Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Secrets of the Brain Revealed
Aired September 17, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, does the brain have a mind of its own?
CARA SANTA MARIA, NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCHER: The mind is an entity that exists outside of the brain and can exert power.
KING: Making us do and say things we know we shouldn't.
DR. DREW PINSKY, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: Your brain fools you.
KING: Causing us to eat, drink too much or stay in abusive relationships.
DR. DANIEL AMEN, PSYCHIATRIST: And actually work on the heroin or morphine centers of the brain.
KING: Can we re-wire all of that or is the brain more powerful than any drug or therapy? Next on LARRY KING LIVE.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING (on-camera): A few notes before we get started. Great rundown for you next week. Jimmy Carter will be here Monday night, Barbara Walters on Tuesday, Jerry Seinfeld next Thursday. All in New York. Bad behavior, is it all in our heads?
We'll talk about it with Dr. Drew Pinsky, the host of "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" and author of "The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America." Cara Santa Maria, neuroscience researcher, formerly taught at Queens College, Dr. Daniel Amen, psychiatrist and brain imaging specialist. He's the author of "Unchain Your Brain: 10 Steps to Breaking the Additions That Steal Your Life," and finally Dr. George Pratt, noted clinical cytologist, notable psychologist, (INAUDIBLE) joy, a body mind approach to calmer, happier, more successful you.
First, Kara what is neuroscience researcher?
CARA SANTA MARIA, NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCHER: Somebody who studies the brain, really, I mean in all aspects. Neuroscience is kind of a broad term. It can be neurobiology. It can be neuropsychology. I have a mix background in both, but --
KING: Write, or teach, or both?
SANTA MARIA: I have been in the past teaching and doing research while I was working on my degree. Education is really the path that I want to take.
KING: Let's get into the overall topic here. The brain. We'll start with you Dr. Pinsky. Why does the brain not stop us from doing things we know are wrong?
DR. DREW PINSKY, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: You know, it would make sense if you have, say, an evolutionary point of view that the brain was a perfect instrument that only increased our survivability and only did things that were good for us. But it's a much messier system in biology that just that. And even not just trying to decide why the brain isn't the perfect system in terms of how to operate, how does the brain create the mind and what's the relationship between the mind and the brain.
KING: They are different?
PINSKY: I kind of think the mind and the brain, the best way I can communicate to people is like music is caused by a, say, bow going across the strings of violin. Music has an existence of its own. It can shaped and changed, but it's dependant on the violin and the bow to be created.
KING: Dr. Amen, we're going to break this down in topics by segments. So, we'll talk about overeating. Anybody would know what's wrong to overeat. It's bad to be fat. So, why would you overeat? Doesn't the brain tell you that's too much?
DR. DANIEL AMEN, PSYCHIATRIST: Not really. In fact, as your weight goes up, the actual physical size of your brain goes down. So, your judgment --
KING: You get dumber?
AMEN: You get dumber. Your reasoning goes down in the studies that we've done. So being healthy is critical to thinking right. But, if you've had a brain injury, overeating goes up. If you've been eating badly for a long time, you become addicted to the bad foods, the fat, sugar and salt when you put them in certain combinations and actually work on the heroin or morphine centers of the brain.
KING: Dr. Pratt, they say to exercise. Can you exercise your brain?
GEORGE PRATT, PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes, you can. the first thing to do besides taking good care of yourself physically and proper supplementation would be to use it to various strategies to strengthen certain neuronal connections and also to remove and release trauma, stress, and those elements that are interfering with your quality of life because --
KING: The practical exercises you can do? PRATT: Actually, there are. Actually, when there's an exciting new development in energy psychology which is using the body's energy system to actually the acupressure, puncture system to help create some changes in the feeling state and then also have an affect to the brain, but the nice thin is some of these little simple techniques can be learned and practiced in five minutes.
KING: Cara, the more you research, the more imponderable it gets? Is the brain a great mystery?
SANTA MARIA: Definitely. Definitely. And I think that what Dr. drew was speaking about is really important because a lot of individuals in fields that are kind of related to neuroscience have been struggling with the question of mind and brain for as far back as we can remember, you know. And there are a lot of people out there who still believe that the mind is an entity that exists outside of the brain and can exert power on the brain.
