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Session K - Pre-Conference Session
An Introduction to the Human Brain: Understand Your Brain, Improve Your Life
Presented by Elaine Johnson


Description: To understand how the human brain works is to realize that each of us  can make our own brain smarter, kinder, more aware, and more tolerant.  To understand the brain is to realize that if we choose, we can change our brains to improve our personal lives, organizations, and communities. This session will provide an introduction to the brain, that three-pound organ that changes constantly as we live our lives.  Among topics to be considered are the brain’s capacity to change its physical structure and operation; the power of emotion to shape decisions and conduct; the effects on the brain of fear and stress; the formation of memories; the impact of relationships on the sociable human brain; belonging and social pain; the origins in the brain of ideas of right and wrong; the power of thinking to change the brain, overcome bad habits, and distribute rewards. We will deal with the crucial question: “Given what we know about the human brain, what are the features of a brain-friendly environment?” How does a brain-friendly leader behave? What specific things can organizations do to strengthen brains, raise IQ, generate creativity, and develop trusting relationships? How brain-friendly is the digital age? How important is music? How does exercise affect the brain? Shall we censor violence on the grounds that it physically harms the brain? Knowledge of the brain gives us new ways to see and thus new answers to persistent questions.

Target Audience: This session is for any person who lives and works among others, who must learn and remember, who experiences stress and fear, who wants to break a few bad habits, who is sometimes hindered by unruly emotion, who values reason, and who wants to improve life and work.

Organizational Issues: Neuroscience tells people in organizations that their words and actions actually alter the physical structure of a colleague’s brain, and that their own brains are altered by the place they work. Information about how the brain works encourages those in organizations to behave mindfully, to pay close attention, to listen with an open-minded, value integrity, speak honestly, treat others with respect, and empathize.

Objectives: Participants will know:
                        1.  How the brain works
                        2.  How to connect the discoveries of neuroscience
                             with their own life and work

Dates: Friday, April 29th

Length: 6 hours (9:00am-12:00pm and 1:15-4:15pm)

Location: Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne - 6633 Canoga Avenue, Canoga Park

Cost: None

Handouts: Available for download after the Forum


Biography: Elaine has given hundreds of lectures to audiences in Europe and the United States on what brain research means for individuals and organizations.  During her long career as an English professor, Johnson lectured to university classes about John Milton and William Shakespeare and spoke publicly to business leaders and educators about the findings of neuroscience. Today that pattern continues. She is an adjunct English professor who gives public lectures connecting brain research with such matters as relationships, morality, learning, and leadership. The recipient of an Outstanding Teaching Award from the University of Chicago, Johnson is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and Honorary Fellow of Huron University College, Canada. Author of the definitive study on teaching in context, Contextual Teaching and Learning (2002), and co-author of  a textbook series, Literature for Life and Work (1997), Johnson has written on subjects ranging from the economics of medieval cathedral building and T. S. Eliot to banking in the 1920s.  She holds a B.A. from Mills College, an M.A. from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance English from the University of Oregon.

Contact: Elaine can be reached by e-mail at ebjelan@spiritone.com for additional information about this pre-conference session.

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