BRAIN

What Goes On In Your Head?

Let’s start with some questions. R+ + you = what? What would you do for dopamine? What goes on in your head? What goes on in your teenager’s head? The last question was focus of workshops run by artist Jim Lockey, and the culmination was What Goes on in Your Head?, an installation and talk on behaviour and the brain.

The installation presented a range of answers to this question from the teenagers that took part. The art and words they created ranged from the direct and light-hearted to the profound. The installation aimed to show that when we ask a teenager this directly, or in the form of an exasperated rhetorical monologue, the answer is more complicated than you might think.

Tracy Mapp, an expert in the field of behaviour management, built on this with research about the growing teenage brain, paying particular attention to several areas. The first was the relationship between a person’s behaviour and the behaviour of those around them. The second was on dopamine and a teenager’s high senstivitity to it, as well as its implications for behaviour. What Goes on in Your Head?also looked at the changing structure of a teenagers’ brain, at the process of synaptic pruning in operation that takes the brain from a child to an adult. Moving on to consider ways of changing behaviour, Mapp challenged the view of punishment as an effective technique and explored instead the power of positive reinforcement - otherwise known as R+.  What Goes on in Your Head? explored behaviour; it’s origins, it’s influences and techniques to change it using science and experience.

-       Dave Horn

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Why Is Synaptic Pruning Important for the Developing Brain?Scientific American

Swedish Speed-Camera Pays Drivers To Slow DownWired

Wild teenage behaviour linked to rapid cognitive change in the brainGuardian

Kevin Becomes a Teenager Harry Enfield and Chums (1994)

Unthinkable // Helen Thomson

Life is stranger than fiction. On the same day that I watch an episode of Black Mirror and consider the brutal potential consequences of living with extreme empathy, I join the audience for a talk by Helen Thomson. We listen to Joel’s life story. He is also a doctor in a hospital and, by dint of an extremely rare neurological condition, is also able to feel another’s pain as his own. His condition is the result of a faulty mirror neuron response. If he witnesses an event that causes an emotional or physical response in another person, he feels it as though it is happening to him. 

His is one of ten stories contained in Thomson’s book Unthinkable. As an audience, we inhale in simultaneously sympathy as we hear that if he sees a patient die, he feels his own breathing falter and his body begins to shut down. Even though he’s developed techniques to override these powerful sensations, his mirror touch synaesthesia impacts every waking hour of his life.

Thomson: scientist, writer and consultant for New Scientist, is fascinated by the infinite ways human beings see the world. She is an explorer, satisfying her obsession with learning more about those brains that don’t look like everyone else’s by travelling to meet people with rare conditions across the planet. What is it like when you live your life thinking you are a tiger or wake up dead?

The talk feels a bit close when I realise that I most likely have a mild form of synaesthesia based on her descriptors of the condition. I wonder, does everyone else in the room feel prompted to consider their own unique brain chemistry and connections?

Susan is constantly lost in familiar surroundings due to deficits in her ability to form a consistent mental map. Thus, even finding her way from the bedroom to the bathroom is a daily challenge. What is more extraordinary than this unusual perception of the world is her resourcefulness. She has developed remarkable strategies to combat her condition. She spins like Wonder Woman to reset her brain and flip her map into some semblance of familiarity. Every day she behaves like a superhero.

The talk prompts us to ask questions of ourselves. What are our own powers in the face of adversity? How might we overcome life’s considerable challenges? Most importantly Unthinkable encourages us to become more curious about who we are and which of our myriad perceived flaws make us unique and powerful.

- Melissa Jacob

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Helen Thomson

Synethaesia

What is a Mirror Neuron? - American Psychological Association

The Strange World of Synesthaesia

Black Museum - Black Mirror

Intimacy/Tingle/Sound // Nwando Ebizie

Intimacy / Tingle / Sound is tranquil and easy to adapt to.  Cushions were dotted around the wooden floor, the lighting neither light nor dark and the rooms pillars providing a natural division for people to 'find their own space'. Audience are encouraged to sit and have hands massaged, which is pleasant though unusual for a meditative setting. It gives the uninitiated a passage into stillness. This sensory experience is hosted by three women dressed in ethereal floating costumes and exuding personal calm and charisma.

A giant screen shows a seascape and gently crashing waves, providing another anchor for calm. The repeating cycle of sensory experience includes a whispered story-telling that clashes with the calm environment as a dark tale unfolds. After the massage you're encouraged to make your way to lay on the ground using a cushion for your head. I sat up against a wall, cross-legged. As I'm familiar with dropping into deeper brainwave activity I rarely heard the words.  

There were people who were seemingly unfamiliar with the processes of meditation who looked uncomfortable at the idea of trusting the process leaning on cushions with their body's twisted on their sides to accommodate it. It was perhaps a mixture of resistance and a need to know more of what was expected of them, which of course is nothing, but trusting in that is part of the waking-up (to ourselves) process. 