And we're starting to see changes in research that are showing that we do have very plastic brains meaning that neuronal connections between different cells can sometimes change and we can have new pathways that are wired based on experience. So, there's an interesting kind of feedback loop where the brain creates mind and then the mind can exert power on the brain and physically change the structure of the brain.
KING: Can a poor learning brain have a good mind?
SANTA MARIA: Poor learning brain have a good mind, probably.
AMEN: Thomas Edison did terrible in school, got beaten in school, and obviously, we would say he had an amazing mind.
KING: So, how do we separate them? Let's say on obesity.
PINSKY: Well, the mind body duelism is something that goes all the way back to (INAUDIBLE) but the fact is how do we deal with something like obesity where we've been evolutionary -- you know, listen, millions, millions of years went into our brain development. And we develop in such way to live, maybe the age of 20, and do you take advantage of what the environment had in terms to increase our probability of surviving, so things that were high in calorie, things in fat and sugar and things we, of course, craved and we're deeply and well rewarded in our brain system.
I don't know where get to head in you guys, but the brain is many different systems. There's a rationale system. There's a award system. There's an emotional system. There's a potential system and executive system, and the fact is with eating, the reward system and euphoric system gets very deeply involve in this. And for some people, that can actually trigger an addictive process.
KING: Dr. Amen, does the stomach tell me I'm hungry or the brain?
AMEN: That's your brain that tells you you're hungry. But we think of the stomach as your second brain because your intestinal track actually produces more neurotransmitters or chemicals that work on your brain than the brain does itself. So, your body is really one system. I think of your brain as the super computer that is running everything, but it's all interconnected.
KING: So, will the brain tell me to overeat?
PRATT: Sometimes it does if people have damage to certain parts of the brain, you can have faulty signals. We were just discussing a case of a woman who was 490 pounds and then would have a Lap-Band and she was 280 and she couldn't move lower on the scale with that, so they experimented with deep brain stimulation and running wires to certain parts of the brain to help her to feel a lack of craving, feeling secession (ph).
And it shows some promise, but I'd like as a clinical psychologist, I think what are the circumstances besides the physiology that are going on that can be affected.
KING: Back to the basics, Cara, why does the brain do dumb things?
SANTA MARIA: Wow.
PINSKY: That's a great question.
SANTA MARIA: It's a difficult question.
PINSKY: It's a good one.
SANTA MARIA: I think that we have a lot of -- the brain as Dr. Drew was saying is messy. It's evolutionarily messy and being higher order and higher thinking mammals, sometimes our executive function can kind of get in the way of our deeper and lower brain processes, our more instinctual brain processes. We have a lot of cognitive biases and cognitive fallacies that we have to face every day. And one example would be a fallacy that a lot of people getting back to overeating.
Will experience once they can't get their eating in check and they can't get their exercise in check and this is the same with addiction, we often times tend to overcompensate and over think how well we can put ourselves amidst stressors, you know, in our life. So, we'll kind of be around people who are eating rich foods. We'll be around people who are smoking cigarettes in our presence, and study after study show that we definitely don't quite have the control that we think we do.
KING: Will power, does it work? Find out after the break.
KING: I guess one of the definitions of insanity was repeating the same thing and expecting a different result. So, let's get to overeating. What does the brain expect? PINSKY: I want to stop just for a second here at the question you posed before going to break which is does will power work? And what you have to understands, this is disease of addiction that I work with that will power, the usual systems that we deploy to decide and to affect volition, actually get usurped by the distorted drive systems of addiction. So, you start thinking the wrong things. You start feeling that the wrong things are the right things.
KING: You fool your brain?
PINSKY: Your brain fools you, and so, things like -- you know, friends of my patients all the time once they get sober, they're going, God, I'm sober, but I kind of thinking about that guy Joe. I got to visit Joe. I don't know why, but he's a good guy. Well, Joe, of course, lived right next to my crack dealer. But the fact is that kind of thinking emerges always in addiction.
And so, the systems that we use to rely upon for something we call will actually become at the service of the deeper brain systems to which we are completely helpless.
