Ted Talks on Health
Svante Pääbo: DNA clues to our inner neanderthal
Sharing the results of a massive, worldwide study, geneticist Svante Pääbo shows the DNA proof that early humans mated with Neanderthals after we moved out of Africa. (Yes, many of us have Neanderthal DNA.) He also shows how a tiny bone from a baby finger was enough to identify a whole new humanoid species. Svante Pääbo explores human genetic evolution by analyzing DNA extracted from ancient sources, including mummies, an Ice Age hunter and the bone fragments of Neanderthals
Elizabeth Murchison: Fighting a contagious cancer
What is killing the Tasmanian devil? A virulent cancer is infecting them by the thousands — and unlike most cancers, it’s contagious. Researcher Elizabeth Murchison tells us how she’s fighting to save the Taz, and what she’s learning about all cancers from this unusual strain. Contains disturbing images of facial cancer. Elizabeth Murchison studies a mysterious (and contagious) cancer that threatens to wipe out Tasmanian devils.
Abraham Verghese: A doctor’s touch
Modern medicine is in danger of losing a powerful, old-fashioned tool: human touch. Physician and writer Abraham Verghese describes our strange new world where patients are merely data points, and calls for a return to the traditional one-on-one physical exam. In our era of the patient-as-data-point, Abraham Verghese believes in the old-fashioned physical exam, the bedside chat, the power of informed observation.
Jay Bradner: Open-source cancer research
How does cancer know it’s cancer? At Jay Bradner’s lab, they found a molecule that might hold the answer, JQ1 — and instead of patenting JQ1, they published their findings and mailed samples to 40 other labs to work on. An inspiring look at the open-source future of medical research. (Filmed at TEDxBoston.) In his lab, Jay Bradner, a researcher at Harvard and Dana Farber in Boston, works on a breakthrough approach for subverting cancer .. and he’s giving the secret away.
Alexander Tsiaras: Conception to birth — visualized
Image-maker Alexander Tsiaras shares a powerful medical visualization, showing human development from conception to birth and beyond. Using art and technology, Alexander Tsiaras visualizes the unseen human body.
Cynthia Kenyon: Experiments that hint of longer lives
What controls aging? Biochemist Cynthia Kenyon has found a simple genetic mutation that can double the lifespan of a simple worm, C. elegans. The lessons from that discovery, and others, are pointing to how we might one day significantly extend youthful human life. When it comes to aging well, having “good genes” (or rather, mutant ones) is key, says Cynthia Kenyon. She unlocked the genetic secret of longevity in roundworms — and now she’s working to do the same for humans.
Annie Murphy Paul: What we learn before we’re born
Pop quiz: When does learning begin? Answer: Before we are born. Science writer Annie Murphy Paul talks through new research that shows how much we learn in the womb — from the lilt of our native language to our soon-to-be-favorite foods. Annie Murphy Paul investigates how life in the womb shapes who we become.
Antonio Damasio: The quest to understand consciousness
Every morning we wake up and regain consciousness — that is a marvelous fact — but what exactly is it that we regain? Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio uses this simple question to give us a glimpse into how our brains create our sense of self. Antonio Damasio’s research in neuroscience has shown that emotions play a central role in social cognition and decision-making. His work has had a major influence on current understanding of the neural systems, which underlie memory, language, consciousness.
Michelle Borkin: Can astronomers help doctors?
How do you measure a nebula? With a brain scan. In this talk, TED Fellow Michelle Borkin shows why collaboration between doctors and astronomers can lead to surprising discoveries. (Filmed at TEDxBoston.) Michelle Borkin is a PhD candidate in applied physics. She works with the Astronomical Medicine Project and interdisciplinary 3D visualization techniques.
Tyrone Hayes + Penelope Jagessar Chaffer: The toxic baby
Filmmaker Penelope Jagessar Chaffer was curious about the chemicals she was exposed to while pregnant: Could they affect her unborn child? So she asked scientist Tyrone Hayes to brief her on one he studied closely: atrazine, a herbicide used on corn. (Hayes, an expert on amphibians, is a critic of atrazine, which displays a disturbing effect on frog development.) Onstage together at TEDWomen, Hayes and Chaffer tell their story. Tyrone Hayes studies frogs and amphibians — and the effects on their bodies of common farming chemicals. Penelope Jagessar Chaffer made the film “Toxic Baby,” exploring environmental toxins through interviews and surreal imagery.
