Catch Them By the Tale
Storytelling Rewires Your
Brain and Helps Build
Community
THE NEUROSCIENCE OF
STORYTELLING
Julie M. Rosenzweig, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
Portland State University
Presentation: Catch Them b...
TWO HALVES OF THE WHOLE
Left-hemisphere:
• logical
• cause/effect reasoning
• verbal processing (language)
• sequential
• ...
AMYGDALA
“almond”
• Temporal lobes
• Major affective activities, especially
fear--fight or flight, self-
preservation
• Co...
HIPPOCAMPUS
“seahorse”
• Temporal lobes
• Learning and memory
• Converts short term to
permanent memory
• Affected by estr...
PREFRONTAL CORTEX (PFC)
• Executive functions
(dorsolateral frontal cortex)
– Planning
– Reasoning
– Problem solving
• Mor...
IMPLICIT MEMORY
• Amygdala, right brain
primary
• Present at birth
• Pre-verbal
• Mental models
• Encodes emotions,
behavi...
EXPLICIT MEMORY
• Hippocampus, left brain
primary
• Middle of second year
• Requires conscious
attention for encoding
• Au...
BRAIN PLASTICITY
• The ability of the brain to change
throughout life (rewire).
• Development, injury, trauma.
• Reorganiz...
STORYTELLING
• “An emergent language of the heart”
(Rudolf Steiner Institute).
• Intrinsic and basic form of human
communi...
STORIES
• Every culture creates stories to make
sense of their world.
• Stories sustain connection between
generations.
• ...
THE NARRATIVE SELF
• We live within and through stories.
–cultural, familial, public, private, invited,
intrusive, known, ...
“Narratives allow us to travel back and
forth in time, to create imaginary or
alternative realities, to re-interpret the
p...
STORIES &THE RELATIONAL BRAIN
• The brain is relational and social.
• Stories are relational.
– early attachment experienc...
STORY AND MEMORY
“Through stories memory is kept alive.”
“Memory anticipates the future.”
(Siegel)
• Memories are neural p...
STORY LISTENING
Story-listeners:
• Link plot, sequence, characters to their own
experiences (transactional relationship).
...
POSSIBILITIES
Storytelling activities…
• Promotes social-emotional development.
• Increases empathic capacity.
• Enhances ...
CHANGE A BRAIN
CHANGE A FUTURE
Traditional Storytelling
And now forAnd now for
somethingsomething
completelycompletely
differentdifferent
Storytelling with CHILDREN:
 Build time into storytimes for adults to tell
stories to children
 Use Story Starters as pa...
Storytelling with TEENS:
 Host Poetry Slams or DIY
storytelling night for teens
 Use ice breakers at Teen Council
and bo...
Storytelling with ADULTS:
 Host DIY storytelling nights
with a centralized theme
 Use ice breakers at book group
meeting...
Storytelling and the COMMUNITY:
 Language exchange groups
 Local community organizations
 Community Justice
 Physical ...
Storytelling and the COMMUNITY:
 Language exchange groups
 Local community organizations
 Community Justice
 Physical ...
Feeling inspired?
What has worked?
What would you like to try?
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  • Adolescence strongly driven by biological imperative but not in a vacuum.
  • Storytimes: fairytales in other languages – tell story only from pictures; encourage adults to tell children a story from their life – first house they lived in, a time they went to the park/grocery store/did an activity that was mentioned in a storytime book; make meeting spaces available for family play groups to encourage adults sharing parenting stories
    Story Starters: Clifford program – hand out pictures of dogs and have kids tell about the dog in the picture; Fancy Nancy part – tell about what their fancy day would involve
    Craft programs – flannel board or stick puppet making (library provides materials and patterns); Story Blocks – three dice, one with characters, one with setting and one with plot points
  • DIY - with a centralized theme – deployed parents, dating, memories from childhood
    Icebreakers: KidChat, zombies, one end of room is totally agree, one end is totally disagree & everything in between (interesting stories, I am a poet, I like Thai food)
    School projects – Peopling the Nation
    Digital storytelling – intergenerational storytelling – StoryCorps-style with elders, telling stories to youngers; book trailers, promos for teen councils or book groups
  • DIY – work, how I got here, middle/high school horror stories;
    “Moth-style” - SLAM stories are limited to five minutes, and ten stories are heard (names drawn from a hat). The stories are scored by three teams of audience-member judges, and a winner is announced at every SLAM.