KING: Since drug addiction, drugs are illegal, is there a criminal mind toward the brain? I mean, you know you're doing wrong not only for the addiction but you'd even steal it for the addiction. What is the brain doing there?
AMEN: One part of the brain we have to talk about when we talk about addiction or will power is the front part of the brain. So, the front third of the brain called the prefrontal cortex largest in humans than in any other animal by far. So, 30 percent of the human brain, 11 percent of the chimpanzee brain, 7 percent of your dog's brain, 3 percent of your cat's brain, when your prefrontal cortex works right, and it's not fully developed until we're about 25 years old.
When it's weak, it's like the supervisor in your head is taking a break and then your inner child who is having tantrums or who wants crack cocaine or wants the third piece of cheesecake, if you prefrontal cortex is not right, nothing in your life is going to be right. So head injuries matter. Low blood sugar matters. You don't eat breakfast, you're going to make bad decisions about food the rest of the day. If you don't sleep right, lower blood flow to the brain.
KING: Doesn't that defy, Dr. Pratt, the thought that when you're 4 years old, you know everything about yourself then.
PRATT: Yes, when we're 4, when we're talking about will power or one power, we have a conscious and we have a subconscious mind. If we didn't -- it's called different things, Frank called it the unconscious, Jenny called it the subconscious. What happens is it's busy doing things for us all the time that we're not taking conscious awareness of because if we did, we'd be overloaded with all of the things that are on our minds.
Cellular reactions, movement of my arm as I'm speaking. If you think when you write a check and you write the first letter, the rest of your name is automatic. When you are walking, it's automatic unless you're climbing very special stairs. So, this is busy doing this all day long, but sometimes, you can't get from the subconscious to the conscious mind. We have cognitive therapy as a psychologist.
We're all taught to change how you think and change how you feel. What that goes so far because you cannot think your way out of some of these things. It is not connected. So, you have to use tools to utilize the subconscious which is very exciting. The number of neurons firing for second at the conscious level estimated 40. At the subconscious neuron firing per second, 40 million.
KING: Is the heart, Cara, in conflict with the brain, like, I know this girl is wrong for me. I know that.
PINSKY: That's a different thing.
SANTA MARIA: I think this is actually really important because it speaks to what some of the panelist have been saying about the prefrontal cortex and its connections to some deeper brain structures, specifically the limbic system which is the system of the brain that has generally taught to be responsible for emotion. Even in a healthy brain, we have neuron tracks. We have fibers that connect neurons in certain areas of the brain to neurons and other area of the brain.
There are a lot of neuron tracks connecting the limbic system to the prefrontal cortex. So, very few, almost none, connecting the prefrontal cortex back to the limbic system.
SANTA MARIA: Meaning that that deeper emotional self really has total control over our decade of function. Our kind of conscious being often times cannot handle, cannot control and tell our emotions what to do. We're victims to them.
PINSKY: Or drives or any --
KING: So, the heart wins a lot.
SANTA MARIA: A lot of time.
PINSKY: When you're talking about -- I think you were moving into sort of bad relationships now and that's
KING: I'm getting there. I don't want to be conflicted or controlled by one topic. The topic is the brain.
PINSKY: OK. The heart is the body. And I come from a sort of theoretical frame work where we don't pay enough attention to the brain/body connection.
KING: I'm going to break up and (INAUDIBLE) right there. We'll be right back. What about relationships requiring -- doesn't it require two brains to interact? How does that work. Maybe we'll get answers next.
KING: Fascinating subject tonight. The brain. Pick up where you left off.
PINSKY: You mentioned about two brains. In fact, in terms of particularly solving these problems we were talking about, we left the notion of a single skull system and entered in what have called co- creator frameworks. How brains affect one another? For instance I'm, before the break, talking about how I see the mind/body connection so important in that when say I'm working with an addict, I don't want to hear what they're saying or what they're thinking because I know it's all distorted.
But I sit and just try to attune my body to theirs and then see what I understand about empathizing where they're at and reflect that to them and magically that creates a kind of connection that creates the possibility of changing the wiring of the kinds of systems we're talking about here.
KING: How, Dr. Amen, do people change? How does the brain change its behavior for the better?
