My Adventures Up Close & Personal With Neuroscience
I’ve debated about this post for awhile now, but circumstances have forced my hand; I’ve had to cancel too many scheduled public appearances (most recently my speaking appearance at ARF re:Think and chairing the Insight Innovation Exchange event in Sao Paulo) and I’ve decided that I should share with you why that is.
Over the last few months I’ve been dealing with a neurological condition that still isn’t fully diagnosed.
Now some of you may not be shocked to hear that I have some trouble going on with my brain; in fact you might have been thinking that my brain was troubled for some time. However, this isn’t a cognitive issue, it’s more of a physical one. The symptoms are basically seizures and muscle tremors.
It sounds way more scary than it is; it’s really more frustrating and annoying than anything, although it certainly isn’t particularly pleasant.
The consensus from the Doctors is that it isn’t serious in a “life threatening” or “degenerative” kind of way, and we’ve already ruled out a long list of the scarier possibilities through various testing; hopefully over the next few weeks we’ll rule out the rest and be able to zero in on a fairly benign and treatable diagnosis. I think we’re close to to that and by late Spring I’ll be back to normal (or at least as normal as I ever get!).
The real challenge is that it does make travel a bit troublesome (airplanes and seizures are not a good combo) and it certainly is… well, embarrassing. More than anything it’s my vanity that is impacted; I just don’t want to be in front of a lot of folks doing my own version of the Harlem Shake. Minus the obligatory horse’s head costume, of course; the other end is probably more appropriate for me anyway.
On the flipside, I do have a new theme song: “A Whole Lotta Shaking Going On” which could be cool for my personal brand building when I do decide to start making public appearances again.
To be clear, this isn’t slowing me down much from a work standpoint or limiting my ability to do all the things I do, although I am trying to carve out a bit more time in my schedule to de-stress. I’m still juggling a hundred different projects and deeply engaged with trying to help our industry transform; for the time being though those efforts are going to be virtual rather than in person.
I’m learning more about the structure and functioning of the brain and the neurological system than I ever really wanted to, and what I am increasingly finding is that the focus on these sciences from a research perspective is spot on. Yes, there are certainly technical and logistical limits to many current approaches, and of course we’re still in the early stages of really understanding how this complex system works, but I am convinced that this avenue of research has the potential to yield far greater impact than any attitudinal or even observational approaches. Whether that advance will come from neuromarketing, cognitive neuroscience, biometrics, metaphor analysis, behavioral economics or some synthesis of all of them remains to be seen, but without a doubt it will come.
Here are a few examples to think about:
Scientists scanning the human brain can now tell whom a person is thinking of, the first time researchers have been able to identify what people are imagining from imaging technologies.
Work to visualize thought is starting to pile up successes. Recently, scientists have used brain scans to decode imagery directly from the brain, such as what number people have just seen and what memory a person is recalling.
EyeWire is a game where you map the 3D structure of neurons. By playing EyeWire, you help map the retinal connectome and contribute to the neuroscience research conducted by Sebastian Seung’s Computational Neuroscience Lab at MIT. The connectome is a map of all the connections between cells in the brain. Rather than mapping and entire brain, we’re starting with a retina.
The New York Timesreports that in the coming months, the White House will announce the Brain Activity Map Project, an unprecedented, federally funded, multi-billion-dollar effort to unravel the inner-workings of Mother Nature’s most powerful processor. The initiative will be spearheaded by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, with support from the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies. Officials are hoping to tap into a network of neuroscientists from top-tier institutions from all over the world to focus on a singular, decade-and-a-half goal: To build the first-ever working model of the mind.
That is all very cool and inspiring stuff whether you are a fan of neuromarketing or not. For someone dealing with a more personal connection to the topic it is downright riveting.
Since I now am developing an up close and personal relationship with neuroscience driven by self-interest you can count on my sharing pieces of my own journey with you, but more importantly sharing information I uncover along the way that may be of interest to the insights community.
My apologies to everyone that I have had to cancel some of my engagements and meetings with. I am sure you can understand why I made those choices. I’m pretty bummed about it myself; I was looking forward to each of them and to meeting more of my colleagues (which is always a high light of events for me). Hopefully this will just be a very temporary situation and I can get back to being a social butterfly.
In the meantime, I’ll be thinking of you…