Preconference: Matthew Lieberman: Neuroscience 101
Matthew was brilliant for many of the neuroscience novices (and advanced students) in the audience in a pre-conference 3- hour “This is Your Brain” seminar. He took us through the essentials of what we needed to know around the brain’s structural dimensions, physiology, measurement techniques and how they work, circuits, pathways, divisions, types of memory, and an introduction to his field of social neuroscience. He was incredibly engaging for the people in the audience who could have stayed three more hours at least.
Jeffrey Schwartz - First Dinner Speaker– ‘Attention changes the brain’
‘We don’t have free will, but we do have free WONT.’ Jeff explains the mechanisms involved in self-directed neuroplasticity, the key driver of change in the brain. Below he is explaining “veto power,” the time it takes for our mind to determine how we are going to respond to the consciously registered desire to move – which is about 0.3 of seconds. He is reminding us of how much choice we truly do have.
We also enjoyed Art Kleiner’s great facilitation and weaving together of the ideas. That’s him presenting a gift to Jeffrey Schwartz after his session at the opening dinner.
Craig Hassad – ‘Know thyself’
Craig presented the neuroscience of mindfulness. He talked about the dramatic impact of mindfulness practice on stress and well being, and the impact on teaching mindfulness at a medical school, which he does for all Monash University’s medical school students, focusing on techniques for dealing with the extreme depression and stress that almost all of these students experience, particularly in their residency. Craig took us through the stress performance curve, turning it on its head, as well as the physiological stress response. He taught us about mindfulness, where you are just taught to allow your thoughts to be what they are, and contrasted this to cognitive behaviour training, where you are taught to reason about thoughts. He showed us how mindfulness leads to decreased stress, depression, a better focus, less self preoccupation, making better decision, generating empathy and protecting and enhancing our health by increasing our immunity and slowing cell loss. Most importantly, he got us all to experience a dose of mindful training in Craig’s very humble manner.
Matthew Lieberman and David Rock – ‘Cool under pressure’
This session involved presentations by both David Rock and Matthew Lieberman. Through a selection of video clips that David has made from all of his interviews, we heard from a founding father of emotional regulation, James Gross, a founding mother of working memory research Amy Arnsten, and a founding father of social neuroscience, Kevin Ochsner, all by pre-recorded video. Both Amy and Kevin will be presenting live in NYC.
Some of the big insights from this session included:
- Mindful awareness being the opposite of our tendency towards autopilot – training our mind to switch between the narrative type of thinking we do and the directive type of thinking we do
- Labeling emotions to decrease their power, however people predict the opposite
- Why CEO’s freeze in their decision making when they are overloaded and facing uncertainty as well as the pressure to succeed
- Reappraisal as an essential and learned skill at the heart of our ability to focus attention in the right ways. Most of us, however, tend to either express emotion or even more, we suppress emotion, which will cause memory loss and will also cause others to be uncomfortable around you despite the fact that you are not even outwardly showing the emotion.
Matthew Lieberman – ‘Getting on with others’
Matthew’s speech over our second dinner was, as he would continue to show us, incredibly entertaining and provocative. He covered how social pain really is very similar to physical pain. He then covered areas that included how reward works for us, and the work that he and his wife have collaborated on about what happens in our mind when we feel left out. He spoke to us about moral reasoning and the power of message propagation. Mostly, he impressed us with how adept he was in “speaking English” to non-neuroscientists – making it pragmatic and instantly applicable to the business world.
Evian took us through the unconscious processes in decision making, starting first with the description of the work he has been doing for the last 20 years, collecting research from all layers of the neuroscience community in order to integrate knowledge across molecular research, genetic research, neuron, physiology, morphology, functional neuroscience, social neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, neurotransmitter research, etc. He spoke about the significant shift we are seeing from getting caught up with spatial regions and specialized networks to the new work that is more akin to understanding the brain temporally through understanding how it adapts and affects the whole of the body by examining timing, interactions, and dynamics. The model he took us of decision making centred around linking the non-conscious processes with the conscious processes in order to self regulate. Look forward to seeing Evian present again in New York. The work he has done around integration is absolutely fantastic. Norman Doidge
Norman took us through the basic tenets of his beautifully written book The Brain that Changes Itself, regaling us of the amazing sights he had seen in the patients he worked with, blind people who taught their brains to see again, deaf people who rewired their brains to allow hearing, etc. He elegantly took us through the proof that the brain is actually not a stagnant machine (“neurological nihilism”), which started with Socrates “I can train the organ of thought” right up to the research coming out of fMRI. We enjoyed his analogy of different networks in our brain being in constant competition for real estate, and he talked about how much there is to learn that we will be able to apply to learning disorders.
In the Leadership Panel, Katharine McLennan facilitated the speakers of Evian Gordon (introduced above), Professor Bob Wood from the Accelerated Learning laboratory at University of New South Wales and Craig Hassed (introduced above). The panel talked quite a bit about what the definition of leadership was at first (with a great definition put forth as “the need to ascribe control to human events retrospectively”) and how important self-directed neuroplasticity (otherwise known as self-learning) was in leadership development. The notion of “presence” in leadership was covered as we began to talk about what is behind “charisma” and wondered if it could be explained neuroscientifically. We also talked about some of the trends in leadership development that begin to encroach upon “neuroleadership” – i.e. McKinsey’s “high performance mind training”—a fancy to say meditation for leadership. Bob also took us through his work in the working memory and the long term memory, likening them to a gate (very small) and a large paddock, respectively. One of the most important aspects of leadership and mind training was the ability to discern: the ability to determine what was important and what was not through mindfulness.
Cool under pressure panel
This panel, facilitated by Anne Riches, included several practitioners, and pain scientist Lorimer Mosely from Oxford University.
Hamish McMaster facilitated the panel on the brain/mind and culture, which was sponsored by Booz & Co and had Victoria Sherwood, Art Kleiner, Dani Fraillon from Mettle, Matt Lieberman, Sophie Crawford-Jones from PwC and Matt Ayres from AMP on it. The focus of this panel was about what it takes for collectives to effect behavioural change and there was much facilitated dialogue among the participants about interventions that result in long-term sustainable cultural change. Matt Lieberman’s learnings from social neuroscience certainly began to be applied here, especially around reward, inclusion, and status. It was fascinating also to hear from Matt Ayres about what AMP was doing to change culture around innovation and leadership and Sophie Crawford-Jones on how PwC was beginning to explore neuroleadership.
Coaching panelNestor Braidot
Led by coaching researcher Linda Page from Canada, the panel included Lea Williams, who has a paper in the upcoming NeuroLeadership Journal, featuring a specific case study. Also Ruth Donde, Regional Manager for New Zealand for Results Coaching, talking about teaching leaders a brain based approach to coaching.
Nestor presented the work he is doing to integrate neurosciences with business consulting across Argentina and Spain. He spoke to us about motivation and how it can be understood by understanding the brain through our expectation of reward, our mental fatigue, our perception of injustice, our frustration with reward omission, our status and our general tendency towards fear.
Carlos ran a session in his play of life' technology, which directly alters the limbic system response to situations, bypassing normal dialogue based frameworks. Interesting experiential application of the science.
With Thanks To:
- Katharine McLennan
- Keynote speakers
- Panelists and facilitators
- The sponsors
- Summit team