Myths and interesting facts about neuroscience and EQ

Myth no 1. If you’re right brained you’re more creative and if you’re left brained you’re more data led

There are well researched pieces into how the brain works. Essentially what it finds is that in patients where the brain was cut in the middle, they still had full capability for creative abilities and for tasks needing focus on data and information.

Myth no 2. We only use 10% of our brain

No. Just, no. The very make up of our brains means that it is made up of the sum of its parts. No one part works independently of another. Depending on the task or situation at hand, we use different parts of the brain.

Myth no 3. The female brain is different to the male brain

Although physically the size of brains will be different, the way they operate is no different.

I loved this session by Dr Geoff Bird at the EQ Summit. There was lots of good information and as above debunking of myths about neuroscience and the brain.

The human brain consumes about 60% of the body’s glucose and 30% of our calorie intake. When we are working hard on something, we need more glucose to help the brain function well. This doesn’t mean gorging on chocolate during the task, it just means ensure you’re well fed before embarking on a task of importance.

He went on to talk about empathy and how it starts in the brain. If you turn off pain receptors, you lose the ability to empathise with others because you lose the ability to know what you might be experiencing. I found this fascinating as I wonder how it relates to pain thresholds. If you have a lower pain threshold are you more likely to be empathetic than someone who doesn’t?
There is a condition called alexithymia which is the inability to know your own emotional state. This is common amongst 10% of people which raises interesting points to consider. Psychiatrists tend to see this when presented with patients who have experienced trauma in some way, but do not have the words to express how it’s affecting them. Is there a higher preponderance of people suffering alexithymia in those who have perceived levels of power? In those that don’t have these positions of power, how does this play out in the team? What’s the effect of their behaviour on those they interact with? Please be cautious in what I’ve written here on this condition, there’s clearly more to read on it and understand better.

When we talk about sleep deprivation, we often think that must mean a pattern of disrupted sleep. Actually, as little as 5 hours sleep for one night can be enough to leave you deprived. Geoff made an excellent point here and said if we wouldn’t drive long distances when tired, why would you make important decisions when tired? Of course there are all sorts of reasons why you would, and a plethora of justifications for the need for decisions to be made. The point is that when we’re tired we make poorer decisions.

This last point is probably the most interesting. When we are stressed, the hippocampus doesn’t work as effectively. The importance of this is that the hippocampus supports production of long term memories and in helping us to function well. When we are in a state of stress, and cortisol is produced, this prepares the body for the flight or fight response. The hippocampus cannot work effectively with cortisol present and has a direct impact on neurogenesis – the creation of new neurons. It is neurogenesis which supports the brain’s ability to learn new things. This insight presents a direct challenge to the old adage that a bit of stress can be the right condition for optimal performance.

My pre-frontal cortex has worked a fair amount in writing this post and I’m now in need of breakfast and feel like I’ve done my day’s work already.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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