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Enrich work environment to make employees' brains tick, says Doraiswamy

Doraiswamy said there are seven important mantras to take care of the biggest asset we have-the brain-and keep it healthy.

E. Kumar Sharma        Last Updated: December 1, 2014  | 12:26 IST
P. Murali Doraiswamy, Professor and Director, Mental Fitness Lab, Duke University.
P. Murali Doraiswamy, Professor and Director, Mental Fitness Lab, Duke University.

Companies should not only think about their financials-balance sheets, cash reserves, etc. But must also pay attention to improving the performance of their employees' brains, P. Murali Doraiswamy, Professor and Director, Mental Fitness Lab, Duke University, said at the BT MindRush conclave of business leaders in New Delhi on Saturday.

Doraiswamy said there are seven important mantras to take care of the biggest asset we have-the brain-and keep it healthy. He listed them as: "enrich your work environment; ensure the heart is healthy with proper exercise and diet; you get enough downtime and at least 7 hours sleep; reduce multi-tasking; have emotional awareness; social networks help; and finally, think young."

Citing a survey of global CEOs, he said that top executives travel a lot, have less sleep and spend little time with their families.

"It is lonely at the top and they don't get enough time to address their own needs," he said.  Keeping in mind the theme of the BT MindRush, Ride the Tide: Making the most of Good Times, he said, "You don't live and are depressed and stressed, you cannot ride the good times."

He divided his lecture, a term he eschews, into six parts. He started out referring to a slide from the new movie "Lucy" that talked about a premise in the movie that we use only 10 per cent of the total capacity of our brains.

FULL COVERAGE:MindRush 2014

While we do not know if that is true, he said, what is correct is that brain ability can be increased by five or six-fold. Just in the last 100 years human IQ has gone up by 30 points and that is because of better nutrition, better child-care, better pregnancy care and better healthcare. So, the environment plays an important role. The first major point, therefore, he said was need to enrich the work environment.

Doraiswamy said there are 100,000 miles of blood vessels in the brain. The brain weighs only two per cent of the total body weight but uses 20 per cent of the blood supply of the entire body. It is a high energy user and it is important to ensure blood supply to brain.

He cited the example of Google, where the company has hired a person whose sole job is to increase the lifespan of all employees by 30 years.

Showing a picture of neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain, he said they are connected and form the grey matter. "There are more connections here than there are stars in the universe... the adult brain is rewiring everyday.... neurons that fire together, wire together... if you don't persist with it, the brain goes back to its earlier nature - you use it or loose it." An important message from him was that a healthy heart is important for the brain. "What is good for the heart is good for the brain," he said.

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