartin jail - and the effect that concert had on some the UK’s most hardened criminals.
Writer Ivan Hewett relays the story of Olivier Messiaen composing his Quartet for the End of Time during his incarceration in a prisoner of war camp in Silesia.
Music journalist John Ingham recalls the time in 1976 when he accompanied the Sex Pistols into Chelmsford Maximum Security Prison, where the band played a gig for 50 inmates on a hot sunny afternoon.
Finally, musician George Caird tells Carl about the time Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears went into Wormwood Scrubs on 11th July 1943 to perform for the prisoners there. The inmates included their great friend Michael Tippett, who was serving a three-month sentence for being a conscientious objector.
Presenter: Carl Cattermole
Producer Rosie Boulton
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4
Can My Eleven Year Old Fix My Life?
Arthur is eleven, likes dinosaurs and plays the cello. Arthur's dad Babak is 40, an artist and a former musician. His most successful artistic endeavour was when he collected twigs and sold them on eBay for £62.
As his self-deprecating social media posts suggest, Babak Ganjei doesn't have the best outlook on life. He makes prints that state, "I'm in the bush and I really love you" and, "I regret the divorce." One exhibition is optimistically titled "Everything is really bad and it’s only going to get worse and this is the most perfect time".
Arthur thinks his Dad should go for more runs, worry less and get a cat. Arthur also thinks it’s time his Dad learned how to ride a bike.
In 2019, the importance of self-care is everywhere. Self-help books, wellness conferences and therapist offices - telling people how to help themselves is a significant business. For three weeks, Arthur’s 11-year-old mind imaginatively tries to fix his Dad’s life.
Produced by Katie Callin and Barney Rowntree
A Reduced Listening production for BBC Radio 4
BBC 4's Seriously... Podcast presents a rich selection of documentaries aimed at relentlessly curious minds. Presented by Ashley John-Baptiste, this twice weekly podcast replaces the Radio 4 Documentary of the Week.
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