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It’s our fifth year.  How did THAT happen?

And while we aren’t going to have someone jump out of plane to celebrate, we are proud to announce what might be our most ambitious line up in the short history of TEDxColumbus.  Join us on October 11 from 9-4 (with happy hour until 5) at COSI to witness this collection of thinkers, researchers, provocateurs, rainmakers, entertainers and game-changers, all of whom, in their own right, are doing things truly OUT THERE. Come join a dynamic crowd of curious folks to be collectively provoked, challenged and inspired, while connecting, conversing and processing it all together.

A few changes from past year’s events:  We have selected more speakers  — but to speak for shorter times, upon audience request.  We’ve curated two special groups to join our expected, provocative talks.  Here is the complete lineup (access their bios and abstracts through the speaker home page here).

For being OUT THERE in their investigations, solutions, ideas, courage or reach.  Talks include:

  • On rebuilding cities, Mohamed Ali.
  • On global warming, David Bromwich .
  • On gender fluidity, Gabrielle Burton.
  • On revolutionizing hacking, Chris Domas.
  • On finding new planets, Scott Gaudi.
  • On giving back out there, when you are in there, Jim Fussell
  • On a basic unmet human need, Nancy Kramer.
  • On the courage to change, Decker Moss.
  • On reaching deep inside the brain, Ali Rezai.
  • On new rules for systems, Joe Simkins.
  • On entertaining us,  Tobin-Wilcox and The Castros.

Five in five.  (Okay, we did want to celebrate being five.)

For being OUT THERE in their passions –  in five minutes each.

  • On writing through logic, Miriam Bowers Abbott.
  • On paying attention, Chris Fraser.
  • On exploring within, Josh Hara.
  • On coming out of the valley, Stephanie Hughes.
  • On a dynamic bike city, Jess Mathews.

Sensory Talks. Playing on the five theme (last time, promise!), we’ve invited a group of speakers to share an incredible range of thinking on our five main senses.

  • On smells in a city, Dax Blake.
  • On our scent and taste memory, Tom Knotek.
  • On saving sight, Kaweh Mansouri.
  • On the power of touch, Lori Guth Moffett.
  • On challenging the ability to listen, Susan Nittrouer.

And we encourage you to move quickly if you’d like to attend.  We expect, as always, tickets to sell out. Tickets can be purchased here.

TEDxColumbus 2013 is made possible with support of the following partners:

Lead Sponsor, resource.

Event Partners, The Columbus Foundation, The Doug and Monica Kridler Fund of the Columbus Foundation, Limited Brands Foundation, Cardinal Health and The Ohio State University.

Presenting Sponsors, GSW Worldwide, Ologie, Crane Group, Glimcher, IntoGreat, Alliance Data, Crimson Cup,

Media Partner, WOSU

Host Partner, COSI and Host Supporter, Susan Leohner Events.

Creative Support is provided by Base Art Co., Spacejunk Media, and BonFire Red.

 

 

 

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We’ve invited our past TEDxColumbus speakers and other friends to give us their top five favorite talks to in turn, share with you, for our Friday Favorites blog series.

This week, Brian Roche (full bio below) TEDxColumbus 2012 speaker shares his favorite talks.

 

1. Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education

 

2. Theresa Flores: Find a Voice with Soap

 

3. Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight

 

4. Terrell Strayhorn:Inalienable Rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Belonging

 

5. Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability

 

Brian Roche, Ph.D., is a board certified toxicologist with more than 15 years of experience in cardiovascular, respiratory and CNS safety pharmacology research and is currently the manager of Battelle’s safety pharmacology research group. His research has focused on toxicological and pharmacological evaluations, including QT interval assessments, of drug candidates that are advancing to the Food and Drug Administration’s Initial New Drug application and clinical studies. Additionally, Brian is the technical lead for development of predictive and translatable model systems to investigate drug-induced cardiac injury.

Batelle Safety Pharmacologist, Brian Roche outlines his case that surviving chemotherapy for cancer treatment has consequences.  For up to 15% of patients receiving chemo, there is irreversible cardiac damage. Brian was a 2012 TEDxColumbus speaker.

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We’ve invited our past TEDxColumbus speakers and other friends to give us their top five favorite talks to in turn, share with you, for our Friday Favorites blog series.

This week, Phil Cogley AKA “The Saturday Giant” (full bio below) TEDxColumbus 2010 performer shares his favorite talks.

1. Eric Whitacre: A virtual choir 2,000 voices strong

2. Suzanne Beachy: What’s next for truth?

3. Matt Slaybaugh: Finally, this is for you

4. Hans Rosling: Global population growth, box by box

5. Michael Wilkos: Surprise, it’s Columbus 2.0!

 

After a period of experimentation with a variety of recording techniques and instrumentation, and amidst a one year sojourn in Pittsburgh, Cogley set to work writing and recording his debut effort, a concept album titled You’ve Heard of Dragons. The Album posits the hypothetical scenario of world domination by malevolent reptilian humaniods (say that three times fast!) as a way of grappling with war, natural disasters, and the end of the world. Phil was a 2010 TEDxColumbus performer.