Chris Anderson (TED): Questions no one knows the answers to
In a new TED-Ed series designed to catalyze curiosity, TED Curator Chris Anderson shares his obsession with questions that no one (yet) knows the answers to. A short intro leads into two questions: Why can’t we see evidence of alien life? on.ted.com/AlienLife and How many universes are there? on.ted.com/HowMany … Find more TED-Ed videos on our new YouTube channel: youtube.com/TEDEd. After a long career in journalism and publishing, Chris Anderson became the curator of the TED Conference in 2002 and has developed it as a platform for identifying and disseminating ideas worth spreading.
Ron Gutman: The hidden power of smiling
Ron Gutman reviews a raft of studies about smiling, and reveals some surprising results. Did you know your smile can be a predictor of how long you’ll live — and that a simple smile has a measurable effect on your overall well-being? Prepare to flex a few facial muscles as you learn more about this evolutionarily contagious behavior. Ron Gutman is the founder and CEO of HealthTap, free mobile and online apps for health info. He’s also the organizer of TEDxSiliconValley.
Elliot Krane: The mystery of chronic pain
We think of pain as a symptom, but there are cases where the nervous system develops feedback loops and pain becomes a terrifying disease in itself. Starting with the story of a girl whose sprained wrist turned into a nightmare, Elliot Krane talks about the complex mystery of chronic pain, and reviews the facts we’re just learning about how it works and how to treat it. At the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, Elliot Krane works on the problem of treating pain in children.
Bruce Aylward: How we’ll stop polio for good
Polio is almost completely eradicated. But as Bruce Aylward says: Almost isn’t good enough with a disease this terrifying. Aylward lays out the plan to continue the scientific miracle that ended polio in most of the world — and to snuff it out everywhere, forever. Bruce Aylward is a Canadian physician and epidemiologist who heads the polio eradication programme at WHO, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
Daniel Kraft: Medicine’s future? There’s an app for that
Daniel Kraft offers a fast-paced look at the next few years of innovations in medicine, powered by new tools, tests and apps that bring diagnostic information right to the patient’s bedside. (Filmed at TEDxMaastricht.) Daniel Kraft is a physician-scientist, inventor and innovator. He chairs the FutureMed program at Singularity University, exploring the impact and potential of rapidly developing technologies as applied to health and medicine.
Christopher McDougall: Are we born to run?
Christopher McDougall explores the mysteries of the human desire to run. How did running help early humans survive — and what urges from our ancient ancestors spur us on today? McDougall tells the story of the marathoner with a heart of gold, the unlikely ultra-runner, and the hidden tribe in Mexico that runs to live. (Filmed at TEDxPennQuarter.) Christopher McDougall is the author of “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.”
Charity Tillemann-Dick: Singing after a double lung transplant
You’ll never sing again, said her doctor. But in a story from the very edge of medical possibility, operatic soprano Charity Tillemann-Dick tells a double story of survival — of her body, from a double lung transplant, and of her spirit, fueled by an unwavering will to sing. A powerful story from TEDMED 2010. Charity Tillemann-Dick is a soprano who has appeared on opera and concert stages around the world. Her roles have included Titania in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” Gilda in “Rigoletto” and Violetta in “La Traviata.”
Deborah Rhodes: A test that finds 3x more breast tumors, and why it’s not available to you
Working with a team of physicists, Dr. Deborah Rhodes developed a new tool for tumor detection that’s 3 times as effective as traditional mammograms for women with dense breast tissue. The life-saving implications are stunning. So why haven’t we heard of it? Rhodes shares the story behind the tool’s creation, and the web of politics and economics that keep it from mainstream use. Deborah Rhodes is an expert at managing breast-cancer risk. The director of the Mayo Clinic’s Executive Health Program is now testing a gamma camera that can see tumors that get missed by mammography
Russell Foster: Why do we sleep?
Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist: He studies the sleep cycles of the brain. And he asks: What do we know about sleep? Not a lot, it turns out, for something we do with one-third of our lives. In this talk, Foster shares three popular theories about why we sleep, busts some myths about how much sleep we need at different ages — and hints at some bold new uses of sleep as a predictor of mental health. Russell Foster studies sleep and its role in our lives, examining how our perception of light influences our sleep-wake rhythms.
