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Giving The Brain Something The Brain Likes: Novelty

When I was writing the book Tough Transitions, I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Gregory Berns, who holds the Distinguished Chair of Neuroeconomics and Director of the Center for Neuropolicy at Emory University Medical School in Atlanta.

What Lights Up the Brain?

What Lights Up the Brain?

In our conversation, Dr. Berns talked about his research on the brain. He said he was working to discover what kinds of activities light up the brain in a positive way so that a person experiences a sense of happiness or contentment or satisfaction.

Dr. Berns told me that one thing had already become clear to him in his research: the brain really likes novelty. In experiments, Dr. Berns discovered that when an individual thinks or does something new, the brain lights up in a way that results in a positive experience for that individual. (more…)

Another Take on ‘Oh, You’re Being So Illogical!’

apporangeA recent front-page article in The New York Times was entitled, “In Battle, Hunches Prove to be Valuable Assets.” The article—continuing from the front page of the newspaper to take up the full page on A6—describes the research done with soldiers on subjects like “how the brain processes images, how well it reads emotions and how it manages surges in stress hormones.” Dr. Antonio Damasio, director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, is quoted in the article:

Not long ago people thought of emotions as old stuff, or just feelings—feelings that had little to do with rational decision making, or that got in the way of it. Now that position has reversed. We understand emotions as practical action programs that work to solve a problem, often before we’re conscious of it. These processes are at work continually; in pilots, leaders of expeditions, parents, all of us.”

The either/or thinking—logical, rational, conscious thinking versus hunches, feelings, “gut responses”—once again proves to be too simplistic. (more…)

Blessings: Honey in the Heart and Thirteen Thank-Yous


That is an old-fashioned sounding word, isn’t it?

We heard—and spoke—and sang—this word a lot when I was a little girl growing up in the South.

There was the promise of the words of that old Civil-War-era hymn:

There shall be showers of blessing,
Precious reviving again;
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain.

And the plaintive request of the hymn’s refrain:

Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need;
Mercy drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

And there was Granny Leach with her answer to every knee scrape or bump on the head or fright from a rooster chase in the chicken yard : (more…)

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