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We’ve invited our past TEDxColumbus speakers and other friends to give us their top five favorite talks to in turn, share with you, for our Friday Favorites blog series.

This week, Maryanna Klatt (full bio below) TEDxColumbus 2011 speaker shares her favorite talks.

1. Paul Zak: Trust, morality — and oxytocin?

 

2. Terri Wahl: Minding your Mitochondria

 

3. Brené Brown: Listening to shame

 

4. Atul Gawande: How do we heal medicine?

 

5. Dr. Mimi Guarneri: Shifting the Healthcare Paradigm

 

Maryanna Klatt, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor, in the College of Medicine at Ohio State University, teaching undergraduates, graduate students, medical students, and Family Medicine Residents. The focus of her teaching, research and practice is Integrative Medicine, which is the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by scientific evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches to achieve optimal health and healing. She created and directs an interdisciplinary minor at OSU, Integrative Approaches to Health and Wellness. Her students are the health care providers of tomorrow and she is energized by their commitment to understanding the whole person of the patient. Teaching has been a source of joy in her life.

Dr. Klatt’s research focus has been to develop and evaluate feasible, cost-effective ways to reduce the risk of stress-related chronic illness, for both adults and children. Trained in Mindfulness and a certified yoga instructor through Yoga Alliance, she combines these two approaches in a unique approach to stress prevention/reduction. Her adult Mindfulness-Based Intervention, Mindfulness in Motion, is delivered at the worksite, while the program for children, Fuel for Learning is a classroom based intervention. Both programs combine yoga, mindfulness, and relaxing music, yielding stress reduction, increased quality of sleep, and improvements in problem behavior often related to stress in children. She has published several articles and book chapters, and has presented her work at national and international scientific conferences. Dr. Klatt believes that we can get more out of life by slowing down, reorienting each day to what is most essential in life. Mindfulness is the art of being present for one’s life- and all it has to offer. It is a self regulatory skill that can be learned. Mindfulness teaches people how to become aware of their thoughts, feelings, and body, without judgment. It exposes stress as the result of our response to life events (big and small) and places stress reduction within the individual- the most local of levels. Dr. Klatt believes that there is an unexplored mine of low cost, high yield movement and meditation practices that have broad pragmatic value. Her goal is to expose people to mindfulness, yoga, and breathing techniques that can be done during the day, in the environment in which they spend their day, helping them achieve the life and balance that they desire.

Maryanna and her husband Bill, an Appellate Judge on the 10th District Court of Appeals, have three grown children, Will (25), Anna (22), and Joseph (19) who are the best mindfulness teachers one could ever imagine. They are each passionate about life and want to leave the world a better place than they found it. Having a healthy marriage and parenting their children in tandem, have been the central foci of Maryanna and Bill’s personal and professional journeys, taken together. This is the central joy of her life. Maryanna was a 2011 TEDxColumbus Speaker

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We’ve invited our past TEDxColumbus speakers and other friends to give us their top five favorite talks to in turn, share with you, for our Friday Favorites blog series.

This week, Suzanne Beachy (full bio below) TEDxColumbus 2010 speaker shares her favorite talks.

Jake Shimabukuro: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Robert Gupta: Music is medicine, music is sanity

Sebastian Wernick: Lies, damned lies and statistics (about TEDTalks)

Eleanor Longden: Learning from the voices in my head

Elizabeth Gilbert:Your elusive creative genius

A mom since 1980, Suzanne Beachy began packing school lunches for her son Jake in 1986. Twenty-four years later, she is still packing school lunches for her young kids, Natalie and Collin. In addition to the usual mommish duties of cleaning up messes and attending to the needs of young digestive systems, Suzanne has worked for pay as a music librarian, bass player, stage hand, professional letter writer and copy editor, and as a partner in her husband Tim’s building business. Suzanne was a TEDxColumbus 2010 speaker.

 

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We’ve invited our past TEDxColumbus speakers and other friends to give us their top five favorite talks to in turn, share with you, for our Friday Favorites blog series.

This week, Matt Slaybaugh (full bio below) who opened the first TEDxColumbus in 2009 and performed again in 2010 shares his favorite talks.

1. Brene Brown: Listening to Shame

2. Benjamin Zander: The transformative power of classical music

3. Barbara Fant

4. Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!

