Sunday, 17 March 2013

Brain Day

Yesterday I travelled back in time.   Forty years of time to be precise.   Yes, it is at least that long since I was a student and had sat in a lecture hall.   I went to university in Wellington and travelled by train and cable car.   But yesterday's excursion was to Auckland University and I went by bus then ambled up the tree lined street to the lecture hall.
The historic buildings converted to lecture and tutorial rooms looked inviting but Brain Day was a big event.   Too big for the small rooms of these quaint buildings.   These house Political Studies.
Originally to be held at the medical school on a different campus, the Brain Day event proved to be too popular and the swell in numbers necessitated a move to the larger and more modern School of Business.   Riches created this state of the art building.

On entering I was accosted by a most polite 16 year old student who asked me to participate in a research project.   Her theory is that speedy readers have a more reduced vocabulary than slower readers.   The computer based questionaire involved firstly a Stroop Test (check out the link here)

This is not as easy as you might think but I did well at that the student told me and got a "whooppee" score of 6 seconds.   That statistic means nothing much to me but brought a smile of great glee to the face of said student who then passed me over to another official who tested me on how many words I could say in any given 30 second period starting with a given letter.   Not as easy as you might think.   I managed a respectable score but had a far higher degree of dissatisfaction with my level of vocabulary.   Was fun though and a great introduction to Brain Day.
Creative Thinking
Now why Brain Day you might ask.   For a number of years now I have been an avid supporter of the Neurological Foundation and am interested in their research into Alzheimers and other brain diseases and disabilities.   Each year they, together with the Centre For Brain Research at the Medical School host this Brain Day.   This year I opted to attend two lectures.
One by an eminent neurologist was on "Silver Linings".   Barry Snow spoke engagingly of how different areas of the brain can take over functions of disabled parts.   Not perfectly but often adequately and how rehabilitation can assist in the adjustment and acceptance of brain disability.   Most interesting however was his detailing of research into Parkinson's patients who, as their illness progresses and they lose control of speech, inhibition and motor control, find themselves released in a creative way.   He had photographs of artworks produced by some of his patients.   It was astonishing to see that what had obviously been latent was only released by this hideous disease.   At the question time when asked what was one single recommendation for the prevention of brain degeneration he enthusiastically, indeed animatedly, recommended thirty minutes per day of rigorous exercise.   If that can forestall the onset of the big A or any other such debilitation I will persist in my less than enthusiastic daily attendance at the gym!
The second lecture I went to was called "Science of Happiness".   An energetic pint-sized Filipino doctor by the name of Tony Fernando held the audience enthralled for 40 minutes (yes he went over time) as he outlined three keys of happiness.
1.  Calm   -  serenity, contentment
2.  Excitement  -  goals, drive
3.  Connection  -  relationships
Dr Fernando said our brains are geared such that positive emotions are fleeting and not easily fixed into the memory, yet negative emotions adhere and are readily filed in the permanent memory bank.   Statistically the ratio of our positive emotional state to our negative emotional state should be 3:1 but in reality most of us would find it to be 1.8:1  He recommended a consciousness of "banking" positive memories.
Apparently gratitude is the turbo charger of happiness.   Followed closely by kindness and compassion.
And so the lecture closed with another triplet of "keys"
1. Focus on practices that promote happiness
2. Manage your expectations
3. Keep a gratitude diary

Don't you think this notebook will make a great Gratitude Diary?   Somehow I feel the William Morris design is appropriate.
I'm off to do some more hardanger while I watch my pre-recorded episode of The Amazing Race.   Hope you all have a good weekend.
And the first thing to go in my Gratitude Diary?   We have rain!  The first since the beginning of February and it brings with it the hope that this drought will not be permanent and rainbows may yet once more appear in our southern skies.


  1. Brain Day - how interesting! The Science of Happiness would have been my choice of a lecture also.
    Hope you have lots of rain and rainbows.

  2. thank you Margaret for sharing your day the Science of Happiness was most inspired reading.
    yes it is raining here too wonderful soft very wetting rain much needed

  3. Really interesting Margaret, thanks for sharing your day.

  4. Sounds like a really interesting day. Gorgeous notebook

  5. Really interesting....
    thanks for sharing your day. Xx

  6. Fascinating stuff. What a great idea and how good that so many people participate. Sounds like something I would have enjoyed too. Thanks for the report.

  7. Brain Day sounds like it would be really interesting. Sadly, I think I'd fail the test for number of words you can come up with starting with the same letter in 30 seconds. The Gratitude Diary is a great idea. The Science of Happiness would be a really interesting lecture that would have great things to take away and apply to everyday life. Love the idea of using a Gratitude Diary and the notebook you picked out is beautiful! :)

  8. Sounds like a fascinating day. Your William Morris notebook is beautiful and looks perfect for your gratitude diary.

  9. What a fascinating day. My Nana had a brain tumour (two actually over 30 years apart) and my brother had a head injury as a young man so this is a subject which interests me greatly.
    The bad/good memories thing is very interesting. I remember reading that for every negative thing you say to a child you should say 10 positive things to have the same effect on their well being. This is something I really try hard to do, saying Yes more than No.