Brain Fact Friday ”How to Be a Neuroscience Researcher” Using Our Creativity
Manage episode 358178787 series 2836634
“Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.” – Robert A. Heinlein
And I want to add a quote I heard often over years, that "To believe in the things you can see and touch is no belief at all. But to believe in the unseen is both a triumph and a blessing.”
On today’s Episode #278 we will cover:
✔ How to Be A Neuroscience Researcher in 4 Simple Steps
✔ Why Creativity and Innovation are Important to Move You Towards Your Goals
✔ How to Navigate Through Pubmed When Looking for Answers to Questions You Might Have.
✔ How to Use Science and Evidence-Based Studies in Your Daily Life and Work
Welcome back to The Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, where we cover the science-based evidence behind social and emotional learning (for schools) and emotional intelligence training (in the workplace) with tools, ideas and strategies that we can all use immediately, with our brain in mind. I’m Andrea Samadi, an author, and educator with a passion for learning specifically on the topics of health, wellbeing and productivity, and launched this podcast almost 4 years ago, to share how important an understanding of our brain is, for our everyday life and results.
For today’s episode #278, keeping in line with our Season Theme of Going Back to the Basics to Build a Stronger, More Resilient 2.0 version of ourselves, we look back at EPISODE #124 on “How to be a Neuroscience Researcher in 4 Simple Steps”[i] I knew even before writing this one, that I had to spend some time getting creative. Science and research can be so very boring, especially if I were to just read through Pubmed.gov with some steps for all of us to navigate through the research, for our daily use. I can’t imagine getting excited about that, and that’s not what I wanted this episode to be about, so of course, I’m jolted out of sleep, in the early hours of a busy workday, to jot down some ideas that could bring the science into our daily lives, in a way that we can find evidence-based, science-backed answers to inform whatever questions might be keeping YOU up at night, or at least crossing your mind in the day, and make this episode a bit more memorable, interesting and useful for you.
To do this, I went back to EPISODE #265 where we covered “Improving Creativity in Our Schools, Sports and Modern Workplaces”[ii] to revisit what makes something truly “creative” according to science, using the work of Dr. Andrew Huberman. He said “To Show Creativity—It must Reveal something new to us (entertaining, thrilling or useful) and it changes the way we access the world—acting as portals into the world and ourselves.” On this past episode that I wrote just before Christmas of last year, I gave three examples of past guests who’ve come on this podcast who have done just that, and have shown their creativity to change the world in our schools, sports environments and workplaces of the future. You can review this episode and these examples, but for today’s episode, I’m hoping that I can show you how to use this research portal, Pubmed.gov to change the way YOU access the world, and take some things that you might be wondering about, and see how science can inform how you see the world, revealing something NEW, entertaining, thrilling or useful. Now this is an episode worth waking up at 1am to write.
Before we dive in here, I’ve got to go back a bit in time, because I did name this podcast Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning, knowing full well that this link to science could help all of us to improve our results not only in our schools (where most of my work has been spent the past 3 decades) but also in our corporate workplaces, and sports environments. I remember in those early days planning this podcast, I was told to keep my message simple and focus on one area (schools) as you will be confusing your end listener. I remember thinking I don’t want my end listener to only be working in our schools. I was hoping these ideas would appeal to a wider range of listeners, around the world, and today I’ve got to give a shout out to all of you who tune in, because I do keep an eye on our numbers (even though I’ve been urged to focus on the message and what we are learning each week, but I’m human, I do wonder “is the time I’m spending here, really helping others as much as it’s helping me?” This morning, I’m motivated just a bit more than usual, as we are approaching an important milestone in the podcasting world, as we are just a few hundreds away from that 300K download mark, with a reach into 178 countries, around the world. I’m so glad that I listened to that inner voice that was urging me to keep the topics on this podcast broad, to improve productivity and results beyond our classrooms, and into places that my mind couldn’t conceive at the time. So thank you for all of you who tune in, wherever you listen to this podcast in the world. I always say that without listeners, there would be no podcast, and without our guests, I wouldn’t have any content to wake up early and write about.