5. Barry Schwartz: Our loss of wisdom

 

Slaybaugh is the Artistic Director of Available Light Theatre. His writing and directing of new plays and original works for Available Light and the BlueForms Theatre Group has been lauded by American Theatre magazine, New York Press, NYtheatre.com, the Central Ohio Theatre Critics Circle, the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, and the Victoria BC Times Colonist. He serves on the Greater Columbus Creative Cultural Commission, teaches at Columbus College of Art & Design and the Columbus State Community College Life Long Learning Institute, and writes for the Agit Reader, and IndieColumbus.com. Matt was a TEDxColumbus 2009 & 2010 speaker.

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Follow This, Speakers, TEDxColumbus

 

[by Kendra Hovey]

If “Be Interesting” is on your to-do list today, you’re in luck, because Jessica Hagy’s blueprint for an interesting life is now in print (blue print, even). Described as a “small and quirky book with a large and universal message,” How to Be Interesting offers 200+ pages of insights, wisdoms and quips in pithy graphs, charts and diagrams.

Hagy previewed this project at the 2012 TEDxColumbus, sharing how she uses the tools of quantitative analysis to ponder some of the least quantifiable subjects—and also to poke some fun. It’s something she has been at for a long time now. In fact, her success today can be traced back to a doodle she made on a 3 x 5 card almost seven years ago.

“I was exhausted,” she says, “I was tired of working in a job that felt like an emotional dead-end, even if I was successful at it. I had no idea what to do with myself, and I was just doodling, trying to figure things out.”

That doodle became the inaugural post on Indexed, the blog she launched in 2006. There were more doodles on more 3 x 5 cards, more scans, more posts, and eventually Forbes came calling, as did others.

Hagy is originally from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. She was educated at Ohio University (BA) and Otterbein (MBA). After ten years in Columbus and one year in London, UK, she now lives in Seattle, which is where, between book tour travels, she took some time to chat with us over email about her new book and more.

 

 

Now that your work has been given some large-scale love, do you have any wisdom to share on having your talents recognized and rewarded?
The good: The internet is an equal opportunity playground, and you can do whatever you like out there. There is room for everyone to be successful online.

The bad: You’ll learn a lot about people by how they react when their friends succeed. Not everybody is going to be happy about your happiness, and that’s really gruesome to accept and process.

The ugly: It takes years of work and thought and learning to be perceived as an overnight success. Read all you can by as many people as you can (even people you don’t agree with or even like) and tinker a lot—trial and error can lead to all sorts of great stuff eventually, but you have to get through a lot of tough trials and embarrassing errors first.

You started out with a simple and straightforward format, the 3 x 5 card, is that still your initial medium?
It is for the blog [Indexed] but anymore I’m hired to do a lot of content that doesn’t fit so easily into that standardized format. Essays and animations and strategy things—I am a creative mercenary and change formats to fit what needs done instead of just repeating what’s been done because it’s the easiest route.

I imagine life is busier now, are you sticking with your regular gigs—Indexed, Forbes, etc?
I work for a handful of steady clients (like Forbes) and I am constantly taking on new projects, so yep, really busy. Being online, every morning I check my inbox, there’s a new connection or opportunity or bit of info that can change the way I work and think—it’s never the same day twice.

If there comes a time when Indexed feels “done” for you, how do you think you will know?
Right now it’s a healthy creative habit, making a little chart out to start out the morning. There might be a time when I want to sign off the internet and go become a tulip farmer or a clay thrower or something, but only time will tell. For now, I’ll keep doodling.

What was the experience of giving a TEDx Talk like for you?
It seems that these days, no matter what your profession, you have to be able to spin your work into a TED talk. It’s like toastmasters became a prerequisite for everybody from astronomers to chainsaw sculptors. “Of course I have a power point presentation for you, I’m a champion tap-dancing fishmonger, after all!”

The TED brand exudes (and demands in return) a calmly extroverted, upper middle-class, tech-driven business-casual optimism. So much other published content and so many other conferences get created to reflect the glow of TED’s trademarked crimson that you cannot escape the TED-curated Zeitgeist. And so I weave that knowledge into my powerpoint presentations, like a good little tap-dancing fishmonger.

Is there a “next” project on the horizon?
I’m working on a project with a lot of other cartoonists, a collection of cartoons all based on a shared image, a book of illustrated poetry, and lots more content for my current clients. I’m finishing up a manifesto in watercolors this week—it’ll be live in a month or so.

Lastly, any thoughts to share on how to survive, perhaps even thrive, as a writer during this particularly challenging moment in history?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at kendrahovey.com


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Follow This, Speakers, TEDxColumbus

[by Kendra Hovey]

At TEDxColumbus, Michael Bongiorno led us down to the subway, up to the train tracks, across the bridge and inside the cloverleaf so we could see what we usually don’t: the residual and overlooked spaces of urban life. He not only got us to look, but also to re-imagine:

What could this be that it isn’t today?