The soundtrack reminded me of Centerpointe's Holosync Brain Sounds, which I found challenging for reasons I found out when I attended training in Anna Wise's Awaking the Mind system. The training measured your brainwaves during guided meditation and revealed your VAK system, your individual sensory modalities - visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. They told some very interesting stories about monks they'd tested who'd meditated for decades and never moved out of beta brainwaves to obtain the proven health benefits of stillness.

Nwando Ebizie was telling the tale when I arrived and someone else was continuing as I left.  It was a modern take on the meditative brain state, and a short introduction for the uninitiated.

-    Jane Unsworth

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Brainwaves and Meditation - Science Daily

Centrepointe Holosync Meditation

Anna Wise - Awakening the Mind 

Mindfulness vs Meditation - Medical Daily

Pete Blackaby - Humanistic Yoga

SHIMMER SHATTER / Sofie Hagen

SHIMMER SHATTER / Sofie Hagen

Sofie Hagen’s show, Shimmer Shatter, busts a few myths about introversion. It clearly indicates that being an introvert does not mean you are cold and closed-off. It doesn’t mean you won’t stand up and be very funny in front of an audience. And it doesn’t mean you are unable to tell people about the strangest and most personal aspects of your life, like the time you married a plank of wood and invited your school friends around as witnesses.   

ELEPHANT OF MY HEART / Prospero Theatre

ELEPHANT OF MY HEART / Prospero Theatre

There’s a long and rich interplay between meditation and the arts, including music and artworks including the ancient Indian tradition of mandalas. But bringing meditation into conventional theatre is a little more unusual. ‘Elephant of my Heart’ is a stage adaptation of Jessica Clements’ book of the same name: Clements herself even performs in the show’s chorus. It’s a memoir of her time in hospital recovering from a brain haemorrhage as a nine year old child. She believes that the inner travels she went on, guided by an elephant, triggered her healing process. 

4D CINEMA / Mamoru Iriguchi

4D CINEMA / Mamoru Iriguchi

Mamoru Iriguchi’s moving planes of flat projection are a visual signature, a recurring technique constructed through a wacky series of contraptions that disguise their sophistication. In 4D Cinema the footage projected onto them are used to question time itself, the ability of a subject to define their own home and the biographic responsibilities of the performer and audience. The nature of memory is as much its subject as Marlene Dietrich, both in what the audience remember of themselves as they were fifty minutes younger, and in thoughts of how your memory will survive after death.

SACRE BLUE / Zoe Murtagh & Tory Copeland

SACRE BLUE / Zoe Murtagh & Tory Copeland

According to the Journal of Psychopharmacology there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK in 2013. Zoe Murtagh is one of those and with Sacre Blue , her first full length solo show, she shares her experience - of trying to make anxiety a friend, of trying to conquer it, of trying to acknowledge its presence.

PULSE / Mairi Campbell

PULSE / Mairi Campbell

Full disclosure: when I hear Mairi Campbell’s voice, I feel at home. Campbell’s version of Auld Lang Syne is my regular YouTube go-to cry-song (it featured in Sex & the City The Movie) and when I hear her voice I feel safe, and warm, able to cry… I feel home. Watching Campbell’s journey to find her home and her authentic voice, therefore, felt like a journey I already associated with her.

THE MAGNETIC DIARIES / Reaction Theatre Makers

THE MAGNETIC DIARIES / Reaction Theatre Makers

A poetry play based on Madame Bovary, The Magnetic Diaries describes a contemporary battle with severe depression, and the course of brain-altering repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) therapy that our protagonist, Emma, embarks on.

FRONTAL LOBOTOMY / Jeu Jeu la Foille

FRONTAL LOBOTOMY / Jeu Jeu la Foille

Burlesque poet Jeu Jeu la Foille (Victoria Hancock) explores the 20th Century medical practice of frontal lobotomy in her show of the same name, drawn together with her own thoughts and experiences, and the life and music of Tom Waits.

TRACING GRACE / OffTheWallTheatreCo

TRACING GRACE / OffTheWallTheatreCo

Sixteen people are diagnosed with encephalitis – severe brain inflammation – every day in the UK, yet most of the public have never heard of it. Based on the real life experiences of writer and director Annie Eves, whose sister Grace was diagnosed with the condition at just three weeks old, Tracing Grace aims to open our eyes to the existence of encephalitis and the challenges of living with its long-term impact.

ALL THE THINGS I LIED ABOUT / Katie Bonna and Paul Jellis

ALL THE THINGS I LIED ABOUT / Katie Bonna and Paul Jellis

Writer and performer Katie Bonna's latest work All The Things I Lied About, takes you by the hand and leads you gently into a maze of deceit. Contextualised within a faux-TED framework, we are deftly lured into a world constructed on a white lie here, an economy of truth there, until you no longer know what, or who, to believe.

ON EGO BY MICK GORDON / Mind Over Matter Theatre Collective

ON EGO BY MICK GORDON / Mind Over Matter Theatre Collective

Mick Gordon’s 2005 play, On Ego, made in collaboration with Paul Broks, a neuropsychologist, poses philosophical questions about selfhood. It plays with teleportation to create a doubled character, Alex, and asks whether the original or the copy is the more ‘Alex’.