John Searle: Our shared condition — consciousness
Philosopher John Searle lays out the case for studying human consciousness — and systematically shoots down some of the common objections to taking it seriously. As we learn more about the brain processes that cause awareness, accepting that consciousness is a biological phenomenon is an important first step. And no, he says, consciousness is not a massive computer simulation. (Filmed at TEDxCERN.) John Searle has made countless contributions to contemporary thinking about consciousness, language, artificial intelligence and rationality itself.
Richard Weller: Could the sun be good for your heart?
Our bodies get Vitamin D from the sun, but as dermatologist Richard Weller suggests, sunlight may confer another surprising benefit too. New research by his team shows that nitric oxide, a chemical transmitter stored in huge reserves in the skin, can be released by UV light, to great benefit for blood pressure and the cardiovascular system. What does it mean? Well, it might begin to explain why Scots get sick more than Australians …Dermatologist Richard Weller wants to know: Why are Scots so sick?
Ben Goldacre: What doctors don’t know about the drugs they prescribe
When a new drug gets tested, the results of the trials should be published for the rest of the medical world — except much of the time, negative or inconclusive findings go unreported, leaving doctors and researchers in the dark. In this impassioned talk, Ben Goldacre explains why these unreported instances of negative data are especially misleading and dangerous. Ben Goldacre unpicks dodgy scientific claims made by scaremongering journalists, dubious government reports, pharmaceutical corporations, PR companies and quacks.
Max Little: A test for Parkinson’s with a phone call
Parkinson’s disease affects 6.3 million people worldwide, causing weakness and tremors, but there’s no objective way to detect it early on. Yet. Applied mathematician and TED Fellow Max Little is testing a simple, cheap tool that in trials is able to detect Parkinson’s with 99 percent accuracy — in a 30-second phone call. Max Little is a mathematician whose research includes a breakthrough technique to monitor – and potentially screen for – Parkinson’s disease through simple voice recordings.
Noah Wilson-Rich: Every city needs healthy honey bees
Bees have been rapidly and mysteriously disappearing from rural areas, with grave implications for agriculture. But bees seem to flourish in urban environments — and cities need their help, too. Noah Wilson-Rich suggests that urban beekeeping might play a role in revitalizing both a city and a species. (Filmed at TEDxBoston.) Noah Wilson-Rich studies bees and bee diseases. He founded Best Bees Company to support people who want to own and care for their own beehive.
Mina Bissell: Experiments that point to a new understanding of cancer
For decades, researcher Mina Bissell pursued a revolutionary idea — that a cancer cell doesn’t automatically become a tumor, but rather, depends on surrounding cells (its microenvironment) for cues on how to develop. She shares the two key experiments that proved the prevailing wisdom about cancer growth was wrong. Mina Bissell studies how cancer interacts with our bodies, searching for clues to how cancer’s microenvironment influences its growth.
Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life
When game designer Jane McGonigal found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she had a fascinating idea for how to get better. She dove into the scientific research and created the healing game, SuperBetter. In this moving talk, McGonigal explains how a game can boost resilience — and promises to add 7.5 minutes to your life. Reality is broken, says Jane McGonigal, and we need to make it work more like a game. Her work shows us how.
Ivan Oransky: Are we over-medicalized?
Reuters health editor Ivan Oransky warns that we’re suffering from an epidemic of preposterous preconditions — pre-diabetes, pre-cancer, and many more. In this engaging talk from TEDMED he shows how health care can find a solution… by taking an important lesson from baseball. Ivan Oransky is the executive editor of Reuters Health, and has done pioneering work in covering scientific retractions.
Ami Klin: A new way to diagnose autism
Early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder can improve the lives of everyone affected, but the complex network of causes make it incredibly difficult to predict. At TEDxPeachtree, Ami Klin describes a new early detection method that uses eye-tracking technologies to gauge babies’ social engagement skills and reliably measure their risk of developing autism. (Filmed at TEDxPeachTree.) Ami Klin is an award winning autism spectrum disorder researcher finding new avenues for early diagnosis.
Christina Warinner: Tracking ancient diseases using … plaque
Imagine what we could learn about diseases by studying the history of human disease, from ancient hominids to the present. But how? TED Fellow Christina Warinner is an achaeological geneticist, and she’s found a spectacular new tool — the microbial DNA in fossilized dental plaque. Christina Warinner is a researcher at the University of Zurich, where she studies how humans have co-evolved with environments, diets and disease.
