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"Can you forget?"

The podcast on learning, forgetting and remembering

Learning is hard. Forgetting is sometimes even harder. How do you get rid of what you’ve learned? That’s what Rainer Holl, author, moderator and poetry slammer, wants to know and understand. To this end, he interviews scientists from the Collaborative Research Center “Extinction Learning” about their research. Look forward to peering into the brain’s cards! Expect fascinating insights from the fields of Psychology, Biopsychology and Neuroscience, a look behind the scenes of everyday scientific life, and slam poetry.

“Can you forget? – The podcast on learning, forgetting and remembering” is published once a month in German language. The material is not relevant for exams.

Episode 10, October: We have something to celebrate

For the brilliant season finale of our podcast “Kannste vergessen?!”, Rainer Holl welcomes the young researchers Carolin Konrad and Lina Neuhoff from the Department of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. And there’s also a party! Rainer and Onur Güntürkün, podcast regular and headmaster of SFB 1280, toast four more years of cutting-edge research in the Collaborative Research Centre and a new podcast season!

In this episode you will learn…
… how infants and children learn and unlearn
… whether infants can possibly completely forget newly learned information
… what experiments regarding these questions look like and how complex they are
… why the hippocampus drives researchers crazy?
… why it is challenging and at the same time important to explain true and simple
… what’s next for the podcast

… and much more.

Onur Güntürkün’s spontaneous closing words to the first podcast series
To hear at the end of the podcast

“I think we absolutely have to continue. This podcast is a huge success, we have been downloaded several thousand times. People are interested in it and we will definitely continue either in this format or in another one. Because I can only say this again and again, what we researchers find out, we find out with people’s tax money. And they have a right to hear in an entertaining but also adequate way why this is happening. The difficulty here is to tell things true and yet tell them simply. Because telling things simply and at the same time wrong, that’s easy. But keeping them true and still understandable, that’s also what we tried to do in this podcast and I think it worked well.”

Episode 9, September: Hip, Hipper, Hippocampus

In the ninth episode of our podcast “Kannste vergessen?”, Rainer Holl goes on a mental journey to a very special region of the brain: the hippocampus. His travelling companions? Two experienced scientists who have been researching this at the Ruhr University for years: Nikolai Axmacher, Professor of Neuropsychology and Sen Cheng, Professor of Computational Neuroscience.

In this episode you will learn…
…what the hippocampus is, where it is located in the brain and what its tasks are
…what different formats a memory can have
…how different contexts can affect the performance of the memory
…how traces of experiences can be traced in the brain
…how complex, neuronal networks can be simplified and better studied with mathematical models and computer simulations
…what role AI and robots play in this process

…and much more.

Rainer Holl’s lyricals summary
translated losing all rhymes, so better listen to it at the end of the podcasts

To begin with, a quiz question!
What do the human brain and the guests on our podcast have in common?

Just like the CVs of the SFB1280 guard
Is the brain a collection of winding paths

From quantitative physics and theoretical philosophy
It finally goes to the clinic
With empiricism against epilepsy
When the nanoscale lacks reference to people
When you count time in femtoseconds
When you think that can’t be all – there’s only one thing to do
The switch to computational neuroscience

And everyone has their own hobbyhorse – or sometimes a sea-horse
The hippocampus is very much in demand in research
Because without the two campuses, no new knowledge can be created
That would be like listening to our podcast and still not understanding anything at the end
Because the information you absorb could not be stored
The memory would gradually crumble apart
Whereby THE MEMORY is not the ACCURATE term
It is not a black box in the brain with clear directions
It is much more a system, modularly complexly interconnected
Interspersed with feelings and streams of thoughts
In which memories leave neuronal traces
The so-called engrams – on whose search we set out

And to better understand
Which pathways in the brain
How and in what way
Are branched with each other and how
We need to model this
Simulate it as simply as possible
Not complicate
And lose the overview
Formulate a few equations
And then postulate theses
How neurons communicate
And interact in networks

Sounds simple – is relatively complicated
We do it anyway
Because behaviour always takes place in the REAL world
A real environment of complex shape
That’s why the robot! And then simulate spatial navigation with it!
Hello!? How cool is that!?

