Stress & the Body

Stress. Your heart races, you feel overwhelmed, you may get dizzy or hot or sweaty. At some point in our lives we have all experienced that feeling, but what is actually happening to our bodies from a scientific perspective when our minds are under stress?

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Dates
Talks structure30 minute lecture20 minute Q&A
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6 talks in this Garden Series

Ep

01

Literature & Language
Psychology & Behaviour
Why does comedy make us happy?

48 mins

Humans have created art to provoke laughter for millennia. Why does comedy work, and what does it reveal about the counterintuitive biology of the human brain? Read more

Prof. Angus Fletcher

Ohio State University

When Angus Fletcher first started out in the lab as a young neuroscientist, he believed that the human brain was just like a computer. He soon discovered he was wrong; the brain wasn't data driven or logical but rather emotional, creative and driven by stories.

Today as Professor of Story Science at Ohio State University, Angus specialises in using art & literature to unlock the neuroscience of human creativity and emotional resilience. His research has been called "mind-blowing" by Malcolm Gladwell and has been endorsed by leading scholars in neuroscience, psychology, medicine and literature.

Angus has written two recent books, Wonderworks and Storythinking, and has published dozens of peer-reviewed articles.

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Ep

02

Psychology & Behaviour
Human Biology & Medicine
How does love help us survive?

42 mins

Love can make us act against logic and reason. It can make us irrational. It can make us forget about our own best interests, or even risk our own safety. Why have we developed such a strong instinct to love, when in so many ways it would be easier not to? Read more

Dr. Anna Machin

Oxford Brookes University

Dr Anna Machin started her career as a primatologist, working in zoos across the UK and Europe, but these days, you're far more likely to find her studying humans than chimpanzees.

Anna is an evolutionary anthropologist, who spends her time thinking about the science and anthropology of fatherhood, the human family in all its diversity, the human social network, romantic relationships and the influence of technological innovation on our behaviour and health.

Anna is fascinated by what makes humans behave the way they do, and uses a full range of disciplines and techniques – from genetic analysis, behavioural science and brain scanning to experimental psychology, sociology and hormonal analysis - to find answers to questions like:

  • How do dads bond with their babies?

  • What is a human family?

  • What motivates us to form long-lasting relationships?

  • Why do we need to be social?

  • How do developments in social media and AI influence our behaviour?

As you know, here at The Garden, those are just the kinds of questions we get obsessed about too, so we're delighted to welcome Anna into our Fellowship to help us dig into them.

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Ep

03

Psychology & Behaviour
Human Biology & Medicine
What happens in the brain when you meditate?

52 mins

Meditation - training your attention and awareness to reach a calm and stable state - is an ancient practice found all over the world and used in the modern day to manage stress. What's going on in your brain when you achieve this level of focus? Read more

Prof. Steven Laureys

University of Liege

“It is curious how awareness of consciousness science is so low in the medical and scientific arenas. We need to inspire more neurologists and doctors to be interested in consciousness—and what it means for the thousands of people who experience traumatic brain injury and disorders of consciousness every year."

Prof. Steven Laureys has dedicated his career to doing just that. He founded the GIGA Consciousness and Coma Science Group at the University of Liège, Belgium, where his team of 60 people studies consciousness in all its forms, from anaesthesia to dreaming. Consciousness is a complex problem, so his team is made of up experts in physiology, pharmacology, psychology, engineering, and statistics, among other disciplines, who help him shed light on it.

Steven is also Professor at the CERVO Brain Centre at Laval University, Canada and has published over 500 scientific articles on the human mind and how it works.

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Ep

04

Human Biology & Medicine
Psychology & Behaviour
What happens to your body under stress?

50 mins

Stress starts in the mind, but it can take an enormous toll on the body too. Left unchecked, it can even prove fatal. What is stress, from a scientific perspective, and how does it wreak havoc on our bodies when we're in a state of burnout? Read more

Dr David Plans

Royal Holloway, University of London

Dr David Plans initially studied music and artificial intelligence. He was interested in how humans improvise and wanted to understand how future forms of AI might understand emotional intention.

But while David was running a small startup, he experienced a cardiac event that made him re-examine everything. How is it possible for people to die of exhaustion and malnutrition? Why do we stop feeling our bodies when we're stressed?

To understand, these questions, David started first exploring meditative and movement-based practices, looking at theological and philosophical explanations of suffering, and eventually retrained in neuroscience and founded a startup that offered large organisations a way to measure burnout using computational psychiatry.

In the process of building and selling this company, David experienced burnout again, nearly twenty years on from the onset of that heart failure, and this time fell into a depression that nearly took his life. In the end, David realised that he had built a technological solution to a flesh-born problem. He's now a lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he focuses on creating new forms of therapy that put the body first.

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Ep

05

Human Biology & Medicine
Psychology & Behaviour
How is the digital age transforming our response to stress?

42 mins

Humans are information-seeking beings at heart. But while technology has given us unprecedented access to the data we crave, it has created a deluge of side effects. How are we adapting to information and stimulation overload? Read more

Dr. Alexandra Crosswell

University of California San Francisco

Alexandra has been interested in the mind-body connection since working at the Duke Cancer Center as an undergraduate, and meeting patients that were convinced that a stressful event in their life like a divorce had caused their cancer. Alexandra was, and continues to be, fascinated by the question of whether it's really possible that our minds have power over our cells. If so, that truth has the potential to turn upside down how we understand biology. It could mean that prayer actually can heal disease, or that unhealed trauma can cause physical pain, or that our intuition about our health can be accurate.

Because of the broad and theoretical implications of the connection between the mind and body, Alexandra's exploration of human behavior has always intertwined science and spirituality. To her, there is no difference - there may be two different approaches to viewing the way humans work, but there is just one truth we are trying to discover. And by unpacking the connections between the mind and the body, Alexandra believes that we also unpack fundamental pieces of who we are beyond just our physical body.

Alexandra has spent 15 years as a psychological scientist studying the effects of stress on biological health and well-being, with a new focus in recent years on how contemplative practices can create more resilient physical bodies. She is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UCSF in the US.

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Ep

06

Human Biology & Medicine
Science & Nature
What can animals teach us about eating disorders?

51 mins

How we eat and the impact it has on our bodies, from weight loss and weight gain to eating disorders, is complex and a key facet of human health. But most of these behaviours and conditions aren't unique to our species. What can the animal world teach us? Read more

B. Natterson-Horowitz, MD

Harvard University

B. Natterson-Horowitz's fascinating work at Harvard University and UCLA uses insight from the natural world to find new ways of approaching human health and development.

Studying a diverse range of animals in natural settings, B has uncovered adaptations with relevance to heart failure, sudden cardiac death, seizures, dementia, movement disorders, infertility and psychiatric conditions including anxiety, compulsive and eating disorders.

B's most recent research focuses on species-wide patterns in development across critical transitional periods of life including the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

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