So, I will keep my promise back to you, that as long as we have listeners, that I will find the time to keep producing episodes that brings the most current research into practice, in our daily lives. While my days are now dedicated to promoting The Science of Reading in our schools, something I’ve been passionate about for a very long time, we will continue our theme of Going Back to the Basics this season, with some new guests coming up, to help strengthen our understanding of this connection between science, our productivity and results.
Going back to EPISODE 124 on “How to Become a Neuroscience Researcher in 4 Simple Steps” I want to explain why I thought this was important to write about in the first place.
I remember back to when I was first told “you know, you need to add science to your work” from Jeff Kleck, who we spoke with on EPISODE #246[iii] launching me into a world that I didn’t think I was capable of learning. I went to school to be a teacher, (focused on Physical Education and English) expanding into Behavioral Students when I first began. I was not a neuroscience researcher, but found myself fueled by the challenge of understanding something that he understood, and I didn’t. “If this educator, with a background as a football coach could grasp this work, then, why couldn’t I?” I thought. So that’s where it all began for me, and why I think it’s important to share that we all start somewhere and that’s usually with a blank slate. I think about those early days when I opened up David A Sousa’s famous book “How the Brain Learns”[iv] and almost slammed it shut, thinking “this is way over my head” as I saw these graphs on how memories are formed, and it just seemed so complex.
So, this episode today is to show you that if I can figure this out, anyone can.
Let’s revisit the 4 steps I suggested in our earlier episode with some more thought and creativity behind the steps.
STEP 1: First you want to think of your hypothesis: or something you are interested in, that you will back up with the most current research. I used my presentation slide as an example with “How Stress Impacts the Brain and Learning” in our earlier episode and in the 4 steps, I show you how to navigate through Pubmed.gov on this topic, how to find a study that does in fact prove how stress impacts learning, and then add this study to your work, or a presentation you might be doing.
In today’s episode, I want to get creative, be a bit more innovative, and think beyond something we all KNOW impacts our brain and learning (like stress). What about something that science has yet to prove? This is where my curiosity goes, and you can see from some of the speakers we’ve had over the years that I’m interested in learning what science has to say about our dream world. Specifically, WHY we dream, and WHAT if anything, can we learn from our dreams? What can science teach us about our dreams? This is my creative hypothesis.
What’s yours? What would you like to understand better and see if science could inform what you would like to know? Think about what you would like to learn, and if you need your brain jogged for a minute, I saw a recent Twitter post that self-development researcher, Greg Lunt put up the other day, about 7 peer-reviewed, research-based life hacks from Dr. Andrew Huberman’s podcast.[v] Click the link in the show notes, and you can see 7 examples of important life hacks, that are all backed by science. If you listen to each of these life hacks, see if you can listen to Stanford Professor and host of the Huberman Lab, who I mention often on this podcast, through a different lens.
Remember, that we all start our journey somewhere. We never know where our interests will take us, and how far each of can go into the world. Don’t let the fact that we weren’t taught many of these concepts in school to put up a barrier for what we could learn using science. In some of the Deep Dive book studies we’ve done, I’m sure you will agree with me that we’ve uncovered that we all have unique talents and abilities, that when developed (or fanned into a flame) and used, have the ability to take that person to heights they might have only imagined in their dreams.
DID YOU KNOW THAT Stanford Professor, Dr. Andrew Huberman grew up as a skateboarder in the Bay Area, and didn’t have direction or a vision for the life he has created today? He was taken in by skater Tony Hawk’s parents when he was 14 and this gave him a place where he felt accepted, where he belonged and this changed the direction of his life forever. I’m sure that as we research most people who have risen to the top of their field, you will see that they had to overcome significant adversity, to arrive there. Nothing comes without effort.
- How to Sleep Better How to Burn Fat How to Grow Muscle How to Build Habits How to Focus How to Ease Pain How to Stop Hiccups
See if you can come up with something you want to dive deeper into.
I’ll use mine since I’ve been logging my dreams since 1999, I can find patterns and themes, and lessons that I think might be important, but what does modern day science say about this?
I went over to English neuroscientist and professor at the University of California, Berkley, Matthew Walker’s research that focuses on sleep, and found a series on his podcast where he dives deeper into our dream world.[vi] It’s here where he mentions Dr. Robert Stickgold’s research on “Memory, Sleep and Dreaming.”[vii]
STEP 2: GO TO PubMed.gov[viii] and read the article on your topic of interest.
