‘Where the Neurons Connect’ was an accessible way to digest corporate, academic and design related research on the way our brains work and how we can use this knowledge for self-improvement.
Pretending he couldn’t remember the MC’s name, Tansel Ali, a memory champion, took to the stage to give the first presentation at Friday nights symposium, in Melbourne. Encouraging the audience to use the event to connect with people, he also seemed to challenge everyone that it was child’s play to memorise a 200-page book in 10 minutes. He presented himself as a jolly ring master who could make any one in the room perform like Todd Sampson, who he coached to memorise a deck of cards front to back and back to front on his TV show ‘Design my Brain’.
I was starting to realise that even though I have two stomachs (one for mains and one for dessert) I may have two or more brains to match.
Jane Strangward followed Tansel on stage to unpack more about neuro science. She began by explaining the M-Brain – the multiple brain – and the science of the head, the heart and the gut. I was starting to realise that even though I have two stomachs (one for mains and one for dessert) I may have two or more brains to match. Strangward showed diagrams of the vegus nerve which physically makes the connection between the three brains that link our intuitions and feelings with rational thought. She elaborated that there are ways to connect these three brains to make the best type of decisions, that everyone can learn.
Next Lisa Grocott, a professor at Monash University a leader of the Wonder Lab, shared a traumatic story of giving a public speech as a child that had left her feeling humiliated. As well as getting the whole audience on board at an empathetic level, she used this relatable experience to demonstrate the effectiveness of her participatory workshops. Showing slides of ‘Play Mobile’ people, she explained how play is a helpful tool in using self-reflection to push past similar fears in our own lives. Making the audience stand and draw circles in the air, Grocott again had the audience participating physically to understand the idea that giving perspective to your beliefs can challenge them. Her take away was that we must always be learning in this world in order to thrive and shift our perspectives in a positive way.
Her take away was that we must always be learning in this world in order to thrive...
Tiffany Gray also challenged the audience about what it means to have choices. Drawing upon the experience of her grandmother whose only choice in life was to become a teacher or wife and mother. Reflecting on all our privileged options to choose jobs, travel locations and education pathways, she explained how our brains are not designed to cope with such a high volume of choice. She continued to explain how many life options simply equal higher levels of anxiety and depression. At a ratio of five to one, our brains seek to self-protect and find personal rewards while at the same time reacting to ever present stimuli – it’s a crazy mix.
We are all a collection of habitual behaviours whose patterns are actionable in our brains at speed of a third of a second. Our bodies need to act on autopilot just to get through the day but some of these behaviours can quickly become redundant. Challenging us to manage ourselves and consider our thoughts not only below the line but intentionally above it, Tiffany gave hope that we can all work to be more conscious of understanding our own brains and making positives changes to ourselves.