There was so much more I could tell you about here
However, that really exceeds our time limit

Finally, a tip for all those who often doubt
About the world, about themselves about everyday broadsides
Not the solution for everything, but helpful and far-reaching
Is now and then, a mental journey through time

Episode 8: Cerebellum to Cerebrum

“I’m a fan of the cerebellum” – In episode eight, presenter Rainer Holl lets researchers Melanie Mark, Professor of Behavioural Neurobiology, and Dagmar Timmann-Braun, Professor of Experimental Neurology, inspire him about a very special region of our brain: the cerebellum.

In this episode you will learn…
… what the cerebellum is and where it is located
… what the many and varied functions of the cerebellum are
… why non-motor skills have so far remained underestimated and underresearched
… how the latest techniques are advancing cerebellar research
… what happens when the cerebellum does not function
… how ataxia manifests itself and what might help
… how mouse model supports the search for medicines
… why the Otto sketch about the cerebellum is more than accurate
… why Bochum is the Hawaii of the Ruhr region

…and much more.

Rainer Holl’s lyricals summary
translated losing all rhymes, so better listen to it at the end of the podcasts

The underestimated sibling

The human brain – infinite expanses                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The complex structures can hardly be described
Yet researchers strive to show us
In what wonderfully mysterious ways
the different areas function, what they do
For example, the cerebellum – also known as the cerebellum.
Up to now, this area has been
rather sparsely treated – like the middle one of the three.

So if the cerebellum and its neighbouring areas were now siblings
For the metaphor and the rhyme, I’ll just take that for granted.

The cerebellum still has many unknown corners
Even after years of research there are new things to discover
With better technology we are gaining more insight
Discovering new functions that the cerebellum has in mind
Once again we see that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Everything the cerebrum does, the cerebellum needs too

It helps us learn motor skills,
It controls our movement
If the cerebellum is malfunctioning
It’s like being at sea
That’s been known for a while – But it can do a lot more than that….
The cerebellum predicts, evaluates and decides for us.
In short, it looks a little bit into the future for us.
It makes predictions about what could go wrong
And many a mishap has a happy ending after all

The cerebellum – the silent heroine
The conductor of the brain
The symphony of our feelings
Is guided by her hand

So that the feat succeeds
It takes real power
More precisely, 80% of all neurons
And an ingenious blueprint

And this blueprint, this circuit
We are learning to understand it better and better
For example, through the work of our researchers here at the SFB.

The good thing is that it remains quite exciting
Knowledge in this field is exploding
Targeted therapies are already being administered to people
Certain symptoms are being treated with drugs
This means that theory and research are being turned into practice.

The underestimated sibling continues to surprise us
Maybe that’s what Otto meant when he said:
Cerebrum to cerebellum –
Thank you for the tip, retract your fist, lower your blood pressure.
The symphony of emotions would be unthinkable without the cerebellum.

Episode 7: Do you still know?

“I am still confused, but on a higher level” – In the seventh episode of our podcast “Kannste vergessen?”, Harald Lachnit, Professor of Experimental & Clinical Biopsychology at the Philipps University of Marburg and Head of Project 15 of our Collaborative Research Centre, is Rainer Holl’s guest and reports on 35 years of research.

In this episode you will learn…
…what (associative) learning is
…how environment and context influence our learning 
…how to study learning processes
…what experimental learning research is

…and much more.

Rainer Holl’s lyricals summary
translated losing all rhymes, so better listen to it at the end of the podcasts

You are not learning for school…
You’re learning for life.

This is a saying I was often told in the past.

But what this learning really means now
That’s something I probably still don’t understand today

I mean, I know I’m doing something and maybe I think that was great.
And the next time I do it again exactly the same because
I have just learned that this way of doing things helps me
helps me and is therefore a good strategy

We learn not only WHAT to do
but also WHEN and WHY to do it.
Without the right motivation
We stay that way – yes, not stupid now

But without real incentives, the best knowledge is useless.
Only when we are motivated will what we have learned be released.
But unfortunately I was not told so much about this in the past.
That’s probably why I struggled so much at school.