AMEN: You know, we see that all the time at our clinics. At the Amen Clinic, we do brain injury. We're in the middle of a big NFL study now. So, we scanned 105 football players and 103 of them have brain damage. And on the right program, which is getting them to sleep and getting them to lose weight and optimizing their vitamin D level for example, using some simple supplements, we improved their brains 80 percent of the time and then their thinking is better and their relationship is better.
When your brain works right, that's what I've always said, you work right. When your brain is troubled from a concussion, from an illness, you're going to have trouble in your life.
KING: This may sound stupid, Dr. Pratt? What makes one person smarter than another?
PRATT: That's an interesting question. I would say what makes one person smarter than another is their ability to adapt and to accept and to determine the course to go with which requires a clear brain. To maximally use IQ, you have to be in a certain state where you can perform. We also have something called EQ, emotional quotient, which is in some ways even more important than IQ because it's your ability to maximize intelligence as you relate to others and get things accomplished.
KING: We know that genes can affect -- I could have kidney disease because my mom had it. My grandfather had a heart problem, I can have a heart problem. Can you inherit brain problems?
SANTA MARIA: Definitely.
KING: Can you be born stupid? I don't mean stupid, you can be born with deficiencies in the brain. SANTA MARIA: You can be born with, you know, with problems with brain structure, with your neurochemistry that can cause in these states later in life, and there are some things that can be changed and there are some things that are somewhat fixed in the brain. I mean, we know that behavioral interventions can give great results because like we were talking about before, neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to adapt. There are some things that you have to kind of hit in the right developmental period before they get pretty well set.
KING: Can you spot this in a 3-year-old?
SANTA MARIA: I mean, I think that we're starting to see that with autism, for example, which used to be diagnosed around age 4 and 5. We can see changes in their brains as early as 1 1/2 years old because they're starting to realize that autistic boys generally have much larger brains than non-autistic boys and now we have measure for those types of things. So, there are some, I think, organic things that can be measured early, but lots of times, the behavior has to come out before somebody can recognize the problem.
KING: Dr. Amen, can you study a brain, just a microscope, and tell me something about that person?
AMEN: Well, with our studies, we do a study called spat (ph). I can look at a scan and tell you a lot about that person.
AMEN: You know, whether they're going to be impulsive or compulsive--
KING: Just looking at the scan?
AMEN: Just looking at the scan. And it's very important. But back to your point, my daughter is pregnant. And how her health is during her pregnancy will have a huge impact on that baby and for the baby's rest of life and how smart they are, how adaptable they are, how anxious they are. So, taking care of pregnant mothers is just critical. And a lot of people don't know they're pregnant until, you know, week six and the brain starts to develop at week three.
So, if they're drinking early and they don't even know that they're pregnant, it can potentially have a huge impact.
KING: We'll about drug addiction. A puzzling, puzzling problem right after this.
KING: Dr. Pinsky, the late Lenny Bruce, very funny guy once said there must be a good side to drug addiction or else why would so many people take it if they tell you it kills you and you run down to the store to get it or steal it or do whatever you can. How does the brain deal with that? Why would any person with a brain take cocaine?
PINSKY: Right. There are two answers to that question. You know, one is why you start using and why you can't stop using.
KING: Let's take with the start.
PINSKY: The starting usually is you're trying to find a solution to a problem. You're trying to feel better.
KING: And do your brain tell you this will stop?
PINSKY: No, the culture tells you this will work. And if your brain is genetically set up a certain way, I guess, it works. And that's what you have to acknowledge in drug addicts. They use drugs because they work. They do feel better. A lot better.
For an extended period of time many times and then a second phenomenon kicks in which is the disease of addiction whereby in spite of it no longer working or having serious consequences in their life, I like to call the do it again part of their brain has now been altered in such a way as to require them to do it again, do it again.
KING: What, Dr. Amen, does the addiction the need for the cocaine do to the brain? The brain still knows it's damaging, right?
AMEN: It damages it over time.
KING: So, the brain is damaged?
AMEN: Yes. And so the emotional part of the brain, the pleasure center in the brain hijacks it, and it's damaging your prefrontal cortex so that overtime you have less and less and less control. And once somebody gets clean, it can take months before they begin to feel clear headed. Just why I sort of hate 28-day programs because they haven't really learned anything because their brain is still not clear.
