Archive for February, 2013

Quotes That Support the Need for Brain Training

February 15th, 2013 Kevin No comments

Here are a few favorite quotes from authors and researchers whose work supports the need for brain training. I open with a joke that involves, of course, talking lab rats.

Two Rats Walk Into A Lab

Two rats walk into a lab and one says to the other: “You know, I’ve got that guy wearing the white coat over there really well trained.” His buddy, amused, asks: “Oh yeah, how’s that?” The first says to his mate: “Watch this. Every time I push this buzzer here, [a brief pause occurs] … here he comes with my snack, just like that! Life is so simple.”

If Only Life Were So Simple

Everyone who’s struggled with weight gain, depressive thoughts, or unexplainable behavior like emotional outbursts, in other words most of us, knows life is not simple.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Life experiences train our brains a certain way and after a while, that training sticks. After that it can be very hard to change. But one day, something can happen that will change your brain for the better and help you guide it to where you want to go. Scientists like those quoted below are beginning to share the problem of our brains on autopilot and hint at some solutions. And so, we don’t have to be pushing buttons or getting our buttons pushed: we can choose another way. Specifically, we can get the treats we want in life when we take more control over how our brains work.

In that spirit, here are some quotes that support the need for brain training. Enjoy!

The Quotes

Control Matters

Everything we experience – joy or pain, interest or boredom – is represented in the mind as information. If we are able to control this information, we can decide what our lives will be like. — M. Csikzsentmihalyi, Flow, p. 6

Choice Of What We Control Matters Most

S. Covey referring to Victor Frankl, “Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose that response.” — S. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 69

We Do Not Control Most Of What We Do

The first thing we learn from studying our own circuitry is a simple lesson: most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control. … Our brains run mostly on autopilot, and the conscious mind has little access to the giant and mysterious factory that runs below it. — D. Egilman, Incognito, p. 4-5

The brain, like the rest of our bodies, acts on its own before we become consciously aware of its actions. “Free will” may involve more of a veto power prior to action/inaction than the other way around. — M. Gazzaniga, The Ethical Brain, p. 93

Others See Our Lack Of Control Before We Do

As Donald Hebb… pointed out, outside observers are often more accurate in characterizing emotional feelings than the experiencing subject. … Hebb noted that when observers agree and the subject disagrees about an emotional state, the conclusion of the observers is often a more reliable predictor of future behavior. — J. LeDoux, Synaptic Self, p. 202

And We Tend To Overrate And Overestimate Our Abilities

In social psychology experiments, people consistently overrate their own skill, honesty, generosity, and autonomy. They overestimate their contribution to a joint effort, chalk up their successes to skill and their failures to luck, and always feel that the other side has gotten the better deal in a compromise. — S. Pinker, The Blank Slate, p. 265

Control Increases When We Learn To Take Charge Of What We Focus Upon

Remember that it’s an attention economy in the brain: where we put our focus determines the wiring that we create. — D. Rock, Quiet Leadership, p. 127

Mindful Intention Requires A Lot Of Energy

An easy way to stress people out is to make them do too much at once. Planning, decision-making, and other aspects of mental life suffer when the executive [brain] is overloaded. — J. LeDoux, Synaptic Self, p. 179

Threats Can Ruin Everything

When we encounter a threat, we tend to be so focused on our own anxiety that we’re not good for much else. Everything except our own needs goes out the window: someone in emotional distress is not likely to care about, or even notice, the needs of anyone else. — S. Begley, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, p. 193

Paying Attention Triggers Lots Of Related Networks

Even when we “merely” think about an object, we tend to reconstruct memories not just of a shape or color but also of the perceptual engagement the object required and of the accompanying emotional reactions, regardless of how slight. — A. Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens, p. 148

Memory Is Selective And Reconstructive

[Memory is] a reconstruction of facts and experiences on the basis of the way they were stored, not as they actually occurred. And it is a reconstruction by a brain that is different from the one that formed the memory. — J. LeDoux, Synaptic Self, p. 97

Control Requires Us To Shift Energy From One Area In The Brain To Another

[Work in LeDoux's lab] suggests that the prefrontal cortex and amygdala are reciprocally related. That is, in order for the amygdala to respond to fear reactions, the prefrontal region has to be shut down. By the same logic, when the prefrontal region is active, the amygdala would be inhibited, making it harder to express fear. — J. LeDoux, Synaptic Self, p. 217

Creating New Habits Can Enhance Our Control Over Our Life Goals

To improve people’s performance help find new ways to approach situations that leave existing habits and brain wiring where they are. Allow for the development and hard-wiring of new habits. — After D. Rock, in his book, Quiet Leadership

We Take Control Of Our Brains By Rephrasing, Redirecting, and Refocusing

To help people find solutions, help them rephrase what they desire rather than what they do not want, help redirect their attention from the past to the future, and discuss what is present rather than what is absent. — After B. O’Hanlon, Do One Thing Different

Wrapping Things Up

In multiple locations elsewhere in this blog, I support the work of these scientists by proposing practical solutions. The number one theme? Get involved. Get involved with how your brain works and try news things out. Wish to stop the inside chatter? Try calculating some simple math equations. Want to get to sleep, visualize all the animals in the zoo, favorite ones first. Have a sincere desire to stop feeling sad or angry about someone? Offer an imaginary loving hug to him or her with muscles of your arms, chest and face flexing in your mind’s eye. These and more brain-focused tactics can become the tools of the trade for you as you embark upon a journey to get along better with and guide your brain to a happy and successful future.


Kevin Leahy,

Brain Trainer, Knowledge Advocate, LLC, Austin, TX

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