Inspiring. Sobering. Entertaining. Touching. Enriching.
This year has been great for brain and behavior videos, with an ever-growing number of lectures and educational videos appearing online, as well as savvy homemade videos in social media. Conversations about mental health are increasingly entering the mainstream, and videos like these spark dialogue, reduce ignorance, assist viewers, and fight stigma. They’re also a great distraction, and a way to relax without feeling guilty about wasting time.
Each of the videos on this list has been chosen as being among the best of its kind made this year, ranging from a contest winner to viral videos to high profile lectures. With so much great work out there, I can’t wait to see more in 2012 (follow Channel N to view what I find).
But first, let’s celebrate 2011 in videos.
1. If You’re Contemplating Suicide, This is for You
With nothing but words and a webcam, a YouTuber launched an incredibly powerful anti-suicide message last summer. Angel Haze is a gifted rapper and this piece is moving, eloquent, and relatable. Her humble homemade social video reaches out to the lonely, the disenfranchaised, and the depressed, in an unforgettable way that doesn’t need expensive video production or tricks. With over 100,000 views this video was viral for a while – let’s reignite that spark. Keep sharing. This is a video that really helps people. Warning: coarse language. (00:04:12)
2. TEDxOrlando – Wendy Suzuki
Energy! This cognitive neuroscience professor embodies lots of zip and pep, sharing her passion for teaching, science, and fitness. Interested in how exercise affects the brain, she became a certified fitness instructor and designed an experiment with her neuroscience students, combining workouts with lectures. The results were positive and her recount in this talk is inspiring and invigorating. Exercise is good for your brain! Just do it! (00:14:04)
3. What’s Goin On
Eighth grader Jonah Mowry made a YouTube video last summer when he was anxious about returning to school. Set to the music of Sia’s “Breathe Me,” he shared his story of years of bullying and self-injury, and fears for the future. A young person who’s recently come out as gay, peers can relate to his story, told in a trendy and moving way. Resilience and determination to survive and resist suicidal thoughts are what makes this message so strong. There’s a happy ending: when Jonah returned to school he made some friends and says he’s doing better, and he also got to bask in the attention of the likes of Lady Gaga and Jane Lynch, two of many celebrities who shared their support and helped make this video viral (over 8.5 million views as of today). (00:04:36)
4. The Full Story – Soften the Fck Up
Men’s mental health is the focus of this video, part of a media campaign out of Australia. From a country known for its exceptional mental health advocacy, this stands above the pack. A simple, direct, and hard-hitting video: ordinary men sharing personal stories of mental health problems and recovery. Tough guys show their vulnerabilities and encourage other men to do the same. Unflinching. F’n awesome! Warning: coarse language. (00:07:23)
5. Invisible People: Cameron
One of an ongoing series of short videos featuring people who are homeless telling their own stories in a direct, unedited approach. The brainchild of social media genius Mark Horvath, he’s been on the streets with his camera giving voice to people all over North America, and the powerful messages are shared widely through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. Many of the stories involve mental health issues. Here we meet Cameron, a man from Fort McMurray, Alberta (Canada), who talks about a bleak situation of addiction and lack of options in a devastatingly raw and honest video. (00:08:55)
6. It’s all in the timing: A psychologist measures how musicians communicate emotion
A fascinating psychology experiment designed by a rock star with a second career as a cognitive neuroscientist. Dan Levitan wanted to find out how musicians are able to express emotion through music, and with the aid of a specially designed player piano that reproduced their performances with and without expressive elements, was able to determine that it has to do with variations in timing, loudness and softness. In this video he describes the experiment and also discusses the implications for synthesized music. (00:08:18)
7. Love Story
This cute, clever, and creative short won the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience’s Brains on Film video contest this year, and it’s easy to see why. Using a film noir look and feel, neurotransmitters become people and the hero tells the tale of his irresistible attraction to Molly Morphine. Fun and educational at the same time, a rare combo, this video is a winner in more ways than one. (00:06:29)
8. Creating a Healthier Future through Prevention of Child Maltreatment
A panel of researchers and bureaucrats present findings on public health approaches to prevent child abuse and neglect, in this hour-long grand rounds video from the Center for Disease Control. Sounds like a snoozefest? Far from it. Child abuse (not just broken bones, emotional and verbal abuse also have a serious impact) and neglect are pervasive problems that take an enormous economic toll and ruin lives. Child maltreatment leads to suicide, violence, addiction, depression, PTSD, anxiety, personality disorders, crime, cognitive deficits, physical ailments, homelessness, and much more. So, what to do? Public health approaches ranging from maternity ward education programs to community nurses have proven successful, and this video highlights best practices. On an individual level, parents can access self-help materials like the Positive Parenting Program. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, please contact your local police or child protective services agency. The consequences are too serious to ignore. (00:59:47)
9. Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman: ‘A great deal of prejudice is built-in’
Behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking Fast and Slow” was published in 2011, and in this video clip he explains the difference between thinking fast and intuitively (System 1), and a more slow and reasoned approach (System 2). Cognitive biases and prejudices are inevitable and part of the snap judgments of System 1, but by using deeper System 2 thinking we can challenge those prejudices and rebuild our stereotypes. Kahneman’s thoughtful theories are bound to prompt System 2 in those who watch this video. (00:04:22)
10. Iain McGilchrist: The Divided Brain
The RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is a UK organization that promotes social innovation and showcases the best thought leaders. Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist gave a lecture on the myths and realities of left and right brain hemispheres, and a clip from that talk was then processed by the RSA Animate series, which illustrates audio with deft drawings. It’s educational, but still fun enough to keep attention. (00:11:48)
Do you have a favorite not on the list?
Please let us know in the comments.