KING: Are there drugs for the brain?
AMEN: Oh, absolutely.
KING: I mean, to help the brain?
AMEN: Yes. We have many both natural medicines, fish oil being the one, and we have anti-depressants. We have anti-psychotic medicines. We have anti-seizure medicines which interestingly help a lot of people with anxiety and depression. So, medicines, but you know, I always say food is your best medicine. We know if you eat a bad diet, you have a higher risk of dementia and depression.
KING: What does depression do to the brain or does the brain cause the depression?
PRATT: Depression is the affect of various factors. What's happening both within a person and their brain obviously and also usually in their environment, depression occurs -- it has an affect on every aspect of a person's life. We all know the standard phenomenon, sleep disruption, appetite disruption, concentration problems, difficulty maintaining relationships and that creates a huge problem for individuals and then families.
So, my job as a clinical psychologist is to help use cognitive and this energy and hypnosis and EMDR (ph) tools to go back and find out what the problems are and if you can get them and go back to grief or trauma and you can clear those traumas, you can create a huge effect.
AMEN: And we see that in the brain. That's the exciting thing. If you do a treatment like hypnosis or EMDR for people with Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder -- I published a study a couple of years ago that said we actually calmed down the emotional structures in the brain. So therapy can help enhance brain function.
KING: In an autopsy, do we discover anything about the brains of suicides?
SANTA MARIA: Suicides, oh --
PINSKY: Just last week, there was a study of this kid that's an NFL player or something. He committed suicide and they found a lot of trauma on the surface of the brain.
AMEN: Right, the chronic --
KING: So a concussion could cause you to go over the top?
AMEN: Right, I published a study a couple of years ago on suicide. And what we found, the underside of the prefrontal cortex -- so again, this most human thoughtful part of the brain in people who killed themselves was really low in activity, which means they didn't have a supervisor. I always say suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
KING: Do you study the brains of drug addicts?
SANTA MARIA: Do I study the brains of drug addicts?
KING: Have you looked at the brains?
SANTA MARIA: I have looked at neuropsychological affects of people who abuse drugs. But generally in my research in the past, it was with individuals who had sensory disabilities.
SANTA MARIA: Blindness, deafness, paralysis and then later turned to abusing drugs. This was kind of my field of research when I was younger. I would look --
KING: You were younger?
SANTA MARIA: When I was in my undergrad. I would look at the neuropsychological outcomes. I was doing more behavioral testing using neuro-measures. I wasn't actually technically looking at their brains, but we were trying to make inferences about their brains from their behavior.
KING: Do blind people have different kind of brains?
SANTA MARIA: It depends on when the blindness occurred. It depends on if they were congenitally blind or if they were blind from an eye injury later or from a brain injury later. Blindness is a pretty complicated pathway that is both in your eyes and in your brain.
KING: When we come back, we're going to talk about memory. Don't go away.
KING: I don't know if this was true. I read somewhere that Einstein had 14 percent memory. His brain retained 14 percent, which made him a genius. First, is that true, Dr. Amen?
AMEN: You know, Einstein's brain was actually a little bit smaller than the average brain.
KING: Doesn't memory bring genius? The more you remember, the smarter you're going to be?
AMEN: Not necessarily. What brings genius is being able to look at things -- common things in a different way. And he certainly had that ability.
KING: Do you study memory?
PINSKY: Oh yeah. It's a big field. Memory is important for certain things. But really the higher order functions are things like problem solving. That's really more of -- that's what Dr. Amen is referring to. If you can solve the problem in a novel way that's never been thought of before.
KING: Wouldn't you go nuts, Dr. Pratt, if you had 20 percent memory?
PRATT: Probably be overloaded and we would have to be doing a lot of stress management, which would melt our circuits.
KING: Genius though?
PRATT: Genius is made up of so many different elements. Again, to be optimally functioning, you want to be able to utilize all of the tools that you have. And that means making sure that you are taking proper care of yourself, your mental -- your hard drive is clear, and again trauma is so powerful in affecting and disrupting memory. And most people have a lot of untreated and even unrecognized trauma.