But the logic I have just described does not only apply in school.
It also makes a difference when it comes to current issues.
Whether WE simply know the bare facts about a problem now
Or if we really adapt our actions and improve ourselves

That’s why it makes sense to do research on the topic of LEARNING.
Not only to look INTO the brain – which forms this behaviour
But also to better understand the circumstances of learning.
Because learning does not only happen in the brain, but also in the events that surround the learner.
That surrounds the learner
That helps or hinders us
Holds us back or pushes us
That increases or decreases knowledge
I know this sounds complicated
I want to alleviate this confusion
I just wanted to remind you at the end…

That human beings do not only learn FOR life.
The statement is very abbreviated.
Learning is rather a synonym
And it means that one is alive.

Episode 6: Where the heart beats faster

In episode six, presenter and amateur neurologist Rainer Holl welcomes technical wizards Tobias Otto, graduate engineer, and Thomas Ernst, doctor of neurology and graduate physicist, who enter the engine room of the Collaborative Research Centre with him. Together, they start the engines and make research really shine with screws and cables.

In this episode you will learn…
…HOW research is done at the Collaborative Research Centre and why this HOW is so important
…who the technical wizards are behind the scenes
…how to create images with a magnetic field tomograph and what they show
…how to work with large data sets

…and much more.

Rainer Holl’s lyricals summary
translated losing all rhymes, so better listen to it at the end of the podcasts

Why genius and magic are so close together

Science is an adventure land
A world of mystery and myth
There is much to learn and much to discover
But there are some things to beware of

There are hurdles and obstacles
Secret traps and also obstructive ones
Dog-eat-dog false trails
that can lead even seasoned scholars astray.
That costs time and money but above all: nerves

There are plans to make and you need strategies
To navigate skilfully in any field
But to realise this ambition
Now and then you need: magic

We need magicians, we need technology nerds
But that’s not enough-
Because true magic always requires more than technical know-how.
We need tinkerers, inventors, heroes of IMAGINATION.
From their heads – even in the smallest laboratories – great ideas are born.

They don’t collect data and facts in dusty files
but online and available worldwide
So that everyone who wants to can access them
This makes research work noticeably easier

We need people who do research
We need their valuable knowledge
But just as important are all the
actors behind the scenes

Because science REMAINS an adventure land.
And you certainly can’t do it alone
It needs someone with playfulness and foresight
And a lot of imagination close by our side.

Because no matter how much money, time and technology we have
It takes more than this
Only with the right pinch of magic
Research successes are made possible

Episode 5: Under the skin

How can genes be switched on and off? For the fifth episode of our podcast “Kannste vergessen?”, Rainer Holl welcomes Robert Kumsta, Professor of Genetic Psychology at the Ruhr University in Bochum. Look forward to a crash course in epigenetics!

In this episode you will learn…
…what epigenetics actually is
…how epigenetic mechanisms work
…which environmental influences and psychosocial experiences can interact with cellular processes
…how early developmental phases have a lasting impact on our epigenome and thus on our life, our health, our behavior in adulthood                                           

…and much more.

Rainer Holl’s lyricals summary
translated losing all rhymes, so better listen to it at the end of the podcasts

This gets under the skin

How well or how poorly equipped
We go through life
Is occasionally related
With the state of our genes

Not the ones we inherited
But that of those genes
Which, due to outside influences
No longer pass every test

The readability is more so goes so
They are far too densely packed
Some of them can’t be accessed at all
As if the gene had been hacked

And how it happens to children
Who lack the very genes
That they need for development
So they won’t fail later in life
And what rules apply
When it comes to outside influences
You can tell exactly when
Damage to the genome occurs
And is it all reversible
Or rather fixed
Today we have approached these questions a bit

In our crash course on epigenetics – we learned that
This research is like many other work on the basics
How life evolves in harmony with the environment
Why the influence of changes remains stable and persists
That even when influences change
And things change for the better
Our genes still need much longer
To find their old form

Either way one thing is certain
One fact we have long seen through
No matter what happens in the world around us
It all goes under the skin at some point.


