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EP: 53 – Brain Science in a Pandemic with Dr. Melissa Hughes

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Introduction: Dr. Melissa Hughes is the Founder & President of the Andrick Group. She is also the author of happy hour by Einstein, Happier hour by Einstein and the Happier Hour with Einstein companion journal on Gratitude. Melissa holds a Phd in Curriculum and instruction and she is a self-confessed Neuroscience Geek. Melissa delivers keynote speeches and workshops geared to help organisations and individuals work smarter.


Show Notes

Podcast episode summary:  Melissa shared her passion for understanding how the brain works and what we can do to support greater cognitive functioning. In this episode we focused on two particular topics for optimum brain functioning on teams,  stress as an inhibitor to great thinking and cognitive bias as a way of shut-cutting excellence.


Points made through the episode:

  • The overproduction of Cortisol weakens our brain cells, eventually erodes them and makes us more stupid
  • Jaak Panksepp conducted some seminal research to understanding brain functioning and his subjects were rats, because the construct of their brains is similar to the human brain
  • He found that when a cat hair is thrown into a rat play area the rats stop playing (read learning) immediately and worryingly sometimes for days
  • Every team has a cat hair, maybe an unconscious bias that gets in the way of team performance
  • Psychological safety and emotional intelligence & personal awareness help us get better at sharing and educating the collective
  • A companies culture can unwittingly erode great thinking. A genius mindset for example can prevent people from being vulnerable because of the competitive nature of winning and showing brilliance
  • A Growth Mindset as espoused by Carol Dweck helps us all by adopting an open sharing mindset full of learning -collective intelligence can grow
  • Make mistakes normal and not secrets to be ashamed of
  • Our number one emotional need as humans is acceptance
  • Our number one emotional fear as humans is rejection
  • Pay attention to what you pay attention to because the brain looks for confirming patterns
  • Neuro Plasticity is a real phenomenon -intense, prolonged and repeated experiences chemically and physically change the brain- in other words we can continue to grow our brains
  • The brain works on the principle of use it or lose it.
  • Our inner critic needs an alternative voice if we do not want to cultivate a vicious cycle of activity.
  • Gratitude gives the giver a bigger does of neurochemicals then the receiver so on a down day remember to genuinely thank someone
  • We pay insufficient attention to cognitive bias -we all biased and much more than we think
  • There are in excess of 200 biases available to the human brain. Melissa shared a few and paid particular attention to group think. Group think erodes critical thinking and challenge. We need challenge to surface the best ideas
  • Work to play with the Neurological seesaw. Instead of focusing on reducing Cortisol or worrying about stress look instead to increasing Oxytocin, Serotonin and Dopamine


Resources: the following include the resources we alluded to over the course of our conversation

  2. com/in/melissahughesphd
  3. Jaak Panksepp Affective Neuroscience
  4. Happy Hour with Einstein: Dr Melissa Hughes

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