PINSKY: Larry, I think that is a very important point. In our day -- in my world, I have noticed increasingly that trauma is the problem of our time. Trauma actually shrinks your hippocampus, which is one of the major memory --
PINSKY: Trauma not meaning physical trauma. I assume you mean interpersonal trauma, which is physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional abuse at the hands of important caretakers. It has dramatic affects on the brain. And there's has lots of new information about how the brain disarticulates, disassociates, how the right brain manages these things versus the left. That's a massively growing area.
PRATT: Down at UCLA, they have recently determined that if you have one trauma, there's a permanent -- unless you take it out -- 20 percent elevation in the inflammation of cytokines (ph) in our body. And that leads to illness.
So if you have untreated trauma, you definitely want to get it treated.
KING: Do you study Alzheimer's?
SANTA MARIA: I have in school, but I have never done Alzheimer's research personally.
KING: What happens to the brain of a --
SANTA MARIA: Well, new research is always coming about for a while that we thought that it had to do with plaques and the tangles and this theory. but I think that we're starting to see that -- and there is some conflict I think within the scientific community that maybe not specifically Alzheimer's but dementia -- some people would say that this is a normal function of living a very long life. And others would say that this is a pathology.
AMEN: What we see in the brain scans is the back half of the brain in peoples with Alzheimer's disease completely deteriorates. The NFL players, though, they don't have Alzheimer's disease as a group. It's frontal lobe that's damaged.
KING: What is dementia?
AMEN: Dementia is the big category. That's where you lose cognitive function that's abnormal for your age. Alzheimer's disease is one of the types. The football dementia that we talked about, that's another one of the types. There's blood vessel dementia, where you have a stroke. There's age related dementia.
I wrote a book once called "Preventing Alzheimer's." How you prevent it is you prevent the risk factors. So did you know obesity is a risk factor for Alzheimer's. So the more fat on your body, the worse it is. Diabetes is a risk factor. Depression is a risk factor. Alcohol abuse is a risk factor.
So really focusing on living what I call a brain healthy life is critical to keeping your memory.
KING: We'll be right back.
KING: We'll be back with our panel in a couple moments. But neurosurgeons from the West Virginia University Health Science Center are on the front lines of an experimental approach for the treatment of obesity. It targets the brain and not the belly. Here to talk about it is Dr. Julian Bailes. He's neurosurgeon and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at West Virginia University.
What have we discovered? Explain what this DVS is, doctor.
DR. JULIAN BAILES, WEST VIRGINIA UNIVESRITY: This is inserting electrodes deep in the brain, in the hypothalamus, the part that controls our appetite. Our neurosurgeons Don Whiting (ph) and Michael Ode (ph) really have spearheaded this FDA approved study to see if this possibly would have some benefit for patients with morbid obesity, the most severe forms, the one where really their life expectancy will be affected.
KING: How does it work?
BAILES: Well, it works by electrodes being placed on both sides of the brain into the hypothalamus, one into the part that's the cetiady (ph) center, which makes you feel full. The other part is the appetite center, where your drive to eating is. So these electrodes have contacts on them that got through these areas. Then a Pacemaker type generator is inserted under the skin. And from that, we're able to change the settings and try to see if we can affect the appetite drive these patients have.
KING: What have you learned so far?
BAILES: Well, we've learned in the first few series, the first series we've done, that the procedure can be done safely. We've learned that we don't think we're having side effects, and that we can affect the urge to eat, decrease the urge. We're looking at it being well tolerated.
But the real -- the jury is still out, Larry. We don't have all the results yet. We're now working on trying to refine the settings to see if we can get the weight loss that we and the patients desire.
KING: Why only very obese people?
BAILES: Well, this is the way the study was set up. It's in patients who have failed all medical diets, patients who have failed gastric or stomach bypass surgery, patients who have undergone psychiatric evacuation. And again, their life expectancy is significantly reduced if they can't get this morbid obesity under control.
KING: Fascinating. We're going to do a lot more investigation tonight. Can I ask you a couple questions about concussions?