Ask this question and an abandoned mill can be a concert hall and a BMX track, a silo a scuba tank, and a city can be more than “good enough,” it can be great—healthy, vibrant, exemplary. Columbus, says the architect, principal at the DesignGroup and all-around civic enthusiast, is positioned to be that city. From his campaign to have Columbus designated a UNESCO City of Design to his contributions to the cityscape—the Grange Insurance Audubon Center is just one example—Bongiorno’s been busy turning potential into reality.

In the months following his TEDxTalk, the idea of the “Overlooked” has picked up some steam; it will be the theme of Design Weeks 2013, the city festival, part of idUS, promoting and celebrating local design (the “s” added to reflect what is now a month, rather than week, long event). Also, in late January, the Columbus Museum of Art unveiled plans for the final phase of its renovation project. The expansion and added wing is the work of the DesignGroup, with Bongiorno as Lead Designer and, when necessary, Lead Duck. (…more on that below.)

Eager to get a closer look at the Museum project and also to find out more about the infusion of energy around the overlooked, we recently interviewed Michael Bongiorno. He is originally from Brooklyn—“not the Brooklyn of hipsters and irony,” as we know from his talk, “but the Brooklyn of The Warriors”—so, first, we asked him about his connection to Columbus…

“I have lived in Columbus for about 21 years and I’m not leaving anytime soon. I love it here. I came here because of work and because it was a growing university town.”


“Overlooked,” the theme of your TEDx Talk, is also the theme of Design Weeks 2013 (which you co-founded). Can you tell us how that decision came about?  
Actually, I can’t take credit for making that connection. My wife and Design Week co-founder, Sarah [Bongiorno] and one of my Design Week co-planners, Stephanie Hayward, both came up with the idea at the same time. Our core planning just started running with it…well, maybe jogging. The important thing to note is that Sarah and Stephanie both saw my TEDxTalk, were inspired by it, it ignited an idea in their minds, and they wanted to build upon it…which meant it truly embodied the notion of an “idea worth spreading.”

What will it mean, in terms of events, speakers, location, etc., to have “overlooked” as a theme?  First, without letting the cat entirely out of the bag, we are planning a Design Weeks signature program (similar to the Ideabook project) and asking participants to find overlooked spaces in Columbus and imagine possibilities for them.

In addition, we will be inviting collaborators to host their own events, posing the question: What does “overlooked” mean to you and how can you create an event or program that explores this idea? It could be the physical environments that I was describing in my TEDx talk or it could be about a topic important to a specific collaborator. Our definition of design is broader than just the physical environment: it could be about dealing with the lack of creative thinking in education, it could be about the public transportation void, it could be overlooked opportunities in food systems, etc. The goal is to create a dialogue that will lead to some change in what we feel is overlooked, neglected or wasted in our city, and by extension, all cities and communities.


And, now that it seems people will be looking at the overlooked, what does it mean to you, personally?  
Well, I hope that our citizens, and not just designers, will develop a critical eye toward their surroundings and not just take for granted that the man-made physical world they see around them has been thought through. I would like people to ask tougher questions, expect better than a passing grade, and teach themselves to see. I believe that once we achieve a level of collective awareness about what constitutes a quality environment we will actually achieve some sense of “culture,” in a civic sense. I know that sounds heady, but all great cities are self-aware. All it takes is higher expectations and asking the right question. Just good enough is never good enough for great places.


Can you give us an example of architecture within the city of Columbus that is better than “good enough?”  
I love the new Main Street bridge. It is innovative, exemplifies a boldness of gesture and simplicity of form, it makes circulation understandable and fun, and it provides dynamic vistas while crossing it and viewing it from afar. Simply put, the bridge is not just a way to get from point A to point B; it is an experience.

The Mayor caught a lot of flak for how much the bridge cost, but his unwavering support of this project, to me (as it should be for all of us), was a sign of an enlightened decision maker. Cities have always had and always will have other pressing budgetary constraints and priorities to contend with. But I would argue that great cities, cities we love to visit, have really strong self-identities, a sense of civic pride, a sense of place and know that investments must also be made in the quality of their physical environments – their people places. Great civic, business, and cultural leaders who know the difference between an investment in quality over mediocrity, and have the conviction to make it happen, are what makes memorable cities. Great design does not start with great designers; it starts with great clients.


Speaking of clients, tell us about the Museum project. First off, what is your role and were you involved in Phase I and II, as well?  
I am the lead designer and also a principal in the firm. I would be remiss if I did not mention that I lead a fantastic and talented team that I could brag about all day long. Our firm was not involved with Phase 1 and 2, as those were pure restoration projects done by a firm that specializes in preservation. Although we were well aware of those projects as they were happening given our close relationship with the museum.