When I searched for Robert Stickgold and dreaming, his article came up and took me straight to Pubmed through using Google. Or I could go directly to Pubmed.gov and type his name into the search bar with dreams and see all of the articles he’s written on this topic.
Try it for whatever topic you would like to connect evidence-based research to.
STEP 3: Read through the studies with titles that interest you and see if you can uncover something new that can add value to your daily life. This is where you can spend a lot of time, or maybe go the other route, and you take one look at the article and X out of Pubmed thinking this is too difficult. Remember we all start somewhere. Dr. Huberman was once a skater kid, and now, I’ve never seen anyone navigate through the research like he does. Don’t let it intimidate you. I mention this on our past episode that the parts of the research study that are important are the title, that tells you the topic and hypothesis, or what the researchers want to prove. Then there’s a middle part that give you some details about the study that you can scan, and don’t worry about all of the language. I’m sure many researchers aren’t sure what it all means either. Someone who is an expert in research will inform this part of the study, that will help to find an accurate conclusion, that you will want to read.
In Stickgold’s dream study, he was looking to show how our dreams can consist of “fragments” of our waking life, and he explained someone’s waking life experience, and how it corresponded to something they dreamed about. Dr. Stickgold concludes that “waking experience is reactivated in the sleeping brain, (so what we think and experience in our waking life CAN show up in our dream life) leading to a process of “consolidation” by which new, labile (emotionally charged) memory traces are reorganized into more permanent forms of long-term storage. Dream experiences recalled from sleep bear a transparent relationship to recently encoded information, and provide a useful window into consolidation-related activities of the sleeping brain.” He concludes that “recent work from (his) laboratory has established a direct relationship between the “replay” of recent experience in dream content, and enhanced memory performance in humans.”
This blows my mind. I’m still learning, and think I could study this paragraph for some time, but my search for understanding with what’s going on in the dream world, and waking world is getting clearer. While I don’t think I ever want to have someone else interpret my dreams (which they are doing these days with templates and researchers can now predict WHAT someone is dreaming about with MRI scanners). But I do think that understanding how our brains dream, and what we are dreaming about, with themes and connections we can learn from in our waking hours, could add significant value to our daily life, especially if we take what Dr. Stickgold’s research said, and look at how our dreams could possibly enhance our memory performance.
Putting the Research into Practice:
I looked at a recent measure of my REM sleep, using my WHOOP device, that logged my REM sleep as 50% higher than my 30 day average recently. I know what I did to ensure I had a good night sleep, (starting with going to sleep an hour earlier than usual) and then logged what I recalled from my dreams that night. Now I wonder, “how are these dreams useful?” How did this increased REM sleep enhance my memory and important things I was learning that day? I had a very busy week, and this data was very useful for me to see BEFORE this busy week began.
I wonder: “Can this study about my dreams that I read on Pubmed.gov improve my memory or give me “enhanced memory performance” like Stickgold’s research concluded, or even combined it with the WHOOP data, and ask, “could my focus, alertness and performance be improved with more REM sleep?”
This is where curious minds, who want to learn can use science to inform our questions. I’ll continue to follow Mathew Walker’s work on the impacts of sleep on our brain, while measuring sleep, and continue to connect the research on Pubmed to uncover new ways for improved focus, productivity and performance.
STEP 4: Keep learning and reading about what YOU would like to prove or understand better. I wonder, did you learn anything new from the topic you looked up on Pubmed? If you did, I’d love to know what you learned.
REVIEW AND CONCLUSION:
And with that, I’ll review and close out this episode where we looked at “How to be a Neuroscience Researcher in 4 Simple Steps”[ix] and take something we are curious about, connect the science to it, and then actually use it in our life.
STEP 1: Think of your hypothesis: or something you are interested in, that you will back up with the most current research. Get creative here, and think of something that you are curious about, like I’m curious about the dream world. To Show Creativity—It must Reveal something new to us (entertaining, thrilling or useful) and it changes the way we access the world—acting as portals into the world and ourselves.”