BAILES: Yes, sir. KING: West Virginia has a prominent football team. There's a major problem in the NFL, now in college football, in other sports. One of the great baseball stars Morneau of the Twins sat out almost the whole year. What is a concussion? What causes it?
BAILES: Well, a concussion is either the head gets hit or maybe the head gets moved back and forth violently, such that the brain moves inside the skull. You know, our brain floats in this bath of fluid, cerebral spinal fluid. I think that causes a tearing of fibers. Rotation of the brain causes tearing of the fibers.
So the brain is injured. Most of the time it recovers. We think in selected cases we're also finding perhaps a genetic predisposition. In selective cases it can accrue and lead to long-term problems in a minority of players.
KING: Could a problem be in the helmet?
BAILES: Well, the helmets have undergone a lot of changes and improvements. And helmet design is important. But in my opinion, helmets aren't the whole answer. I think we need to work to take the head impact, the motion of the brain inside the skull out of the game.
KING: Does it -- in the NFL, they are fearing it may shorten life. Can it?
BAILES: Well, you know, we have autopsied -- Bennett Amalu (ph) and myself have autopsied quite a few athletes who have had a shortened life because of this syndrome. Again, I support football. I think it's America's greatest sport. We want to make it safer. In certain cases, there have been long-term detrimental effects of multiple concussions.
KING: Thank you, doctor. We'll be calling on you again. Fascinating study. Dr. Julian Bailes, neurosurgeon, chairman of the department at the West Virginia University School of Medicine. Back with our panel after this.
KING: Back with our panel, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Cara Santa Maria, the neuroscientist, Dr. Daniel Amen, psychologist and brain imaging specialist, and psychologist Dr. George Pratt.
What did you make of that study they're doing -- Dr. Amen, we'll start with you -- about that obesity study at West Virginia?
AMEN: I think it's very interesting. And psychiatry and neurosurgeons are starting to work together again and planting these electrodes in the brain, using imaging for things like resistant depression, for obsessive compulsive disorder, and now for people who are morbidly obese. It's exciting, and going to be much better than the psycho surgery, you know, in the 1940s and '50s.
KING: What do you think, Cara?
SANTA MARIA: I think it's really interesting. And I think where probably the research is limited is the problem of knowing why certain people eat or certain people abuse drugs. We like to put them all under an umbrella of, there's something wrong with their dopamine system or these people specifically don't get enough neuro transmitter that tells them that they're full or their stomach is not telling them the right signals. But, you know, everybody's pathology is very different. And until I think that we can accurately diagnose why people have these addictive behaviors, it's going to be difficult, because we're going to be working with a one size fits all treatment.
PINSKY: Let me say, Cara, as a follow-on to that, which is that I deal with a lot of people who end up losing all the weight and they are not right emotionally after they lose the weight. There's all kinds of reasons that the weight was there, and those things have often not been dealt with.
AMEN: Don't they become more addicted when you have gastric bypass surgery?
PINSKY: The probability of alcoholism goes way up. The way the alcohol gets to the brain is much different. We see lots of bypass patients.
PRATT: Challenges even with depression. Even when you lose 100 pounds and you think, they'd really be doing well.
KING: We have a Facebook question posted on our Facebook page. Where else would it come? Do we know what part of the brain causes obsessive compulsive behavior?
AMEN: There's a lot of imaging work with obsessive compulsive behavior. And what we see, the prefrontal cortex -- we've been talking about this -- rather than being low, which we see in impulsive disorders, the prefrontal cortex works way too hard in people with OCD. So we call it hyper-frontality. And some of the medicines we use or the therapies we use actually calm down the prefrontal cortex, so people don't think about things over and over again.
KING: We posted to the Larry King Facebook page asking for questions for this show on the brain. We got a lot. Don't have time to get them all in. One very interesting one, "12 years ago, I got into an accident in the snow. I don't drive in the snow anymore. I am a terrified passenger if it's snowing. I become paralyzed. I cry. I know it's irrational. What's going on with my brain," Cara? Do you know?
SANTA MARIA: Yeah, it sound like it could be a Post-Traumatic Stress disorder, based on that accident.
