Nigel Latta's cerebral new series The Curious Mind

by Catherine Woulfe / 26 August, 2018
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He’s baaack … “Welcome to my brain,” begins Nigel Latta on his new series The Curious Mind (TVNZ 1, Sunday, 8.30pm). He promises to explore astounding new neuroscience to help us understand our brains and how we can live better in this crazy ol’ world.

The first episode covers a lot of ground – infant brain development, the senses, brain plasticity, the interplay between reptilian and executive functions – but as usual, Latta’s very good at carving up information and presenting it in neat parcels.

We wander an immense archive, hauling out drawers. Those down low, we’re told, are for the primal basics – fear and breathing.

I’m pretty sure a cheeky f-word squeaks out when our Nige triggers his own fears. There’s also a great scene where he hacks through an overgrown paddock to show how babies’ brains lay down neural pathways.

Much is made of artificial intelligence model “Baby X” but the real people are much more interesting. One, a teacher, is unable to recognise faces, including her own. She’s learned to identify people via their ears.

Another woman had half her brain removed to stop seizures that she’d had since childhood. Amazingly, the high-risk surgery has done no damage to her faculties or memories: her young, plastic brain had stored everything useful in its healthy half.

Video: Soul Machines

This article was first published in the August 25, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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