Episode 4: Body to Brain

Malaise, depressed mood, fever – how does the body communicate with the brain? Rainer Holl’s guests Franziska Labrenz and Harald Engler have the answers in the fourth episode of our podcast “Kannste Vergessen?”. Labrenz is a postdoctoral fellow in experimental psychobiology at Ruhr University in Bochum; Engler is a professor of behavioral immunology and deputy director at the Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Immunology at Essen University Hospital.

In this episode, you will learn…
…why immune cells are considered our sixth sense
…what the gut-brain axis is and how it works
…how the immune and nervous systems communicate with each other
…and how exciting experiments with humans and animals look like

…and much more.

Rainer Holl’s lyricals summary
translated losing all rhymes, so better listen to it at the end of the podcasts

Everything flows

Seen from the meta-level, in the podcast we talk
We’re always talking about an exchange of information
I guess that’s what our research is ultimately about
Also always about internal communication – IN. US. INSIDE.

So how the systems inside us
Exchange, learn or remember
Warn, push or inhibit each other
And sometimes send out wrong signals

For example, on the axis between the gut and the brain
This is our body’s own internal Twitter, so to speak.
There’s Fake News to stress and that sometimes leads to
To the famous and infamous brown thunderstorm

Yes our head, our gut, even our hormonal system
None of it exists on its own
It is all interconnected with everything in the most complex way
That’s why we are more than the sum of our parts

For only from the interplay of all elements
Does a new perspective emerge
A new dimension, something like a 6th sense
That lets us see what would otherwise remain hidden

If we really want to understand how this network works
How the brain communicates with the immune system
Then we have to look at all the components
Their different and also common languages

We are living beings, complex systems
That are in relation on various levels
To what we once experienced and now take for granted
But this is not something to be taken for granted

For ultimately everything is in flow
And we are not just standing by
We ourselves are a part of this gigantic stream
And this stream is simply called life.

Episode 3: You have a big head, huh? Does it mean you are intelligent?

In the third episode of our podcast “Can you forget?” host Rainer Holl is impressed by the high-end MRI and EEG studies that biopsychologist Erhan Genç and neuropsychologist Marie-Christin Fellner are conducting as part of SFB 1280 to better understand the brain’s interconnections. Genç, a former doctoral student in the Department of Biopsychology at RUB, heads the research group “Neuroimaging and Interindividual Differences” at the Leibniz Institute for Human Factors Research at TU Dortmund University. Fellner is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at RUB.

In this episode you will learn…
…what intelligence actually is (or: how neuroscience defines intelligence)
…what exactly a memory is and how the brain manages to form memories
…how (these) brain activities can be measured
…and which consequences can be derived from this research for human behavior and future therapies

…and much more.

Rainer Holl’s lyricals summary
translated losing all rhymes, so better listen to it at the end of the podcasts

What is intelligence?

Intelligence… that is speed
Coupled with accuracy
How intelligence shows up in our brain
Was of interest to us today

Does the structure of dendrites within the areas lead
To detectable differences in our behavior?
To do this, we need to study the networks in detail
Quantify and analyze Lose the thread in extreme abstraction
Then find it again and recombine. Map volumes and networks.

All this now even in COLOR and COLOR!
How awesome is that?