KING: What is Post-Traumatic Stress. Something happens to you and -- SANTA MARIA: And you experience hyper-vigilance, heightened levels of stress and you actually have behaviors in your life that are so difficult that they -- you know, they make your life difficult to navigate after that. We see it obviously in war time. We see it after trauma, after abuse, after rape, and after things like car accidents.
KING: We didn't hear it, though, until Vietnam. Never heard it after World War II.
AMEN: It was Shell Shock. It had different names.
PRATT: One thing about this case, PTSD can create all of those symptoms, as well as triggering panic attacks. And you have one trial learning when you are in a situation that's highly negative. And you imprint on that and then you have a problem driving in snow because you have an association.
KING: How do you get rid of it?
PRATT: The desensitization methods. It's actually quite easy to get rid of.
PINSKY: This is the thing about how the brain works. It locks things in. Parts of the brain wall off from other parts. To be healthy, we have to integrate as a whole. We have to function flexibly as an entire brain. But traumas lock off parts from the part of the brain that is conscious.
PRATT: Even with scans with people with PTSD, you can see the prefrontal cortex inactive and the limbic system is over-driven. So we can see direct correlations of what these methods can do to desensitize people.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.
KING: We only have a few minutes left. I don't get personal on this show, but I'll tell a true quick story. I had heart surgery. I'm in New York. I'm in bed, post surgery. My doctor, Dr. Wayne Isom, famous heart surgeon, on the front cover of the "New York Times Magazine." Into the room comes a man. He says he's a brain surgeon at the hospital. He says I don't mind Dr. Isom. I like him. He's a great guy. He's getting all this attention.
But heart surgeons are plumbers. They do plumbing. I'm a brain surgeon. One move of my little hand can change your memory forever. I have to be so delicate. And yet, with all of this, nobody knows me. And I said, of course the song "Ain't I Left My Brain in San Francisco."
Now that story is true. That happened. But the heart does command us, doesn't it? The heart wins.
PINSKY: The body.
SANTA MARIA: The brain tells the heart what to do.
PRATT: The brain wins.
KING: If you are in a malfunctioning relationship, the heart doesn't --
PINSKY: You're right, Larry. I agree with what you're saying. We're all into our terminology here. The fact is what your saying is when we have a deep drive and a desire to be with somebody, that's what we're going to do.
KING: I can't talk you out of love, can I?
AMEN: I love you with all my brain. Saying I love you with all my heart doesn't work from a neuroscience perspective.
KING: Can you talk someone out of a relationship?
PRATT: Not using the literal mind. If someone is suffering from love pain or anguish, these methods work.
KING: Cara, why did you decide to make a career of this?
SANTA MARIA: It's the only option I feel like I had. When I first started school, it's the only --
KING: Had to be the brain?
SANTA MARIA: It had to be. It was the only thing I found. It's the most interesting thing.
KING: Was your father into this?
SANTA MARIA: No. My mother is an educator. My father is an engineer. I had to. I started in music. And then I went into psychology. And as I was studying psychology and philosophy, I realized that I needed to know more about the organic basis of these things. It just grew from there.
KING: We only have a minute. What fascinates you the most about the brain.
PINSKY: Exactly what she's talking about, that all these different fields, anthropology, psychology, philosophy are all coming together under the rubric of neuroscience.
KING: What fascinates you, George? PRATT: Neuroplasticity, how the brain can change and rewire itself. Dr. Raman Chandra (ph), who I do research with, he had amputees with phantom limb pain. They had been taking lots of medication. He developed a mirror. He would insert one hand, the good -- the intact arm. The person would see the other arm as intact and rewire the brain within minutes. I love neuroplasticity.
KING: Dr. Amen, what?
AMEN: I think of the brain as the hardware of the soul. Who you really are has to do with the physical functioning of your brain. And it can change. And that is so exciting.
KING: Finally, Cara?
SANTA MARIA: That's for me, too. I think the real holy grail for most people of neuroscience is how does consciousness -- how does our mind come from brain. And that's so fascinating.
KING: Thanks to all of you for a great hour. Next week, President Carter is here Monday. Barbara Walters Tuesday. Iranian President Ahmadinejad will be here Wednesday. And Jerry Seinfeld on Thursday. How are we doing so far?
"AC 360" starts right now.