SXSW Interactive 2013

The Embodied Brain


Studies have already proven the link between the body and mind. What is surprising is how powerful that link is. Embodied cognition, or how the body affects our brain, has gained more recognition in science in the last five years. Our awareness of this phenomenon will have a profound impact on our day-to-day behavior: From stroke patients regaining movement in paralyzed limbs through thoughts alone, to studies that have shown children are more successful in math if they use their hands to guide themselves through arithmetic problems. In fact, a new study suggests that the number one thing we can do to preserve our brain function is to be physically active—it doesn't matter how intellectually enriched our environment may be. Perhaps most amazing in the mind-body connection is the power of placebos—inactive medicines that have alleviated depression, Parkinson’s disease, and even cancer. This connection between our beliefs and our bodies can inform our innovation, learning and motivation.

Additional Supporting Materials


  1. Exactly how does our body impact our brain and intelligence? What specific scientific evidence is most convincing and profound?
  2. What are the more shocking ways that our thoughts change our physical body (e.g., Placebos that can apparently alleviate cancer)?
  3. How can technology take advantage of the new science of how our bodies impact brain function? How can the "data-driven self" trend take advantage of this?
  4. Can the trillion-dollar industry of "brain games" (e.g., games created by Lumosity, Cogmed and Nintendo that supposedly improve intelligence and brain function) really make any difference?
  5. How can the findings from embodied cognition studies affect education?



Christie Nicholson, Contributing Editor, Scientific American/ SmartPlanet

Meta Information:

  • Tags: learning, intelligence
  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Solo
  • Track: Health and Medicine
  • Track 2
  • Level: Beginning

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