But no matter — how fit you are at the EEG
Whether you are a Master of Arts in fMRI
No matter how much money you put into technology
It’s all for naught if you don’t talk to people
If you take detailed pictures of cortexes
But forgetting the bigger context

Forgetting – that’s my keyword

I wanted to remember something myself
But somehow I can’t quite remember
But can a memory really disappear
Or is it still there, just can’t be found?
Maybe it’s just in the wrong format
Not coded correctly – and that’s the end of the story

Now I need a leased line to my brain
Then Marie could evaluate me
Study the patterns of activity
Algorithmize the process of memory

At least in the beginning.
But STILL I have no electrodes in my head – so fortunately
And so I am left with forgotten memory for today

Episode 2: Darling, it’s not what you think

“Learned stuff sticks better if you’ve gone for a run afterwards” – that’s Rainer Holl’s lyrical conclusion towards the end of the second episode of our podcast “Can you forget”. In episode two, the poetry slammer talks with Marcella Woud and Christian Merz about phenomena such as anxiety and stress and their effects on learning and memory processes. One is brand new in the SFB 1280 network and an awarded “Rising Star” at the Chair of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy in Therapy, the other has been here from the very beginning years ago and is a habilitated private lecturer in Cognitive Neuroscience.

In this episode you will learn…
…what distorted perceptions are

…how to unlearn them again
…and how stress can help

…and much more.

Rainer Holl’s lyricals summary
translated losing all rhymes, so better listen to it at the end of the podcasts

If I occasionally tend in general
To describe an everyday occurrence pessimistically
Then there is a rather simple explanation
Because I suffer from interpretation bias

That means in ambiguous moments my brain tells me
This smells like trouble – get lost
I cannot defend myself against it
These thoughts cause me stress and this stress causes me fear
And this fear makes me stress and I can’t fight it

Unless – I can establish new patterns through experience
That structure my thinking and experience differently from the ground up
Because if you can learn fear, then you can also reverse it
I once heard somewhere that this is called extinction learning

And where I heard that, I also learned that stress
Can help us sometimes, if you know how to use it
So learned material remains for example better recallable
If you went for a run after learning

For some people this sounds almost too good to be true
But stress alone does not turn you into Einstein
But it can help us, if we train the brain
To not always fixate on a negative reading

So stress and extinction are two really important components
To end the bias in our interpretations

Episode 1: Legacy of the Currywurst

Extinction Learning – What is that supposed to be? This is the question Rainer Holl asks himself in the first episode of our podcast “Can you forget?” His guests? Ulrike Bingel, Professor of Clinical Neuroscience at the University Hospital in Essen, and Onur Güntürkün, Professor of Biopsychology at the Ruhr University in Bochum and spokesperson for the Collaborative Research Center “Extinction Learning”.

In this episode you will learn…
…what two memory copies have to do with a curry sausage
…how our thoughts, feelings and actions influence the experience of pain
…what the placebo effect is and how it works
…why it is fantastic to do research in SFB 1280

…and much more.

Rainer Holl’s lyricals summary
translated losing all rhymes, so better listen to it at the end of the podcasts

The Brain – Infinite Vastness
We will probably never really understand
How this most complex of all structures
In which we search for questions and answers
Really works. Like really works!
But that is also not bad. We are only human.

And that’s why we’re still going on a search for clues
We want to investigate all relevant components
We don’t want to know everything directly – but we want to understand it better.
For example, where you instinctively turn your head when kissing.

You don’t always need a huge budget for good research.
Sometimes pencil and paper, as well as sufficient coffee are enough

And when it really matters
That you make progress in a field
When it’s time for a new level of collaboration
Then it’s best to apply for a collaborative research center

This is where the best minds in a discipline come together
To anchor a certain research field in its depth
Here, one deliberately dedicates oneself to only one major topic
But then you can also really plow it hard

In SFB 1280, everything revolves around the brain
Learning and forgetting and the processes involved
Why we can remember and why we can’t remember some things
Is there only one big memory or is there another layer?

Can we get sick through thoughts?
And can hope heal?
Can pain be learned
And how can we avoid it?
Why do placebos work – donating painless rest
What do expectations have to do with all this?
These are questions in our focus
This is what we are researching at the RUB here in Bochum
We are not only dealing with forgetting here
but also with the description of new learning processes

Extinction learning is the technical term for this
And the most interesting facts about it – you can find them here
From now on every month in our Podcast
Kannste Vergessen – We are happy if you listen in

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