Transcription and Translation

When I was a lowly grad student at Columbia U, I was part of a small and cozy department headed by Michael Gershon. Now Professor Gershon is an expert of the enteric nervous system, or the nerve system of the gut. He gained celebrity status due to the fact that he had written a book called The Second Brain, which describes the history and current research on this curious feature of the nervous system. This entity, the enteric nervous system, is pretty remarkable in that it does in fact work quite independently from the rest of your body. Neurons within the gut form a highly connected network with minimal innervation from the central nervous system and thus in some way resemble a primordial brain.

In 1996 (and again in 2005, link) he was featured in the Science section of the NYTimes. I remember at some point that Dr. Gershon had invited a former postdoc of his to give a seminar at Columbia. This fellow had started up a lab to study the nervous system of the gall bladder. Of course he started his talk by describing the nervous system of the gall bladder as the third brain.

Having said all this, I would always think of Dr. Gershon when the comedian Stephen Colbert would talk about making decisions from the gut and not the brain. So I was only half surprised when Stephen Colbert interviewed Dr. Gershon earlier this week. Here’s a video clip of what transpired:

I like the line about the NIH …


  1. #1 DragonScholar
    June 14, 2007

    Caught this myself. Gershon really is a fun speaker, a mixture of charming gentleman and complete science nerd. He held his own with Colbert, which is never easy.

  2. #2 PhysioProf
    June 15, 2007

    Gershon and I were students together about 15 years ago at a three-week summer course at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on molecular cloning techniques as applied to the nervous system. He was already a distinguished full professor at the time, but interacted with all of the rest of the students (grad students and young post-docs) in a totally down-to-earth and engaged manner.

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