Dr Broks' Casebook

Episodes

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01The Man Who Thought He Was Dead2016062020180514 (R4)

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks embarks on a detective hunt in search of the self.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks presents a detective hunt in search of the self.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks embarks on a detective hunt in search of the self.

We all have a strong sense of the self, that little person, or "homunculus" that seems to live somewhere behind our eyes, and makes each of us feel that I am ME. In earlier times, people would have been happier with the word "soul". But they puzzled about how it survived the death of the body, and how we could know it was the same as the one we had when alive.

Nowadays, under the onslaught of science, the self/soul seems more and more like a superstitious remnant. Neuroscientists tell us that there is nothing but the brain, and that even conscious decisions, made freely by the self, are in fact made appreciably earlier, even before the self is aware of them. The more you think about the self, the harder it becomes to pin down: are we nothing but our memories, and if so, what about people who lose their memory, or have false memories? Would we be happy to have our memories downloaded and uploaded into a different brain/body, and if not why not? How can we even know that we are the same person each morning when we wake up, given that our self has, in effect, been shut down for hours? Despite all this, we still believe in the self, but is there really anyone at home?

Over the course of the week, Paul Broks a former clinical neuropsychologist, and producer Jolyon Jenkins, go on a quest for the self, using some of Dr Broks' former patients, interviews with experts and philosophical thought experiments. In the first programme, they consider a patient with Cotard's syndrome, in which the sufferer thinks he or she is dead. It might seem obviously false, but what makes us think we're alive?

Presenter: Paul Broks
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

01The Man Who Thought He Was Dead2016062020180514 (R4)

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks embarks on a detective hunt in search of the self.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks presents a detective hunt in search of the self.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks embarks on a detective hunt in search of the self.

We all have a strong sense of the self, that little person, or "homunculus" that seems to live somewhere behind our eyes, and makes each of us feel that I am ME. In earlier times, people would have been happier with the word "soul". But they puzzled about how it survived the death of the body, and how we could know it was the same as the one we had when alive.

Nowadays, under the onslaught of science, the self/soul seems more and more like a superstitious remnant. Neuroscientists tell us that there is nothing but the brain, and that even conscious decisions, made freely by the self, are in fact made appreciably earlier, even before the self is aware of them. The more you think about the self, the harder it becomes to pin down: are we nothing but our memories, and if so, what about people who lose their memory, or have false memories? Would we be happy to have our memories downloaded and uploaded into a different brain/body, and if not why not? How can we even know that we are the same person each morning when we wake up, given that our self has, in effect, been shut down for hours? Despite all this, we still believe in the self, but is there really anyone at home?

Over the course of the week, Paul Broks a former clinical neuropsychologist, and producer Jolyon Jenkins, go on a quest for the self, using some of Dr Broks' former patients, interviews with experts and philosophical thought experiments. In the first programme, they consider a patient with Cotard's syndrome, in which the sufferer thinks he or she is dead. It might seem obviously false, but what makes us think we're alive?

Presenter: Paul Broks
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

We all have a strong sense of the self, that little person, or "homunculus" that seems to live somewhere behind our eyes, and makes each of us feel that I am ME. In earlier times, people would have been happier with the word "soul". But they puzzled about how it survived the death of the body, and how we could know it was the same as the one we had when alive.

Nowadays, under the onslaught of science, the self/soul seems more and more like a superstitious remnant. Neuroscientists tell us that there is nothing but the brain, and that even conscious decisions, made freely by the self, are in fact made appreciably earlier, even before the self is aware of them. The more you think about the self, the harder it becomes to pin down: are we nothing but our memories, and if so, what about people who lose their memory, or have false memories? Would we be happy to have our memories downloaded and uploaded into a different brain/body, and if not why not? How can we even know that we are the same person each morning when we wake up, given that our self has, in effect, been shut down for hours? Despite all this, we still believe in the self, but is there really anyone at home?

Over the course of the week, Paul Broks a former clinical neuropsychologist, and producer Jolyon Jenkins, go on a quest for the self, using some of Dr Broks' former patients, interviews with experts and philosophical thought experiments. In the first programme, they consider a patient with Cotard's syndrome, in which the sufferer thinks he or she is dead. It might seem obviously false, but what makes us think we're alive?

Presenter: Paul Broks

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

02The Woman Who Forgot Who She Was2016062120180515 (R4)

Dr Broks considers a woman with amnesia, and asks if we are nothing more than our memories

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks presents a detective hunt in search of the self.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks continues his detective hunt in search of the self. Today he considers a woman with amnesia, and asks: are we nothing more than our memories? The philosopher John Locke argued this position, and it makes a kind of intuitive sense. But talking to amnesia experts, he discovers that even people with severe memory loss often still retain their personalities; and that even people who seem to have forgotten everything about themselves may still have retained highly developed skills. And, would we really be happy for our memories to be transplanted into another body and have this one destroyed?