Does the idea of the overlooked play out in any way in this project?
Great question. I think the museum is overlooked, in a sense, physically and culturally. While it is a beautiful building, the historic structure is rather small and understated in comparison to museums in similar sized cities. It is also seemingly impenetrable. Therefore they struggle with physical presence: “We could be a library, we could be a mausoleum…”

Physically, they are practically hidden behind the looming mass of the State Auto insurance Company building when approaching from the east. You drive past it before you even know it’s there, which is a problem when you consider the volume of visitor traffic that exits I-71 at Broad heading into Downtown. As part of the expansion project, they wanted to announce themselves to Broad Street, hence the siting of the building in relation to Broad and our creation of “cinematic facades” to engage the public realm on both Broad and Gay.

Culturally, the museum struggles, as many cultural institutions do, with maintaining their audience and remaining relevant to them. It was CMA’s stated desire to create a place where people from all walks of life could come and just “hang out.” Hence, a lot of semi-public outdoor space. The store and café are in prominent locations relative to the entry and surrounding neighborhood. The building design, then, is a reflection of the museum’s ambition to be more visible, relevant, and connected to the community as a meeting point between art, the public and the physical city. In doing so, they are capturing an audience that may be overlooked and that may have overlooked the museum in the past.


Can you share what thrills you the most about this project?
I have both personal feelings about it and a broader appreciation for the cultural implications of a project like this. I felt the burden of responsibility to create something dynamic and of its time, while being sensitive to the nuances of the particularities of the local context. I will say, with a fair amount of confidence, that it will be a really cool addition to the city!

I believe its design is international in sensibility and quality and will serve as a high watermark for great locally produced design. Raising the credibility of local design talent in the eyes of our largest institutions is something a number of designers have been toiling at, maddening and thanklessly, for a long time; I hope this project pushes us that much further along our journey and that our client base will stop reaching for the coasts to get what they can get right here in Columbus.


Are there elements to the design you are especially proud of?  
I think it will start a lot of debate, in fact, it already has and I believe all good architecture should create dialogue. That is the point of living in a dynamic city, and not in a sensory deprivation tank lined with brick wallpaper.

There are so many fun and interesting things about the design that it is hard to name a favorite. Materially, the pre-patinated copper skin on the upper gallery of the building is going to be sublimely beautiful and something Columbus has never seen before. While copper is a durable and traditional material we employed it in a novel way. We have created a unique feature we are calling “cinematic facades” that connect the galleries and special events spaces to the garden and surrounding neighborhood, engaging the public realm in a way the museum has never been able to before. I believe the new entry court and the sculpture garden designed by MKSK is going to be a community jewel. The museum’s new café will open out onto the terrace via a large glass wall that can open fully in good weather.


And what about challenges?
Just how far out to Broad Street the addition should encroach was the single most polarizing conversation on the project. A good number of stakeholders were mortified that we would extend anywhere past the original historic structure. In order to allay everyone’s fears, Museum director Nannette Maciejunes asked us to help articulate the rationale. We created sightline studies that showed how the State Auto Insurance building would block the view of the addition before the addition blocked the view of the central and most important part of the original museum building. That wasn’t enough proof, so one hot summer day we gathered everyone on Broad Street. I asked them to line up behind me and, like a family of ducks, we walked single file while I narrated the approach: “Okay, right about now you are seeing the upper gallery cantilever, and next you are seeing, etc.” It must have made for a strange scene. The good news is that most came away convinced of the location, others went away still unconvinced; but this is a valuable lesson for any architect: you can’t make everyone happy and you will go insane trying.

 

A video introduction to the Museum project can be seen here.  To read Bongiorno’s case for Columbus as a UNESCO city of design, check out his columbusunderground article. And to learn more about the two major organizations behind Design Week visit The Center for Architecture and Design and AIA Columbus.

CMA images care of DesignGroup, Ideabook image care of DesignWeek

Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at kendrahovey.com


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Follow This, Speakers, TEDxColumbus

[by Kendra Hovey]

In her TEDxTalk, Dr. Laura Hill revealed a breakthrough that counters not just conventional wisdom, but human instinct. For anyone whose life has been touched by an eating disorder, what Hill has to say is essential. It’s also essential for anyone who is interested in how we look at problems and how we solve them.

Fascinated, a bit stunned, and full of questions after her October talk, I knew Follow This would soon be following-up on Dr. Hill. But before I share our conversation, a quick review:

According to Hill, just as things go haywire in the pancreas when diabetics eat, things go haywire in the brain when anorexics eat. Food sets in motion a psychological storm both painful and noisy—and you can see that storm on an fMRI. Hunger and taste centers remain dull. Dopamine is flat, the amygdala gets agitated and the decision-maker, the prefrontal cortex, is confused. Meanwhile, the area of the brain responsible for our sense of our external self, or physical body, is showing a disturbance “off the charts.”

