What’s neuroscience got to do with it?

Published by Jackie Barrie on

I’ve recently worked through Dr Lynda Shaw’s neuroscience programme as part of my ongoing personal development (and to build on my psychology degree and subsequent study into the subject).

Reassuringly, it’s clear that there’s a scientific reason why icebreakers and energisers work. It’s because they cause the brain to release ‘happy chemicals’.

Make it fun

When you get people to laugh together, they benefit from the release of oxytocin, which helps build team bonds.

Games that make people laugh include:

  • Pig personality profile
  • Pass the parcel
  • Toilet paper
  • Game mashup

For details of how to play these games, please give me a call.

Three reasons why adding fun activities into your presentations is a good idea, from neuroscientist Lynda’s UNLEASH model where L is for Laughter…
“Belly laughter makes us breathe deeply and this means that the diaphragm moves and acts as a pump to increase circulation of the lymphatic system. In turn waste products are removed, antibodies are produced and the immune system improves.
Equally laughter activates the parasympathetic nervous system that is often referred to as ‘rest and digest’ thus sending signals to all our systems to slow down, including stress hormones, resulting in an increase in endorphins thus helping us feel better.
We also increase the number of T cells which are a type of white blood cell that fight invading viruses and are a major part of our immune system.”


Get people moving

When you get people moving (which can be achieved online as well as offline), the heart pumps faster and blood flow increases which delivers more oxygen to the brain and increase their attention levels.

Games that get people moving include:

  • Line up
  • Networking bingo
  • Say hello
  • Name game
  • Fuzzy balls
  • Islands
  • Stand up

For details of how to play these games, please give me a call.


Want to Increase Brain Oxygenation? Locomotion May Be Key (Psychology Today)

Mistakes are the best bit

As you may know, many of my activities are inspired by the principles of improvised comedy. A key tenet that I’ve learned from the improv world is that “mistakes are the best bit”.

We’re taught that mistakes equate to failure and so are to be avoided. But more learning comes out of failure – we learn more from our failures than our successes.

When we recover from mistakes and succeed, we build resilience – another essential attribute in work and life.

This is critical when organisations are tasked with ‘failing faster’ so they can reach success sooner.

Games to help practice celebrating mistakes include:

  • Count to 20
  • Misty vistas

For details of how to play these games, please give me a call.


Do We Learn More from Our Mistakes than from Our Successes? (The American Journal of Medicine Blog)


When participants win a competitive game, it triggers the reward centre in their brain and they get a rush of dopamine and seratonin.

Have you ever played Candy Crush? The interface has been designed to give you a feeling of satisfaction whenever you achieve a new level. How does it feel when your FitBit sets off fireworks because you reached your daily target? What about when you’re eating a tub of ice-cream and find a hidden layer of caramel?

Games with a competitive element include:

  • Networking bingo
  • Count to 20
  • Paper tearing
  • Higher/lower
  • Game mashup

For details of how to play these games, please give me a call.


World’s largest neuroscience prize for research on the brain’s reward system

What this means to you

Why not add an emphasis on fun, reward, movement and competition when marketing your speeches and events?

P.S. My thanks to Lynda for the links.

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