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The brain: An introduction

The brain: An introduction

A peek inside that mysterious mass of nerves and fibres in our heads.

The brain loves to ignore things like speed limits, health warnings on cigarette packs and dietary advice about not eating too many cronuts.

Pound for pound, we’ve got the most powerful brains on the planet, capable of creating the most impressive things, and yet these small, spongy super-computers seem almost hardwired for self-destruction.

Reprograming them isn’t easy. We’ve all broken enough New Year’s resolutions to know that. Simply feeding the brain a set of instructions rarely works, but you can trick it into wanting to do better.

That’s because the brain loves feedback.

Nearly any problem can be solved by four things: collecting data, displaying it, offering alternate choices and giving the brain time to change course.

These are the basic building blocks for creating a ‘feedback loop’.

It’s an age-old system, but with the help of today’s technology, feedback loops are becoming key to overcoming the most stubborn bits of our brains.

Everyone knows that if you speed through a school zone there’s the risk of copping a fine, as well as the chance you could hit a kid. Getting drivers to slow down isn’t a new problem, a lot of brains around the world have tried solving it, but it remains incredibly hard to stop.

That was until the modern speed sign was invented. They’re the ones that display your current speed, rather than just suggesting a limit. These simple feedback loops employed in school zones have been proven to slow people down by over 14%, often below the suggested speed limit.

Now the cost of collecting data has plummeted – thanks smart phones – feedback loops are helping our brains better manage everything from energy consumption in our homes to energy consumption in our bodies. Armed with information from our daily lives, displayed in real-time, our brains are happily making better decisions as a result.

Not always, of course, but more often.

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