MP3 File (run time 35:10)
My guest for episode #193 is Mark Jaben, MD, talking about our brains, Lean, and change. Mark has been a guest blogger for me before and it’s great to talk to him today about his research and experiences. In our conversation, Mark talks about “the troublesome features of our brain’s operating system” (such as our “hidden brain”), how the A3 problem solving process fits with the way our brains work, and how to deal with “resistance” to change. Mark has also helped talk to some healthcare organizations about KaiNexus and we both presented at a conference last year.
Below are some links and material that Mark wrote to share with the listeners (and he’ll have a guest post soon that expands on the thoughts in the podcast).
How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
The Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink (listen to Mark Graban’s podcast with him)
To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink
“A Matter of Trust,” Onora O’Neill, 2002 BBC Reith lecture
1) Our brain is into plausability, not reality-
‘The Split Brain: A Tale of Two Halves,’ Nature, vol 483, issue 7389, mar 2012
Spit brain surgery was used to treat intractable seizures in the 1950’s and involved cutting the corpus callosum, the connecting pathways between the left and right hemispheres. It did not work well for seizures, but it did create an opportunity to better understand the function of each half of the brain. This is how we learned about the differing functions, including that vision is split by visual field, not by eye. In a classic study, participants were shown a picture of a chicken claw in the right visual field. This is processed in the left brain, which is where we assign a word to an object. A series of pictures were placed In the other visual field, and the participant was asked to pick the most appropriate one. They would pick the image of a shovel. When asked why, their response would be that they needed the shovel to clean the the dung from the chicken coop. There were no images of this, indicating that their brain concocted a story that fit the data they were given. When challenged with this reality, the participant would hold to their story and defend it as accurately depicting what they had seen.
2) Memories are selected–
Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life of the Amnesic Patient, HM; Suzanne Corkin
HM had surgery to treat his intractable seizures by removing the tips of his temporal lobes. When he awoke, he was unable to remember anything said to him. He could recall remote events from his childhood, but otherwise he was totally amnestic for current information. He eventually was able to learn and retain information about very mundane tasks. Eventually he could remember how to get from one part of his house to another, demonstrating that recall occurs in different parts of the brain depending on the emotional context of that event. The more immediately impactful memories store in the hippocampus, close to the amygdala, and may explain why these are the first memories that come to mind when we feel challenged, ie, those that would have the biggest affect on making decisions about survival. In a subsequent study, it has been demonstrated that we are better at remembering things we think about more often, presumably because we think about things that are most important to us and select those to remember.
3) Memories can change—-
Elizabeth Loftis has had a career of demonstrating that however a memory is imprinted in the brain, it can change over time. She has been involved as an expert in many trials that hinged on someone’s memory of a crime that had occurred in the distant past. In an interesting twist, she recently had just such an example from her own family background.
4) Where do we process——-
‘The Price of Your Soul: neural evidence for the non utilitarian representation of sacred values”
G. Berns et al, Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society, Mar 2012, vol. 367, no. 1589, pg 754-762
They took people who had a very strongly held belief and put them in a fMRI to find out that their amygdala lit up when talking about that belief. They then offered each person a sum of money if they would vote on a survey differently from that belief. Some would; some would not. Those that would were then put back into the fMRI, and now they were processing in an area of their prefrontal cortex, suggesting that options and alternatives are processed in different parts of the brain from closely held beliefs.
5) The effect of power on mirror neurons——-
‘Power Changes How the Brain Responds to Others‘, Hogeven, Inzlicht, Obhi, Journal of Experimental Psychology, June, 2013
Each participant was given a series of scenarios while in an tMRI. As the scenarios unfolded giving the participant a greater degree of control and power over the outcome, the researchers observed that there was less and less activity in their mirror neurons
6) Creativity requires getting past the prefrontal cortex—–
‘Neural Substrates of Spontaneous Musical Performance: A Study of Jazz Improvisation,’ Limb and Braun, PLOS One, 2008
Researchers took professional jazz musicians and placed them in an fMRI with a keyboard. They were asked to play a written piece of music, and a certain area of their prefrontal cortex lit up. Then ,they were asked to improvise anything they wanted. Now that prefrontal area was quiet and a different area of the brain was lit up, suggesting that the ‘rules’ area of the brain must be turned off in order to get creativity which occurred in a different area.
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