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Horizon: Secrets of the Brain

As we stand on the brink of the age of AI where technology might one day outstrip human intelligence, Professor Jim Al-Khalili unravels the mysteries of arguably the most complex object in the cosmos: the human brain. Secrets of the Brain is a groundbreaking 2x60’ Horizon special that takes a deep dive into cutting edge neuroscience, as Jim explores the inner physics of the brain and how it has been shaped by the laws of nature.

From ancient marine animals to modern humans, Secrets of the Brain investigates the evolution of the brain over hundreds of millions of years. Our brains contain a remarkable story, forged in a cauldron of planetary catastrophes, epic conflicts, death, sex, kinship, and love. How did the physical conditions on planet Earth drive the evolution of this most remarkable of organs? That is the central question this series will try to answer.

Among many new discoveries, Jim will find out: how vicious prehistoric predators gave us “left and right brains”; how warm-bloodedness evolved and shaped the brain’s ability to remember: crucial for finding food; how when worms huddle together, they use the same chemicals as we do when we fall in love; and how competition, friendship, nurturing, playfulness, song, and laughter helped evolve our brains.

Jim solves puzzles with chimpanzees, snorkels with sea anemones, undergoes state-of-the-art brain scans, and interviews leading experts—all to tell the story of how the brain evolved as never before.

Horizon: Disease X

In this ambitious landmark documentary, virologist Dr Chris van Tulleken sets off on an international hunt for the source of the next global pandemic.

‘Disease X’ is the name the World Health Organisation gives to the yet-to-be discovered virus most likely to cause the next pandemic. We don’t know what it is, what it looks like, or how it will spread. But many believe it has the potential to be bigger and deadlier than Covid-19 or anything else we’ve seen before.

Every pandemic in modern times has come from a Disease X or a novel strain of flu. Covid-19 is the most recent example, but it wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last. Our only defence is to try to get ahead of it, and identify where it will come from and what it will be – before it's too late.

With millions of undiscovered viruses currently present in the world, this Horizon Special will follow Chris as he travels the globe to meet the scientists racing to prevent the next pandemic. During his high-stakes investigation, Chris will speak to leading experts in the fields of virology, epidemiology, vaccinology and public policy around the world. He’ll examine why new viruses are emerging at an increased rate, reveal the hotspots where they’re most likely to appear, and profile the most concerning new disease outbreaks.

There is hope: Chris will also meet the pioneering teams who, since the Covid-19 pandemic, have continued their work in the science of preparedness and prevention. He’ll visit their cutting-edge research labs and outbreak monitoring facilities in the UK and abroad, and shine a light on their tireless work to keep us all safe.


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