April 22, 2010 by Jeff Hurt
No, this isn’t some infomercial or gimmick on a new pill to take that will add to your life span.
And no, this is not a pill that you can get logoed with your conference’s name or sponsors and distribute to your attendees so they can increase their life span.
It is however something you as a conference organizer can orchestrate that will stimulate and challenge your attendees’ brains and can add to their life span.
If you’ve been reading previous posts about brain research and learning, you know that:
• Humans are social creatures and learning is a social activity.
• Attendees need to interact with their environment and with each other in order to learn. Passively listening and watching a speaker decreases the learning and causes dendrite death. Attendees need to work together and actively take part in their learning.
• Creating enriched conference environments increase learning and attendees’ brain growth. Using a barren meeting environment causes brains to shrink and decreases learning.
• Age is not a barrier when it comes to learning as long as the brain is engaged in challenges, activity and play. You can teach an old dog new tricks.
The Research About Learning And Increasing Life Spans
Remember brain scientist Dr. Marian C. Diamond? She has spent more than 50 years studying brain development of rats.
Why rats? Because the rat brain is very similar in structure to the human brain. It also has fewer wrinkles making it easier to measure for changes. Neuroscientist like Diamond measure the number and density of dendrites, part of the brain’s neuron involved in learning, along with a host of other things. The more learning that occurs, the more dendrites grow and become thicker.
In the late 1990s, Diamond took a trip to Japan to observe Japanese researchers’ work with rats. She learned that the Japanese rats were living to be 900 days old, equivalent to 90 years for humans. Diamond’s rats had only been living for 700 days, the expected life span for a lab rat.
Fascinated, she looked for differences between the two groups or rats. The cages, food, temperature and other variables were the same as for her group of rats.
Then she spotted one difference. The Japanese lab assistants held the rats while their cages were being cleaned. They sometimes were stroked and petted. Diamond’s rats were just put into another cage when their cage was being cleaned. Diamond concluded that holding and touching the rats increased their life spans. She also surmised that the rats felt less stress by being put into a strange cage during the cleaning process.
When she returned to her own lab, she instructed her assistants to hold the rats when they were cleaning their cages. Amazingly, the rats increased their life spans and began living beyond the normal 700 days. And, those rats that were held and shown gentle care during learning had increased brain and dendrite growth.
Two More Reasons People Should Attend Your Conferences
We’ve all heard the typical reasons people should attend conferences and events: education, networking, sales leads, making new connections, finding latest industry research etc.
Now there are two more reasons to add to your attendance justification list:
As discussed in a previous post, attendees that are engaged in enriched conference sessions for four days (the key is enriched environments) grow their brains and learning. Those that are involved in conference sessions with impoverished environments have dendrite death. I suspect that most attendees’ work environments are barren settings as well, rarely leading to more brain growth and learning.
Conference organizers and education departments must heed Diamond’s research about care and increasing life spans. When event professionals secure presenters that intentionally show care and demonstrate thoughtful attention to their attendees’ learning, they can help increase their attendees’ lifespan. Showing support for others’ quest for learning is imperative in the conference arena.
One of the main excuses people have for not attending conferences of events is because they are time-strapped and fear getting behind in their work. Now, attending the right conferences and event can actually lead to brain growth and increased life-spans.
What are some ways conference organizers can demonstrate care and support for attendee learning? What are your experiences with conferences that provide great care and attention to your learning?
Filed Under: Conference Education
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