So…the patient who insists she is not hungry, that the food doesn’t taste right, that the day is easier without it, and “eating is bad for me,” has—it seems—been right all along. This is extraordinary.

It’s also unworkable, or so one would think. Food is not optional. Yet, this flip in accepted thinking is helping a number of Hill’s clients. Out the window goes all the talk of enjoying food, the body’s desire for food, and attempts to normalize the diet, and in its place food has become medicine. Just as an endocrinologist prescribes insulin, Dr. Hill prescribes meals, working with each client to find the dosage that works. What she says now is: Take your medicine, it won’t taste good and there will be side effects, but it will keep you alive.

This discovery is life-changing for those with anorexia, as well as for their loved ones. It also reveals something interesting about how all our brains work. It took a really advanced and expensive technology to ask a simple question: What if the patients are saying something that is actually true?

Of course, to seriously consider this, one has to override personal experience and something basic to human survival. I don’t mean to oversimplify—I, for instance, am not going to go on a search for the aliens that are speaking to my aunt through her microwave—but when facing a problem, especially a particularly intractable one, it’s not a bad reminder to ask what, and who, we believe and don’t believe, as well as, what is the question we are not asking?

I Had No Idea!
Most of us know about anorexia, even have one or two educated opinions about it, so when I spoke to Dr. Hill I had to ask, Why hadn’t we heard about this before?

“It’s just now coming into the public domain,” Hill answered. Her TEDxTalk is a start, along with the new Family Eating Disorder Manual. Published in August with Hill as the lead author along with colleague David Dagg, it includes two chapters on the neurobiology of eating disorders.

The research, though, has been on-going for quite some time, but 2009 was a seminal year. That’s when Walter Kaye of UC San Diego published the article that, as Hill describes it, “introduced and set in course a new direction in our understanding of anorexia nervosa.” Over time, more studies added more information, and Hill has been working with Kaye’s team to interpret and chart the results and “pilot” new approaches to treatment. Hill says it’s been gratifying to have the patients part of the solution: “I would take the results to them and say ‘it looks like at this stage of the illness you may not be registering taste’ and the client’s are going ‘uh…yeah’—well,” she pauses, “we had never thought to ask the clients that clinically.”

As the neurobiology became clearer, Hill had her own I-had-no-idea moment. When she would share this feeling with her clients, “they would just start crying” she recounts, “and they would say, ‘finally, finally somebody is understanding—now, can you tell my family?’ ”

 

So Is The Media Off The Hook?
If eating disorders are neurobiological, does this effect the prevailing theory that they are sociological—tied to media portrayals and body image? Yes, says Hill, but not how you might think: “The biology actually helps us to understand the sociology and the psychology.” With eating disorders the disturbance in the brain is so great that decision-making centers can be almost incapacitated, which increases vulnerability to social messages—and the social messages are invariably to diet and to be skinny. “Somebody looks to the external to help guide them,” explains Hill, “only to find that the external is helping to make them sicker.”

 

What About Psychological Explanations Related To Control?
To family members witness to the rigidity and pickiness, anorexia can sure look like an expression of a controlling personality. “In fact,” says Hill, “it may be a 180—I’m so out of control, I’m literally eating blind.” And just as a blind person perhaps counts steps and taps with a cane or is guided by a dog, a person with anorexia has to tap their way through eating. “That’s when the light bulb really went off for me,” says Hill, “when I saw what was going on in the brain, I understood it’s not at all about being controlling, it’s about trying to get some control.”

From there, it was a short step to another realization: “Let’s use what appears to be the problem and make it part of the solution.” Taping into the rigidity and the patient’s existing rituals around eating, she and her team created healthy rituals. “We work out a plan—Plan A, Plan B, Plan C—they eat it, get used it, they don’t have to decide or question how many bites, and we find their anxiety comes down and the volume of the noise in their head may come down too.”

 

About That Noise In Their Head…
Hill sampled a recording of that noise during her talk. Asked how she created it, she was quick to first credit her co-author David Dagg for the idea, then explained how she has notebooks full of her clients’ descriptions (“overwhelmed,” “cloudy,” “vicious,” “loud,” “louder”) and phrases (“Fat, fat, fat;” “you stupid idiot;” “what to write with?” “I can’t handle that;” “I’m so full;” “I don’t feel anything”). Her clients would critique each version, until eventually the recording closely mirrored their experience. She’s currently creating a similar recording for her clients with binge eating disorder. “They tell me it sounds differently,” she says.