Laura Carstensen: Older people are happier
In the 20th century we added an unprecedented number of years to our lifespans, but is the quality of life as good? Surprisingly, yes! At TEDxWomen psychologist Laura Carstensen shows research that demonstrates that as people get older they become happier, more content, and have a more positive outlook on the world. (Filmed at TEDxWomen.) Laura Carstensen is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, and has extensively studied the effects on wellbeing of extended lifetimes.
Tal Golesworthy: How I repaired my own heart
Tal Golesworthy is a boiler engineer — he knows piping and plumbing. When he needed surgery to repair a life-threatening problem with his aorta, he mixed his engineering skills with his doctors’ medical knowledge to design a better repair job. (Filmed at TEDxKrakow.) Tal Golesworthy is an engineer and entrepreneur, working in research and development of combustion and air pollution control — until he decided to innovate in his own health.
Noel Bairey Merz: The single biggest health threat women face
Surprising, but true: More women now die of heart disease than men, yet cardiovascular research has long focused on men. Pioneering doctor C. Noel Bairey Merz shares what we know and don’t know about women’s heart health — including the remarkably different symptoms women present during a heart attack (and why they’re often missed). (Filmed at TEDxWomen.) C. Noel Bairey Merz is director of the Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, where she is a professor of medicine.
Julian Treasure: Shh! Sound health in 8 steps
Julian Treasure says our increasingly noisy world is gnawing away at our mental health — even costing lives. He lays out an 8-step plan to soften this sonic assault (starting with those cheap earbuds) and restore our relationship with sound. Julian Treasure studies sound and advises businesses on how best to use it.
Jessa Gamble: Our natural sleep cycle
n today’s world, balancing school, work, kids and more, most of us can only hope for the recommended eight hours of sleep. Examining the science behind our body’s internal clock, Jessa Gamble reveals the surprising and substantial program of rest we should be observing. Jessa Gamble writes about sleep and time, showing how our internal body clock struggles against our always-on global culture.
William Li: Can we eat to starve cancer?
William Li presents a new way to think about treating cancer and other diseases: anti-angiogenesis, preventing the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor. The crucial first (and best) step: Eating cancer-fighting foods that cut off the supply lines and beat cancer at its own game. William Li heads the Angiogenesis Foundation, a nonprofit that is re-conceptualizing global disease fighting.
James Randi: Homeopathy, quackery and fraud
Legendary skeptic James Randi takes a fatal dose of homeopathic sleeping pills onstage, kicking off a searing 18-minute indictment of irrational beliefs. He throws out a challenge to the world’s psychics: Prove what you do is real, and I’ll give you a million dollars. (No takers yet.) Legendary skeptic James Randi has devoted his life to debunking frauds and investigating paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.
Ken Kamler: Medical miracle on Everest
When the worst disaster in the history of Mount Everest climbs occurred, Ken Kamler was the only doctor on the mountain. At TEDMED, he shares the incredible story of the climbers’ battle against extreme conditions and uses brain imaging technology to map the medical miracle of one man who survived roughly 36 hours buried in the snow. Ken Kamler has served as doctor on some of the world’s most daring expeditions, but also performs delicate microsurgery when at home in New York.
Eric Mead: The magic of the placebo
Sugar pills, injections of nothing — studies show that, more often than you’d expect, placebos really work. At TEDMED, magician Eric Mead does a trick to prove that, even when you know something’s not real, you can still react as powerfully as if it is. (Warning: This talk is not suitable for viewers who are disturbed by needles or blood.) Eric Mead is a prolific magician, mentalist and comedian who worked his way up from doing magic on the street to appearing at exclusive events around the world.
Dan Buettner: How to live to be 100+
To find the path to long life and health, Dan Buettner and team study the world’s “Blue Zones,” communities whose elders live with vim and vigor to record-setting age. In his talk, he shares the 9 common diet and lifestyle habits that keep them spry past age 100. (Filmed at TEDxTC.) National Geographic writer and explorer Dan Buettner studies the world’s longest-lived peoples, distilling their secrets into a single plan for health and long life.
