Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast for EPISODE #170 with John Harmon, an independent researcher who's developed a new way to define the mind and map it to the brain, called the MA (Memory Activation) Method. This cognitive neuroscience tool enhances CNS (Central Nervous System) medicine, natural language processing, cognitive computing and most of applied neuroscience. John’s goal aligns directly with ours on the podcast—to enhance humanity’s understanding, appreciation and use of the human mind, and its manifestation in the brain.
✔︎ How to get comfortable with not knowing everything when it comes to neuroscience, the brain, and learning.
✔︎ John's Core Research translated so we can all understand how our brain maps to learning something new.
✔︎ The importance of belief with our goals, and with anything we want to accomplish, like health, or eliminating pain.
✔︎ What we need to know about how our brain works under pressure (throwing a football in a game) or taking a test.
For those who are new here, I'm Andrea Samadi, author, and educator from Toronto, Canada, now in Arizona, and like many of our listeners, have been fascinated with learning and understanding the science behind high performance strategies in our schools, our sports, and workplace environments. My vision for this podcast is to bring the experts to you, share their books, resources and ideas to help you to implement their proven strategies, and take the fear out of this new field of educational neuroscience. My hope is that this podcast will bridge the gap between the science, theory and application.
I picked the perfect guest to do this today, because he will agree with me that this topic is not easy to explain conceptually. This is the reason why I record these podcasts using video so that I can add images to explain the concepts discussed that we might at first glance think of as difficult and dismiss them. But they are important and I hope that we can learn them together.
It’s been a few years that I have followed John Harmon’s research through LinkedIn, where we connected, and I noticed that he often comments and what I call “plusses” an idea or takes it to the next level with his understanding. I started to read his comments in my early days of learning this field, because it helped me to see things through a new lens, from someone more immersed in the field than me, but when learning anything new, it takes effort. This is when you know that true learning is taking place. Whatever John would write, I would have to stop and really think about what he was saying.
Here’s an Example:
Neuroscience News Posted an article recently called Single Neurons Might Behave as Networks[i] and someone commented on their LinkedIn post[ii] “Why wouldn’t they behave as networks?” and I could agree with his train of thought as I have done a few episodes talking about Brain Network Theory[iii] and how we need to now think of the neural networks in the brain versus single parts of the brain, or neurons operating individually.
Someone else chimed in to give their thoughts saying “isn’t the discovery here that a single neuron can function as its own self-contained network?” and John Harmon plussed this comment by providing his thoughts of his take-away of the article where he offers “the article as I read it talks about individual neurons and their function in the context of a larger network activity” and that “if a neuron doesn’t function as part of a network, then it’s a noisy neuron—ie. It doesn’t contribute, or is a part of, any stored mental process (perception, recognition, meaning, executive control, goals, language, attention, intention etc.) and he guessed that “99% of neurons are part of at least one network” bringing the article into perspective for me because with each new idea we learn, “it helps us to better understand our brain and ourselves”[iv] but it also opens up the door for more questions that I will get to in the interview. This is where it really helps to have experts in this field to bounce ideas with.
I was drawn to John’s posts as he helped me to understand this new area of educational neuroscience right from those beginning days when I was first learning this topic, and finally after years of interacting on social media, I asked if he would come on the podcast to share the research he has uncovered in this field.
Let’s meet John Harmon and learn more about how he is using this understanding of neuroscience in his consulting business, as an independent researcher and to enhance humanity’s understanding, appreciation and use of the human mind, and its manifestation in the brain.
Welcome John. It’s great to meet you after following your work for so long. Thank you for coming on the podcast.
Intro Q: Before we get into your work, I was reading your website, and thought your story is important to share since many people I have interviewed have talked about how they began in this field and met with some controversy or had to go back and refine their ideas. This was certainly the case for how I began in this field. Where did the idea to start your company Mind Brian Insights[v] begin for you and what exactly do you do?
Q1: I mention in the back story how I love that you often add insight into posts on LinkedIn, which is how I first found your work. I call it “plussing” someone’s idea where you take the neuroscience understanding one step deeper. I’m not sure if I have this right, but I’m also not afraid of being wrong either, so we can learn together. Can you explain what your core ideais-active mind (perception, meaning, belief, attitude, state of emotion, intention etc.) which creates a set of active general memories (which we know can be inaccurate since memories change each time we remember them) and this third part I think I’m off with and could use your direction, but this all creates a set of active FNN (functional neural network) ranges which I imagine is the activity in the brain that increases or decreases depending on the cognitive task while our mind is at work? How did I do there?
Q1B) Can you give an example of how this core idea relates to learning something new?
Q2: What is the functional neural networks, structural neural networks, the FNN[vi]/SNN[vii] and the relationship between the two of them?
Q3: What about the placebo effect (that drives home the point thoughts/belief states/emotions are manifested PHYSICALLY in the brain). Can you give some examples of this?
3 B) How can we use our mind to rid ourselves of pain, like with hypnotherapy?
3C) How important is what we believe in our schools/workplaces?
Q4: What about the mind's role in relation to the brain: mind as "captain" not brain (is it our higher self that’s in charge of the mind, at least some of the time? If our mind is in charge, not our brain, what are some ways that you think we can better manage our mind and not lose it, or improve self-regulation skills?
Q5: For those looking to apply this understanding to playing sports in these high pressure, high stakes time, what are some common sources of mind/brain signal noise when throwing a football in a stressful situation? What kind of errors happen while playing sports under stress? How can we train someone to overcome these errors at the brain level?
Q6: Since many of our listeners are educators in the classroom, or people looking to apply neuroscience to their work/daily life, can you give some practical examples of mapping learning in the brain. What is the mechanism of learning something new, for all of us listening so that can we use this understanding to improve or accelerate learning?
Q7: Final thoughts?
Thank you very much John, for taking the time to speak with me today on a topic that is not the easiest to explain. For people who want to learn more about your work, and services, is the best place your website?