The Pulse

Health & Wellness Podcasts

Listen to full episodes of WHYY’s health, science and innovation program, The Pulse.


United States


Listen to full episodes of WHYY’s health, science and innovation program, The Pulse.








The Therapist in Your Pocket

Finding the right therapist — or, sometimes, any therapist — can be a grueling process. Someone with the right expertise, who is still taking new clients, lives in your area, who accepts your insurance, or whose services you can afford. Over the past few years, online therapy platforms like BetterHelp and Talkspace have seen an explosion in popularity. They promise easy access — anytime you need it — and affordability. Major changes are happening in the field of mental health, as more...


The Hidden Powers of Fungi

When you hear the word fungi, chances are mushrooms come to mind: button mushrooms, maybe portobellos, or chanterelles. But so much of the fungi kingdom is invisible — underground — and many say underappreciated. Fungi are vital to life on the planet, but scientists are just beginning to understand their many functions and possibilities. On this episode, we explore the role of fungi in nature, in medicine, and in our lives. We’ll talk about sustainable design that utilizes mycelium, discuss...


Communicating with Animals

Humans have long been fascinated by the idea of communicating with other species — not just teaching animals to mimic human words, but truly understanding their calls or cries, and interpreting their meaning. In recent years, new technologies and research are getting us closer to that point. So what are scientists learning about the way animals’ minds work — what they think about, care about, and want us to understand? On this episode, we explore animal communication — from their ability to...


The Transformative Power of Awe

It’s the goosebumps you get at the crescendo of your favorite song; the stupefying wonder that comes with witnessing a birth or a death; the astonishing mystery we feel when gazing at the vast night sky. This is awe — a complex, often overwhelming emotion that can elicit everything from pleasure and connectedness to a crawling sense of uncertainty. Moments of awe can create unforgettable memories — and they can have a lasting impact on our minds and the way we interact with others. One of...


Making the Best of It

It’s the start of a new year — a time when lots of people are thinking about how they can improve their lives … and themselves. We make plans to get to the gym, eat healthier, sleep more, and have a better work-life balance. But despite our best intentions, these resolutions are usually short-lived, and often fizzle out by February. It’s a recipe for disappointment. Not only that — chasing the elusive, future version of ourselves can mean that we’re failing to deal with our current reality....


Noise Annoys

On a technical level, noise and sound are the same thing: vibrating molecules that travel in waves straight to our ears. But when sound is annoying, we tend to call it noise. From garbage trucks to car alarms, shrieking babies to nails on a chalkboard, noise can be really grating and irritating. In fact, some noises are so annoying, so loud, so obnoxious that they can take a toll on our well-being and health. On this episode — part two of our exploration of sound — we take a look at noise,...


Ed Yong on Animal Perception and the Pandemic

Science journalist Ed Yong is a must-read — with his in-depth reporting, his beautifully told stories, and spot-on analysis. He is one of the go-to-journalists for the most up-to-date and accurate information on the pandemic. On top of his reporting, he also published a book in 2022, called “An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us,” about how animals experience the world, outside the confines of human senses. “Each creature really is only able to sense a...


Humans and Sound

The soundscape of our lives changes depending on where we are — the murmuring of voices, birdsong in trees, the beeps and dings of technology, and the cacophony of traffic. Our worlds are dense with sound. Often, it all blends together to the point that we barely notice it. But every sound has its own distinct profile — providing information, bringing joy or irritation, causing us to snap to attention or zone out. In this episode, we explore the world of sound, how we interact with it, and...


When Humans and Wildlife Collide

Whether we’re in a forest, a park, or in the middle of a city, wildlife is always close by. Birds flying overhead, deer peeking through the branches, rabbits hopping through our yards, or rats and raccoons rummaging through our garbage. Sharing space with wild animals means our paths often cross — which can have less than desirable outcomes for either. On this episode, we’ll explore human-wildlife interactions — and the challenges that arise from living in the same space. We’ll hear about...


Finding a Way to Live With Grief

The death of a loved one can be shattering — especially when it’s unexpected. It destroys our feeling of safety, warps our sense of reality, and often leaves us feeling lost … unsure if we’ll ever come out on the other side. It’s an experience just about everyone goes through at some point in their lives, and yet it can feel profoundly lonely. There’s no linear logic or prescribed progression; grief advances stubbornly at its own pace. The wounds can feel both fresh and ancient, stifling...