 

Bulimia & Other Eating Disorders
Hill shares that there are not yet many fMRIS for bulimia and ever fewer for binge eating. fMRIS are expensive; cohorts need to be small. Anorexia presents similarly, but bulimia, says Hill, is “heterogeneous,” so that what proves true for one cohort may not extend to all the various presentations of the illness. Nonetheless, Hill is working on a similar brain map for bulimia but, she says, “there are many gaps.”

 

Changing Minds
For 20 years, cognitive behavioral therapy has shown to be a valid form of treatment for bulimia, but there has not yet been one well-researched, single, effective treatment for anorexia. Says Hill: “We kept assuming that when re-fed, patients would feel better and get on with life and we kept seeing relapse and we didn’t understand exactly why.” [Relapse rates are high; anorexia also has the highest death rate of all mental illnesses.]

This suggests that should Hill’s pilot approach prove medically valid, physicians might be quick to adopt it. Hill fully expects that patients will be educating their doctors. “As they text and tweet about their own experiences,” she says, “it’s not going to take long for this to surface.”

 

What Say The Naysayers?
Neurobiology changes the paradigm so much, initially there’s been “a bit of a wait-a-minute-wait-a-minute reaction,” says Hill. “But,” she continues, “for 30 years we’ve known this is bio-psycho-social phenomenon, it’s just that we’ve looked at the biology as a consequence, not that it might be a contributing factor of the illness or the extent to which it is actually helping to maintain the illness.”

 

Which Came First?
Whether the neurobiology is the product of starvation or the cause, Hill says, “the jury’s still out.” In the acute stage when body mass is low, biology is clearly a driver of the disease. But looking at those who have recovered and maintained a stable body weight for over a year, some start to get back the ability to taste. Some don’t. Even those that do don’t experience pleasure in eating.

 

Will This Breakthrough Advance New Medicines?
“The field is looking at medications,” says Hill, “we have seen, though, that the SSRIs [commonly prescribed] don’t even touch the disturbance in the brain.” They are searching for ones that will bring it down, but, she adds, “bless their hearts they get it both ways—meds have side effects.” Along with continued 3D imaging, genetic-based testing may uncover new avenues for developing effective medicines.

 

After TEDxColumbus
Asked what kind of response her talk is getting she says, “It started from the moment I stepped off the stage.” A father came up to her tears thanking her for helping him understand his daughter. A woman who had anorexia told her that she has always had to eat the same meal and that this has always embarrassed her. “But now,” she said to Dr. Hill, “I think it’s okay, it’s as okay as anyone.”

Hill has been careful about bringing these new findings to the public. “It’s been my caution because I didn’t want to interpret anything erroneously,” she explains. But, “the beauty in this,” she says, “is people discovering—when they hear this and say, I had no idea!”

Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at kendrahovey.com

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Events, Follow This, Speakers, TEDxColumbus

[by Kendra Hovey]

Birth. Death. Sex. These are three grand motifs. But plot them on a bar chart or in a spreadsheet and they will tell stories “a little bit better, a little bit sexier than Hollywood.” Or so says Priyank Shah, a demographer and the kickoff speaker at this year’s TEDxColumbus.

As an opener, Shah was the logical choice. Demographers use statistics (on birth, death, sex, etc.) to make statistical projections. That’s a handy thing to have at an event titled “The Future Revealed.” (Ours, by the way, will likely include “super-centenarians” in a statistically relevant number, a big jump in multiethnic identities, and “vertical families”—adult children and parents simultaneously elderly).

But Shah’s talk set two other important plot points for the day. As he shared his statistics and their macro- and micro-level implications, he elicited the passion and relevancy of his life’s work, while entertaining and edifying. It’s the “TEDTask.” Fourteen speakers in one day and none veered too far from this mark.

As for plot point #2, while Shah’s data pointed to trouble ahead, trouble is not where he lingered. Throughout the day other speakers piled on more trouble, much of it in the “too many” department—too many people, too many carbon bonds, too many greenhouse gases, perhaps, even, too many photographs—but after taking a good look at that accumulated heap, speakers, for the most part, got straight to tackling the question of what to do about it.

Elsewhere, I’ve said that the push-pull of What the hell have we done! and Wow! Look at what we can do! is built into TED. Last year’s TEDxColumbus, “A Moment in Time,” ended in a draw. This year, hope pulled out the win. But seeing as maybe we humans can’t help but be bright-eyed about the future, the theme gets at least an assist. Hope was helped along, too, by the number of speakers who came to the stage with solutions. Whether we like them, agree with them, or don’t, the attempt itself can be a boost.

And, it has to be said: it’s not too hard to be optimistic when the day’s talks, taken collectively and literally, offer a rather palatable, even indulgent, prescription for living. Crave a donut in the morning? Go ahead! Drink lots of coffee while you’re at it, and have a puff of marijuana—but ONLY one. And, Kids, to build your job skills, don’t bother with that homework; play Minecraft instead.

