Radiolab

Radiolab believes your ears are a portal to another world. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience. Big questions are investigated, tinkered with, and encouraged to grow.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014 Permalink

Radiolab: Inner Voices

  

From the silent words of a child forming her first thought, to the inner heckler that taunts you when the pressure's on, a look at how the voices in our heads shape us -- for better and for worse.

The Voices Inside You

Where would we be without the voices in our heads? To get at this question, Charles Fernyhough raises another: can children think before they have words? According to Fernyhough, a Russian psychologist named Lev Vygotsky developed a theory about how the words and voices we hear as kids turn from speech outside our heads, to speech inside our heads... and help steer our reasoning and decision-making.

But, of course, not all the voices echoing inside our skulls are friendly helpers. Claude Steele describes how big an impact negative inner voices can have when we're stressed, and just how powerful words and stereotypes can be.

 

The Man Of 1,000 Voices

Mel Blanc was known as "the man of 1,000 voices," but the actual number may have been closer to 1,500. Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Tweety, Barney Rubble -- all Mel. His characters made him one of the most beloved men in America, and they may have also saved his life. 

Producer Sean Cole heads to the Blanc family house outside LA to ask Mel's son Noel Blancabout the night when Mel nearly died in a car crash on Dead Man's Curve, and the moment two weeks later when Bugs Bunny emerged from Mel's coma before Mel did. Neurosurgeon Louis Conway, who attended to Mel at the time, and NYU brain scientist Orrin Devinsky help Sean and Noel weigh what it might mean to be rescued by a figment of your own imagination, and whether one self can win out over another in a moment of crisis.

"Dead's Man Curve," which Jan and Dean immortalized in song, is just north of UCLA's Drake Stadium on Sunset Boulevard. According to Mel Blanc's autobiography "That's Not All Folks," age-old plans to straighten the curve were finally approved after his accident. 

 

A Head Full Of Symphonies

Bob Milne is one of the best ragtime piano players in the world, and a preternaturally talented musician -- he can play technically challenging pieces of music on demand while carrying on a conversation and cracking jokes. But according to Penn State neuroscientist Kerstin Betterman, our brains just aren't wired to do that. So she decided to investigate Bob's brain, and when she did, she discovered that Bob has an even more amazing ability... one that we can hardly believe, and science can't explain. Reporter Jessica Benko helps us get inside Bob's remarkably musical mind.