STEP 2: GO TO PubMed.gov[x] and read the article on your topic of interest. Don’t be intimidated by the language you will see in these research articles. Just read enough that you can figure out the title (what they are looking to prove) the middle part (how they plan to prove it) and the conclusion (what they learned).
STEP 3: Read through the studies with titles that interest you and uncover something new. How does what you learned from the research help what you are working on in your daily life? Like my interest in the dream world, where do your interests sit? Health, wellness, productivity? What are you interested in studying?
STEP 4: Keep learning and reading about what YOU would like to prove or understand better. With time, the research is advancing lightyears beyond where we could imagine just a few years ago. Who knew before looking at what’s new with this research that someone could measure me while I’m dreaming and now predict what I’m dreaming about? Who knew that an understanding of my dreams could help with my memory performance?
We wouldn’t know this without those who conduct the research, that are there for any of us to read on Pubmed.gov and I hope that this episode has made being a neuroscience researcher less intimidating. If you have spent the weekend, or longer, reading through Pubmed articles to learn something, then by all means, you can now call yourself a neuroscience researcher, and I hope that you’ve now taken something you were curious about (from the unseen world) and brought some clarity to it, in your life.
With that, I’ll close out this episode, that I hope you have found to be helpful, and useful in some way. I want to thank you again for tuning in and helping our podcast to continue to grow over the years. I’ll see you next week as we look at “Building Resilience[xi]” and we do have some fascinating interviews lined up:
FOLLOW ANDREA SAMADI:
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/AndreaSamadi
Neuroscience Meets SEL Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/2975814899101697
INTERVIEWS COMING UP NEXT:
Gabrielle Usatynski,[xii] the author of the NEW book The Power Couple Formula, that is based entirely on Jaak Panksepp’s 7 Core Emotions. I can’t wait to dive deeper into Jaak Panksepp’s work with her, especially after having the chance to meet with Lucy Biven earlier this year.
Then we have Aaron Golub[xiii], who was the first legally blind D1 athlete to play football at Tulane University. We will be focused on leadership strategies that overcome adversity.
Dr. Janet Zadina[xiv], a pioneer in the field of educational neuroscience is coming up later this month as we look at learning and the brain, where neuroscience in our schools began, and her vision for the future.
Finally, we’ve got Jim Houliston, an athlete, artist, and educator who will explain to us the benefits of MMD (mirror movement development) on our longevity, body realignment, spatial awareness, balance and peak performance.
Exciting times! See you next week.
[i] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #124 “How to be a Neuroscience Researcher in 4 Simple Steps.” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/brain-fact-friday-on-how-to-be-a-neuroscience-researcher-in-4-simple-steps/
[ii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #265 on “Improving Creativity and innovation in Our Schools, Sports and Modern Workplaces” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/the-neuroscience-behind-the-silva-method-improving-creativity-and-innovation-in-our-schools-sports-and-modern-workplaces/
[iii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #246 on “Using Neuroscience to Inspire Thinkers in Schools, Sports and the Workplace” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/jeff-kleck-on-using-neuroscience-to-inspire-thinkers-in-schools-sport-and-the-workplace/
[iv]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #197 with Dr. David A Sousa on “What’s NEW With the 6th Edition of How the Brain Learns” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/returning-guest-dr-david-a-sousa-on-what-s-new-with-the-6th-edition-of-how-the-brain-learns/
[v] Greg Lunt Twitter Post on 7 Peer Reviewed, Research Based Life Hacks from Dr. Andrew Huberman https://twitter.com/GregLunt27/status/1635665750370267136
[vii] Memory, Sleep and Dreaming: Experiencing Consolidation by Erin J Wamsley and Robert Stickgold, Ph.D https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079906/
[ix] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #124 “How to be a Neuroscience Researcher in 4 Simple Steps.” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/brain-fact-friday-on-how-to-be-a-neuroscience-researcher-in-4-simple-steps/
[xi]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #126 on “Building Resilience” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/brain-fact-friday-on-building-resilience-a-pathway-for-inner-peace-well-being-and-happiness/
[xii] https://powercoupleseducation.com/ Gabrielle Usatynski
[xiii] https://aarongolub.com/ Aaron Golub
[xiv] Dr. Janet Zadina https://www.learningandthebrain.com/education-speakers/Janet-Zadina