Changing the Way We Think About Chronic Pain

Pain is powerful — and when it becomes chronic, it can be all-consuming. It takes over our minds, saps our energy, and becomes the focus of our existence. And yet, pain is also invisible. We can try to describe it — stabbing, nagging, dull, achy; we can rate it on a number scale from one to 10, or point to a smiley or frowny face to define it, but it’s not something we can ever fully communicate. Our pain is ours — to feel, to bear, to live with. Millions of Americans live with chronic...


The Bottom of the Sea

The bottom of the ocean seems like an unlikely place to be teeming with life — it’s dark, freezing cold, and subject to enormous pressure. And yet, in recent years, scientists have discovered that these depths are a rich ecosystem, boasting more species than you’d find just about anywhere else in the world. Most of the deep ocean remains unexplored, but we’re learning more about this mysterious place — including how its inhabitants have adapted to not only survive but thrive in such extreme...


The Future of Food

What we eat — and how our food is produced — is always changing. Over the past few decades, we’ve seen attempts to go from industrial farming to eating local, from factory farms to pasture-raised, anti-fat to anti-carb, wheat to quinoa, dairy milk to soy milk, bacon and eggs to avocado toast, and the list goes on. There’s a lot that goes into these changes — market forces, innovation, supply chain issues and increasingly, climate change. In fact, food may be the single most direct way that...


The Science of Extreme Weather

Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Blizzards. Flooding. Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen a staggering increase in extreme weather events, resulting in millions of deaths and trillions of dollars of damage around the globe. This increase has made the stakes for precise and accurate forecasts higher than ever — but the best forecast is useless if people don’t act on the information. On this episode, we explore what scientists are learning, not only about predicting extreme weather, but also about how...


Conversations with Veterans

There are 19 million veterans in the U.S. who have served in the armed forces. For many, the military gave them a sense of shared purpose, a strong connection to their comrades. But that community often disappears when they get out of the service, leaving many feeling alone, or misunderstood. On top of that, many veterans suffer with lingering health challenges, both visible and invisible. On this episode, we talk to veterans about what they experienced, and what they want other people to...


Thrills & Chills: The Psychology of Fear

It’s that time of year when we celebrate something we usually hate: fear. We visit haunted houses and corn mazes or binge-watch the scariest horror movies. But our relationship with fear is complicated. In its most primitive form, fear is about survival — it raises our heart rates, redirects our blood flow, makes us faster and fiercer, all so we can face — or escape — serious threats. In other settings — where there’s no real danger — fear can feel exhilarating, fun, and exciting. It can...


Why Grasslands Are Worth Saving

There’s a lot to love about grasslands — the sound of the wind blowing through them, the way the colors change with the seasons, how the sun lights up the valley, and the flowers that bloom in the spring and summer. But in many ways, we’ve taken these open spaces for granted, using them for our own purposes, from building houses to grazing livestock and planting crops. And in terms of conservation efforts, grasslands have been a bit neglected, compared to ecosystems like tropical...


Designing Safer Streets

In the early days of the pandemic, life on the streets changed. Traffic was clear, and the roads felt nearly deserted. Bumper-to-bumper commutes gave way to free and easy drives. So it came as a shock when it turned out that motor vehicle deaths had surged to nearly 40,000 people in 2020 — a jump of more than 20% per mile driven. How could this happen with far fewer drivers on the road? On this episode, we take a look at road safety, and what researchers are learning about it. What are the...


The Battle Over Autism Therapy ABA

When Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) first emerged on the national stage, it was hailed as a ray of hope. It was an intensive, interactive therapy that seemed to have positive results with kids on the autism spectrum, teaching them valuable skills while eliminating unwanted behaviors. It was expensive and time-consuming — so parents lobbied to have it covered by insurance or schools. By the 2010s, they’d largely achieved that goal, and ABA became a standard treatment for kids with...


Solving the Opioid Epidemic

A smile, clean socks, a sandwich, a wound care kit, a heartfelt “how are you feeling today?” All of these things can be part of a public health approach called harm reduction, and many believe it’s the best way to help those who’re living with opioid addiction. The approach is to meet people where they’re at, gaining their trust, and paving a path toward treatment and recovery. Journalist Beth Macy has covered the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic for years — including in her...