Or . . . maybe wait a bit on that Minecraft thing. The others are backed by data; this one is more of an inference. Though one that Naomi Stanford is not about to back away from, no matter the ruffled feathers. And while it is certainly conjecture, it is conjecture drawn from Stanford’s decades of studying, interviewing, data-collecting, reading, writing, observing and thinking long and hard about workers and the world of work in the past, present and future. Generally, we call this mix of time, effort and output “expertise,” and at this TEDxColumbus, more so than any other, expertise was on display—sometimes even color-coded and nicely organized into pies, graphs and charts. Here’s a brief rundown from the day:

Why when we think of the future is it all flying cars and jetpacks? Why not demographics? After Priyank Shah and his data asked us to ponder this question, other speakers and their data challenged us with more questions, including unpopular ones, such as Why not nuclear power? This one came care of physicist Gordon Aubrecht, whose tables and maps argued, quite powerfully, that our fear of nuclear energy is outdated and overstated, while, when it comes to fossil fuels, we are not nearly fearful enough.

Jan Allen’s question, What is My Next?, seeks to rethink and redefine “the construct of the leisure industry,” more commonly known as “retirement.” Gary Wenk is also out to shift our perspective on something both accepted and ubiquitous. In this case, the storefront sign FOOD & DRUGS. It contains a typo, says the neuroscientist. It should read FOOD = DRUGS, which, by the way, also = CHEMICALS. With help from some gems of early advertising (“THEY’RE HAPPY because they eat LARD!”) Wenk shared his research on chemical components in foods (donuts and coffee) and other ingestibles (the one puff) and offered a plan for anyone wanting to up their odds of a longer life. Take in fewer carbon bonds and more antioxidants, he said, and do it earlier in the day, i.e., eat less, eat berries, eat early.

 

Laura Hill so upended my thinking I was the one with the question: “Really?!” I know it’s simple and not really a question at all, but it is what came to mind when Hill said that the anorexia patient who insists “eating is bad for me” has been right all along. According to Hill’s 33 years of expertise, recently deepened by findings from functional MRIs, in those with anorexia, food sets in motion a psychological storm both painful and noisy. You can track it on an fMRI. This is extraordinary. It flips accepted thinking and accepted treatment, and, as dire as it may sound, the result of this turnaround, Hill says, is better outcomes for the patient.

Safety pharmacologist Brian Roche is also working towards better outcomes—this time for cancer survivors. The problem he wants to solve is one you may not even want to know about: most cancer drugs are not good for the heart. The good news is that for a vast majority the damage is temporary. For a small percentage it is not, and for an even smaller percentage it is dangerously dormant. The other good news about this problem: Brian Roche is on it.

Though Catherine Evans’ talk was not nearly as data-heavy as some others, she had one statistic that got the audience murmuring. According to Evans, 10% of all photographs were taken in the last year alone. It’s an instagram world. But, in her talk, Evans looked back to when it was a Kodak world, back to the Polaroid, even the tintype to consider how photos function (as art, news, storyteller and more) then, now and in the future.

If we were to use the measure of stats per hour, this TEDxColumbus would beat out all previous—combined. But there was plenty of expertise and insight not so easily codified. There was the kind expressed in humor, dance, and music, or that you’d more likely find under a Big Top, as well as the kind that comes from following what takes hold of you and simply paying attention to it, as Michael Bongiorno does. Drawn to spaces of urban residue from a young age, the architect, in his talk, will make you see a cloverleaf interchange in a whole new light.

Expertise and insight also comes from listening—to others as well as to oneself. Interested in the higher education experiences of African Americans (which completion rates suggest can be all too brief for all too many) social scientist Terrell Strayhorn has found that a sense of belonging is connected with success. He also shares a few things we should know about belonging: It is not about being the same. It is about difference not being a deficit. And, the need for it is in us all. “Anyone who doesn’t want to belong,” Strayhorn asks, “will you stand with me now?”

A guest from TEDxYouth, Dan Stover, and the last speaker of the day, Doug Smith, both shared life lessons drawn from personal difficulties. Stover is a living example (thank goodness) of why when given the choice to fake it or to come clean, vulnerability is the best way to go. For Smith to get wise about life, it took a double dose of epiphany. The first enabled him to talk about how to be happy. The second enabled him to practice how to be happy. “Misery is easy,” he counsels, “happiness is a set of skills.”

What Frederick Ndabaramiye experienced in his life is ungodly. It pushed him to the point of wanting to leave life altogether. Yet, a few Fridays ago, he was in Columbus, Ohio, very much present and free of bitterness, generously sharing his story. If we were to be serious about deriving a prescription for future living from this year’s TEDxColumbus, the most potent piece would be the forgiveness exemplified by Ndabaramiye.

Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at kendrahovey.com

 

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