Archive for March, 2010

In yesterday’s (March 28, 2010) online edition of Nature Neuroscience, Paul Kinney and Paul Johnson* of The Scripps Research Institute published the results of a three-year study during which they morphed innocent, cuddly little white rats into white, furry blobs of goo that had to roll themselves to their food dishes. The B&B Blogger is here to fill you in on how they did that.

In Part 1 of the study, the researchers repeatedly drove the rats through the drive-in lane at Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins. Well, that was the original plan at least. But, after a few trials, the experimental protocol had to be modified because the bad behavior of a few rats ruined it for all the others.

Part 1, Plan B was to simply allow the rats unlimited access to high-calorie, high-fat and/or high-carb foods in the laboratory while the researchers repeatedly drove themselves through the drive-in lane at co-operating donut and ice cream stores. The outcome for the researchers was not reported. But, the rats got HUGE. Huge and round to the point of resembling softballs with fat tails.

Then the researchers did something truly horrid: They withdrew the good stuff and made only healthy foods available. To the rats, that is. And, of course, the rats did what any good American rodent would do. They refused to eat and got the shakes, big time.

Next came the part that neuroscientists live for. They got to kill the rats and take out their brains and look at the brains very, very closely. What they found is very, very interesting. It seems that while the rats were ever-increasing their capacity to gorge on high-cal/fat/carb foods (or what is usually called “The American Plan” at European Hotels), their electro-chemical brain activity mirrored almost exactly the electro-chemical brain activity of tweekers who are in crystal meth tolerance training. Meaning that, like tweekers in training, the rats simply could not be satisfied physiologically without greater and greater amounts of “product.”

You’ve probably already guessed what happened when the sausage cheesecake was replaced with the spring mix. The brain activity of the rats mirrored the brain activity of humans who are suffering severe drug withdrawal symptoms. And, there is every reason to believe that the fat-withdrawal pain the rats experienced is equal to that of the drug-withdrawal pain experienced by humans.

Social commentary that has no real place here in the B&B Blog: If you are poor and living in the U.S., what is the one thing to which you have (virtually) unlimited access?

Obesity is a drug problem. Plain and simple. And, it’s going to take more than methadone milkshakes to solve it.

*Despite having the same name (Paul), these scientists are not related.

Original references for any studies, books or articles cited by the Brain and Behavior Blogger can be obtained by contact with his very dear friend, Dr. Rob Snyder (r.snyder@tier1performance.com), an organizational psychologist with a severe neuroscience-research reading habit.


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Lexis Nexis selected TiER1 to develop the online training materials for their new HR system. The curriculum consists of 16 modules for all employees to learn the new system’s features and the best practices for how to use it. We are excited for this opportunity and look forward to working with Lexis Nexis.

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The Subject Matter Expert, Oh my….

 The other day I received a call from a friend who saw that I was speaking at the Software User’s Assistance Conference in Seattle on March 21st-24th http://www.writersua.com/ohc/index.html on the topic of dealing with Subject Matter Experts.  Her comment was that “dealing with SMEs is like going to the dentist… you know you have to go but it’s always a painful event”.  She also suggested that if I glamorized this with big academic words, neuroscience blah, blah, that I would be doing a disservice to my attendees (which she estimated at 3, and only that high cause my Mom and Dad live in the Northwest) and I should tell the REAL STORY.  However, I know that this is a really well attended conference with some very cool speakers, so she’s wrong on that point! 

This did make me think a bit and I thought I would write down some stuff to reflect her comments, so here it is… Be prepared, be professional, and use a research mind-set, and this SME interaction will be rewarding for you, your project, the user,  and the SME.  Now, to be honest, I’ve gone into these meetings over the past years, was not prepared and thought I could “wing -it”.  Almost always it is as painful as my friend described.  The worst part was that I wasted my time AND the SME’s time…almost always having to come back for clarifications.

 Be Prepared: Have an AGENDA for the meeting, Send the Agenda before hand with one, maybe two, critical questions that the SME can think about. Understand your audience for your program or system, create a list of questions, stick to the time allotted, and remember the neuroscience (the way the SME thinks is often vastly different from the way the intended audience thinks) of your SME, you, and the audience.

 Be Professional: Have your agenda, show up on time, leave on time, create a pathway for future dialogue, get this person on your side.

 Use a Research Mind-Set: Establish questions, establish a methodology for gathering dates to address those questions (SME interviews, best practices, validate data) and explain this methodology to the SME.  Rarely is one SME the single point of data…  Also, if you have multiple teams gathering data across a large organization, or you are using different data gathering methodologies (interview, focus group, survey), you’ll need to think about “inter-rater reliability” issues, and having a “research mind-set” will be critical.

 Overall these are opportunities to show the SME that their input is critical, it will be validated, and they are a key person in creating something valuable for the user.  It also can be a lot of fun! 

Here is a small snippet to watch for more information: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_D71VRIHbg

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