Presenter: Paul Broks
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

02The Woman Who Forgot Who She Was2016062120180515 (R4)

Dr Broks considers a woman with amnesia, and asks if we are nothing more than our memories

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks presents a detective hunt in search of the self.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks continues his detective hunt in search of the self. Today he considers a woman with amnesia, and asks: are we nothing more than our memories? The philosopher John Locke argued this position, and it makes a kind of intuitive sense. But talking to amnesia experts, he discovers that even people with severe memory loss often still retain their personalities; and that even people who seem to have forgotten everything about themselves may still have retained highly developed skills. And, would we really be happy for our memories to be transplanted into another body and have this one destroyed?

Presenter: Paul Broks
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks continues his detective hunt in search of the self. Today he considers a woman with amnesia, and asks: are we nothing more than our memories? The philosopher John Locke argued this position, and it makes a kind of intuitive sense. But talking to amnesia experts, he discovers that even people with severe memory loss often still retain their personalities; and that even people who seem to have forgotten everything about themselves may still have retained highly developed skills. And, would we really be happy for our memories to be transplanted into another body and have this one destroyed?

Presenter: Paul Broks

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

03The Woman Attacked by Goblins2016062220180516 (R4)

Dr Broks considers sleep paralysis and occasions when our sense of the body goes haywire.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks presents a detective hunt in search of the self.

Neuropsychologist Paul Broks continues his detective hunt for the self. Today he considers sleep paralysis and other occasions when our sense of the body goes haywire.

Sleep paralysis is common but extremely frightening. The firewall between fantasy and reality collapses and all hell breaks loose, with goblins, witches and other mythic creatures suddenly appearing threatening and real. The borderline between sleep and wakefulness is when we are often most unsure of the reality of our selves.

Normally we all have an intuition that we are an "embodied" self, that we have a body which we own and control, and which we are never separated from. But there are many kinds of body awareness dysfunctions, from phantom limb to Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, in which the patient has the illusion that they have shrunk or grown. Do people who suffer from these dysfunctions retain a sense of self, or feel that they are somehow degraded as persons?

Presenter: Paul Broks
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

03The Woman Attacked By Goblins2016062220180516 (R4)

Dr Broks considers sleep paralysis and occasions when our sense of the body goes haywire.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks presents a detective hunt in search of the self.

Neuropsychologist Paul Broks continues his detective hunt for the self. Today he considers sleep paralysis and other occasions when our sense of the body goes haywire.

Sleep paralysis is common but extremely frightening. The firewall between fantasy and reality collapses and all hell breaks loose, with goblins, witches and other mythic creatures suddenly appearing threatening and real. The borderline between sleep and wakefulness is when we are often most unsure of the reality of our selves.

Normally we all have an intuition that we are an "embodied" self, that we have a body which we own and control, and which we are never separated from. But there are many kinds of body awareness dysfunctions, from phantom limb to Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, in which the patient has the illusion that they have shrunk or grown. Do people who suffer from these dysfunctions retain a sense of self, or feel that they are somehow degraded as persons?

Presenter: Paul Broks
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

Neuropsychologist Paul Broks continues his detective hunt for the self. Today he considers sleep paralysis and other occasions when our sense of the body goes haywire.

Sleep paralysis is common but extremely frightening. The firewall between fantasy and reality collapses and all hell breaks loose, with goblins, witches and other mythic creatures suddenly appearing threatening and real. The borderline between sleep and wakefulness is when we are often most unsure of the reality of our selves.

Normally we all have an intuition that we are an "embodied" self, that we have a body which we own and control, and which we are never separated from. But there are many kinds of body awareness dysfunctions, from phantom limb to Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, in which the patient has the illusion that they have shrunk or grown. Do people who suffer from these dysfunctions retain a sense of self, or feel that they are somehow degraded as persons?

Presenter: Paul Broks

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

04The Man Who Left His Body2016062020180517 (R4)

Dr Broks asks if out-of-body experiences are evidence for a self separate from the body.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks presents a detective hunt in search of the self.

Neuropsychologist Paul Broks continues his detective hunt for the self. Today he considers out of body experiences, near death experiences, and "terminal ludicity" - are they evidence for a self separate from the body?

Most of us have an intuitive sense that we are more than our body. Whether or not we believe in a soul, it's hard to believe that our first person experiences are no more than the electrical firing of neurons in our brains. Neuroscience seems to tell us that there really is nothing more than brain activity, and that dualism - the idea that there are "self stuff" is different from "brain stuff" is an outdated myth.

And yet some reported experiences seem to put dualism back on the map. There are stories of people who become separate from their bodies. People who have out of body experiences during operations, or in near death experiences. There are even stories of "terminal lucidity", in which someone at the point of death behaves in ways that they were previously incapable of: people who were paralysed sit up in bed; those who were never able to talk become fluent. For some, this is evidence that the sense of self is not generated inside the brain, but transmitted to the brain from elsewhere. Paul Broks speaks to two neuroscientists on opposite sides of the debate: Peter Fenwick who is persuaded by these phenomena, and sceptic Chris French.