Kary Mullis: A next-gen cure for killer infections
Drug-resistant bacteria kills, even in top hospitals. But now tough infections like staph and anthrax may be in for a surprise. Nobel-winning chemist Kary Mullis, who watched a friend die when powerful antibiotics failed, unveils a radical new cure that shows extraordinary promise. Kary Mullis won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing a way to copy a strand of DNA. (His technique, called PCR, jump-started the 1990s’ biorevolution.) He’s known for his wide-ranging interests — and strong opinions.
Jonathan Drori: Why we’re storing billions of seeds
In this brief talk from TED U 2009, Jonathan Drori encourages us to save biodiversity — one seed at a time. Reminding us that plants support human life, he shares the vision of the Millennium Seed Bank, which has stored over 3 billion seeds to date from dwindling yet essential plant species. Jonathan Drori commissioned the BBC’s very first websites, one highlight in a long career devoted to online culture and educational media — and understanding how we learn.
Bonnie Bassler: How bacteria “talk”
Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria “talk” to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry — and our understanding of ourselves. Bonnie Bassler studies how bacteria can communicate with one another, through chemical signals, to act as a unit. Her work could pave the way for new, more potent medicine.
Kamal Meattle: How to grow fresh air
Researcher Kamal Meattle shows how an arrangement of three common houseplants, used in specific spots in a home or office building, can result in measurably cleaner indoor air. With its air-filtering plants and sustainable architecture, Kamal Meattle’s office park in New Delhi is a model of green business. Meattle himself is a longtime activist for cleaning up India’s air.
Joe DeRisi: Solving medical mysteries
Biochemist Joe DeRisi talks about amazing new ways to diagnose viruses (and treat the illnesses they cause) using DNA. His work may help us understand malaria, SARS, avian flu — and the 60 percent of everyday viral infections that go undiagnosed. Joe DeRisi hunts for the genes that make us sick. At his lab, he works to understand the genome of Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest form of malaria.
Dean Ornish: Healing through diet
Dean Ornish talks about simple, low-tech and low-cost ways to take advantage of the body’s natural desire to heal itself. Dean Ornish is a clinical professor at UCSF and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. He’s a leading expert on fighting illness — particularly heart disease with dietary and lifestyle changes.
Dean Ornish: Your genes are not your fate
Dean Ornish shares new research that shows how adopting healthy lifestyle habits can affect a person at a genetic level. For instance, he says, when you live healthier, eat better, exercise, and love more, your brain cells actually increase. Dean Ornish is a clinical professor at UCSF and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. He’s a leading expert on fighting illness — particularly heart disease with dietary and lifestyle changes
Robert Fischell: My wish: Three unusual medical inventions
Accepting his 2005 TED Prize, inventor Robert Fischell makes three wishes: redesigning a portable device that treats migraines, finding new cures for clinical depression and reforming the medical malpractice system. Robert Fischell invented the rechargeable pacemaker, the implantable insulin pump, and devices that warn of epileptic seizures and heart attacks. Yet it’s not just his inventive genius that makes him fascinating, but his determination to make the world a better place.
Aubrey de Grey: A roadmap to end aging
Cambridge researcher Aubrey de Grey argues that aging is merely a disease — and a curable one at that. Humans age in seven basic ways, he says, all of which can be averted. Aubrey de Grey, British researcher on aging, claims he has drawn a roadmap to defeat biological aging. He provocatively proposes that the first human beings who will live to 1,000 years old have already been born.
Eva Vertes: Meet the future of cancer research
Eva Vertes — only 19 when she gave this talk — discusses her journey toward studying medicine and her drive to understand the roots of cancer and Alzheimer’s. Eva Vertes is a microbiology prodigy. Her discovery, at age 17, of a compound that stops fruit-fly brain cells from dying was regarded as a step toward curing Alzheimer’s. Now she aims to find better ways to treat — and avoid — cancer.
Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness
Dan Gilbert, author of “Stumbling on Happiness,” challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned. Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong — a premise he supports with intriguing research, and explains in his accessible and unexpectedly funny book, Stumbling on Happiness
Larry Brilliant: My wish: Help me stop pandemics
Accepting the 2006 TED Prize, Dr. Larry Brilliant talks about how smallpox was eradicated from the planet, and calls for a new global system that can identify and contain pandemics before they spread. 2006 TED Prize winner Dr. Larry Brilliant has spent his career solving the ills of today — from overseeing the last smallpox cases to saving millions from blindness — and building technologies of the future. Now, as President and CEO of the Skoll Global Threats Fund , he’s redefining how we solve the world’s biggest problems.