Ron Burgundy is always ready to learn something new; that’s why he’s never afraid to ask the hard questions like “Why do tears fall when I watch Terms of Endearment?” or “Why did my grandmother flash me?” So he likes to use his podcast, The Ron Burgundy Podcast, as an opportunity to talk to knowledgeable people to get the answers he’s looking for. On this episode, he and his producer, Carolina Barlow, sit down with “a real life brain scientist Dr. Milstein. He’s smarter than almost all of us, I promise,” Ron says. “There is a strong chance that if you’re listening to this, he’s smarter than you. And if that pisses you off, I get it. It made me a little angry just thinking about it.”
First, Ron wants to know how sleep is helpful for the brain, because he gets around 14 hours a night and wants to make sure that’s a healthy amount. Dr. Milstein says that might actually be too much, because it’s about a healthy balance, so Ron might want to see his doctor about that. Ron's pretty sure he's nailing it, though. “So during sleep, what does the brain do? It’s recharging? Regenerating? Just literally resting?” Ron asks. In fact, the brain is busy while we’re asleep, Dr. Milstein says. “Your brain actually shrinks down to about 65% of its current size and squeezes out the brain cells’ trash, toxins, and waste,” he tells us. “Then fluid comes up from your spinal cord and washes your brain, so every night you have a brainwash.” This is why sleep is so important; if the washing isn’t effective, it can lead to dementia and other serious issues. Ron says this must be why “a lot of professional athletes” have started drinking their own spinal fluid, but Dr. Milstein hasn’t heard about that trend.
Ron asks nervously, “Is there any chance that when the brain expands back that it would...start to explode out of your head?” Dr. Milstein assures him that that’s “not a concern.” What about being “incepted,” while you’re asleep, Ron wonders, referencing the 2010 movie Inception where people would sneak into other people’s brains while they were dreaming to plant ideas in their heads. “A lot of times when Ron makes a mistake, he’ll say, ‘Oh, I was incepted,’” Carolina explains. Dr. Milstein says the chances are “zero to none,” and Ron replies, “Tell that to Chris Nolan.”
Next, they talk about memory. Carolina specifically wants to know how some people can come to believe their own lies over time, and Ron says, “She’s referring to the fact that I won the Heisman Trophy in 1978.” Dr. Milstein explains that when you create a memory, that’s your brain making a connection to an experience. And every time you relive that experience, you revisit and reform that connection. So when you remember an event, you’re actually remembering the most recent version of the story - the most recent connection - and not the original story at all. “That’s why when two people experience the same event, years later they have very different versions,” Dr. Milstein says. This makes sense to Ron, because sometimes “people come up to me and say, ‘You never played college football,’ and that’s their memory of what happened.”
Join Ron, Carolina, and Dr. Milstein to learn more about our brains: why dancing is the best thing you can do to keep your brain healthy, why Ron can never remember anyone’s birthday (even his own), if you can trust your gut instinct, and how earworms work, on this episode of The Ron Burgundy Podcast.
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