Presenter: Paul Broks
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

04The Man Who Left His Body2016062320180517 (R4)

Dr Broks asks if out-of-body experiences are evidence for a self separate from the body.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks presents a detective hunt in search of the self.

Neuropsychologist Paul Broks continues his detective hunt for the self. Today he considers out of body experiences, near death experiences, and "terminal ludicity" - are they evidence for a self separate from the body?

Most of us have an intuitive sense that we are more than our body. Whether or not we believe in a soul, it's hard to believe that our first person experiences are no more than the electrical firing of neurons in our brains. Neuroscience seems to tell us that there really is nothing more than brain activity, and that dualism - the idea that there are "self stuff" is different from "brain stuff" is an outdated myth.

And yet some reported experiences seem to put dualism back on the map. There are stories of people who become separate from their bodies. People who have out of body experiences during operations, or in near death experiences. There are even stories of "terminal lucidity", in which someone at the point of death behaves in ways that they were previously incapable of: people who were paralysed sit up in bed; those who were never able to talk become fluent. For some, this is evidence that the sense of self is not generated inside the brain, but transmitted to the brain from elsewhere. Paul Broks speaks to two neuroscientists on opposite sides of the debate: Peter Fenwick who is persuaded by these phenomena, and sceptic Chris French.

Presenter: Paul Broks
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

Neuropsychologist Paul Broks continues his detective hunt for the self. Today he considers out of body experiences, near death experiences, and "terminal ludicity" - are they evidence for a self separate from the body?

Most of us have an intuitive sense that we are more than our body. Whether or not we believe in a soul, it's hard to believe that our first person experiences are no more than the electrical firing of neurons in our brains. Neuroscience seems to tell us that there really is nothing more than brain activity, and that dualism - the idea that there are "self stuff" is different from "brain stuff" is an outdated myth.

And yet some reported experiences seem to put dualism back on the map. There are stories of people who become separate from their bodies. People who have out of body experiences during operations, or in near death experiences. There are even stories of "terminal lucidity", in which someone at the point of death behaves in ways that they were previously incapable of: people who were paralysed sit up in bed; those who were never able to talk become fluent. For some, this is evidence that the sense of self is not generated inside the brain, but transmitted to the brain from elsewhere. Paul Broks speaks to two neuroscientists on opposite sides of the debate: Peter Fenwick who is persuaded by these phenomena, and sceptic Chris French.

Presenter: Paul Broks

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

05The Boy Whose Hand Had a Mind of Its Own2016062420180518 (R4)

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks considers anarchic limbs and split brains.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks presents a detective hunt in search of the self.

Paul Broks continues his detective hunt in search of the self. Today he considers anarchic limbs and split brains.

Anarchic limb is a rare condition in which the patient feels that they have no control of one of their limbs, but that the limb is still "theirs". It poses a challenge to the idea of the unified self. Even more perturbing are the cases of patients whose brains have been split in two by surgery (usually to treat epilepsy). A series of groundbreaking experiments by psychologist Michael Gazzaniga shows that the two halves of the brain in many respects function independently, unaware of each other. But that the left brain contains an "interpreter" that tries to make sense of it and rationalise what has happened after the event. So maybe the self is just something that the interpreter invents as it goes along?

Presenter: Paul Broks
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

05The Boy Whose Hand Had A Mind Of Its Own2016062420180518 (R4)

Paul Broks continues his detective hunt in search of the self. Today he considers anarchic limbs and split brains.

Anarchic limb is a rare condition in which the patient feels that they have no control of one of their limbs, but that the limb is still "theirs". It poses a challenge to the idea of the unified self. Even more perturbing are the cases of patients whose brains have been split in two by surgery (usually to treat epilepsy). A series of groundbreaking experiments by psychologist Michael Gazzaniga shows that the two halves of the brain in many respects function independently, unaware of each other. But that the left brain contains an "interpreter" that tries to make sense of it and rationalise what has happened after the event. So maybe the self is just something that the interpreter invents as it goes along?

Presenter: Paul Broks

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks considers anarchic limbs and split brains.

Neuropsychologist Dr Paul Broks presents a detective hunt in search of the self.

Paul Broks continues his detective hunt in search of the self. Today he considers anarchic limbs and split brains.

Anarchic limb is a rare condition in which the patient feels that they have no control of one of their limbs, but that the limb is still "theirs". It poses a challenge to the idea of the unified self. Even more perturbing are the cases of patients whose brains have been split in two by surgery (usually to treat epilepsy). A series of groundbreaking experiments by psychologist Michael Gazzaniga shows that the two halves of the brain in many respects function independently, unaware of each other. But that the left brain contains an "interpreter" that tries to make sense of it and rationalise what has happened after the event. So maybe the self is just something that the interpreter invents as it goes along?

Presenter: Paul Broks
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.