Sci + Society,

#051: The Aquatic Origins Of Your Brain

November 09, 2014

In Episode #51, Jesse speaks with Dr. Michael A. Crawford of Imperial College London about the role of seafood – and the essential fats they contain – in the evolution, development, and maintenance of our brains.  Dr. Crawford shares with us a “coastal evolution theory,” the importance of proper nutrition for brain-health, and how it is our mothers who are most responsible for our cognitive abilities.

We also get some insight into whether or not we’re only as old as we feel, and how ergonomics can affect our behavior in civil society.

Key Terms Mentioned

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Show Notes
  • 00:00:32

    Introduction to Dr. Michael A. Crawford of Imperial College London

  • 00:02:00

    This Week in Neuroscience: What If Age Is Nothing But A Mindset?

  • 00:05:02

    iTunes Review thank-yous and some great podcasts you should check out

  • 00:06:53

    Dr. Crawford's associations and publications

  • 00:07:44

    How nutrition shapes the way we develop

  • 00:10:24

    Comparison between the brains of land-based and sea-based mammals

  • 00:12:16

    Humans' coastal origins: How our brains evolved versus those of the other great apes

  • 00:14:47

    The coastal hypothesis versus the savanna hypothesis

  • 00:18:18

    Docosahexaenoic acid's (DHA) use in your body and brain

  • 00:19:34

    The FDA's "no mercury" advisory and the effects of expecting mothers' seafood consumption on brain development during pregnancy

  • 00:22:51

    Japan versus Britain: The difference in seafood consumption by nation and the effects on mental health

  • 00:24:26

    The Driving Force: Food, Evolution and the Future – updates to the original published version from 25 years ago

  • 00:25:56

    Stressing the importance, in our diets, of omega fatty acids over protein

  • 00:28:00

    Agriculturalizing the oceans for a more sustainable future

  • 00:32:49

    Becoming "a race of morons": The reluctance to internalize the significance of the human brain and the proper nutrition necessary to build and maintain it

  • 00:34:51

    The effects of differing diets on brain make-up, and assisting the brain's natural recycling system by supplying it with DHA

  • 00:37:24

    Is there such a thing as "too much of a good thing?"

  • 00:37:55

    Consuming seafood directly, as opposed to taking Omega-3 supplements

  • 00:38:35

    How do vegans and vegetarians maintain proper brain-health?

  • 00:40:26

    The Mother and Child Foundation

  • 00:42:28

    Arachidonic acid (AA): omega-6 requirements, and prevalence in our diets compared to omega-3

  • 00:44:31

    Curbing water pollution – "saving the oceans to save ourselves"

  • 00:46:58

    Ruthless Listener-Retention Gimmick: The Ergonomics of Dishonesty


  1. Gabriel says:

    Interesting episode!

    Can you please write down the podcasts recommended at min 5? I can’t understand the names. Thanks.

    1. Rhiannan Roe says:

      Thanks, Gabriel!

      Of course – the two are:

      The Michael Ostrolenk Show ( and Remarkably Human Radio (


  2. Carson says:

    I found you guys on Reddit!

    Desmond Howard has a fascinating, remotely related theory, called the Aquatic Ape theory.

    I haven’t listened to this episode, but I plan to soon. I have had a long interest in Nootropics, and brain hacking. I hacked my brain and passed the the July 2014 bar, despite so many failing it. Mhahahha.

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Yeah, I saw a TED talk on the Aquatic Ape theory, too, and that is a fascinatingly weird (and not unconvincing) idea – and does play in nicely with a “coastal origins” rise-of-man idea. Hope you enjoy the episode; this particular one is among my top 3-4 episodes in the whole Smart Drug Smarts podcast. Among other things, I’ve changed my diet since this interview. PS: Glad you found us!

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