  • Language exchange: Talk Time – for people trying to practice their English, volunteers trained in story and conversation starters, lots of laughing and sharing
    Community organizations:
    neighborhood “First Friday” art walks include storytelling about the neighborhood along with walking tours, local artists and business open houses
    veterans groups - oral history projects (provide recording time and space, StoryCorps-like questions
    Community Justice:
    Restorative Justice; concept is that focuses on accountability as a focus in rehabilitation, encouraging offenders to talk about the ripple effect caused by their actions;
    Restorative listening: only when those most impacted are heard, acknowledged and efforts have been made to repair the harm can the community be made whole again. Once the following questions are answered - What happened?, Who was harmed?, How were they harmed?, and How can the harm be repaired? - we can identify ways to move forward.
    Juvenile Justice
    Health:
    PDX-based Boys Advocacy and Mentoring – groups designed to help boys communicate more honestly and effectively, utilizes personal storytelling techniques combines with physical activity
    Washington-based therapist/storyteller Allison Cox
    Storytelling to teach dealing with tough choices and building resiliency – teen pregnancy prevention
    Using stories to teach on health topics without confrontation (asthma, allergies, teen sex issues, elder health, domestic violence, breast cancer awareness)
  • Language exchange: Talk Time – for people trying to practice their English, volunteers trained in story and conversation starters, lots of laughing and sharing
    Community organizations:
    neighborhood “First Friday” art walks include storytelling about the neighborhood along with walking tours, local artists and business open houses
    veterans groups - oral history projects (provide recording time and space, StoryCorps-like questions
    Community Justice:
    Restorative Justice; concept is that focuses on accountability as a focus in rehabilitation, encouraging offenders to talk about the ripple effect caused by their actions;
    Restorative listening: only when those most impacted are heard, acknowledged and efforts have been made to repair the harm can the community be made whole again. Once the following questions are answered - What happened?, Who was harmed?, How were they harmed?, and How can the harm be repaired? - we can identify ways to move forward.
    Juvenile Justice
    Health:
    PDX-based Boys Advocacy and Mentoring – groups designed to help boys communicate more honestly and effectively, utilizes personal storytelling techniques combines with physical activity
    Washington-based therapist/storyteller Allison Cox
    Storytelling to teach dealing with tough choices and building resiliency – teen pregnancy prevention
    Using stories to teach on health topics without confrontation (asthma, allergies, teen sex issues, elder health, domestic violence, breast cancer awareness)
  • PPT

    1. 1. Catch Them By the Tale Storytelling Rewires Your Brain and Helps Build Community
    2. 2. THE NEUROSCIENCE OF STORYTELLING Julie M. Rosenzweig, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. Portland State University Presentation: Catch Them by the Tale: Storytelling Rewires Your Brain and Helps Build Community Public Library Association 13th Annual Conference Portland, OR March 27, 2010
    3. 3. TWO HALVES OF THE WHOLE Left-hemisphere: • logical • cause/effect reasoning • verbal processing (language) • sequential • plans and structures • controls feelings Right-hemisphere: • attachment processes • non-linear • intense emotion • body sense • social • images, themes, patterns CORPUS CALLOSUM •Connective body between hemispheres, 200 million nerve fibers. •Transfers information between left and right (interhemipsheric communication).
    4. 4. AMYGDALA “almond” • Temporal lobes • Major affective activities, especially fear--fight or flight, self- preservation • Connected important brain centers, including the neocortex and visual cortex. • Receives information first, tells you how you feel • Autism: social behavior interpretation • Depression • PTSD
    5. 5. HIPPOCAMPUS “seahorse” • Temporal lobes • Learning and memory • Converts short term to permanent memory • Affected by estrogen. • Key structure in Alzheimer's dementia. • If mood symptoms are severe, trauma- hippocampus shrinks. • Makes new neurons.
    6. 6. PREFRONTAL CORTEX (PFC) • Executive functions (dorsolateral frontal cortex) – Planning – Reasoning – Problem solving • Moral & social cognitions – Delays/inhibits immediate reaction to stimuli (orbitofrontal cortex) – Forecast consequences of current actions on future goals • Fast thinking • Long-term memories • Injuries create impairment to social abilities
    7. 7. IMPLICIT MEMORY • Amygdala, right brain primary • Present at birth • Pre-verbal • Mental models • Encodes emotions, behavioral patterns, learned habits, perceptions • Conscious attention not required for encoding • Recall void of internal sensation remembering • When activated strong feelings/body sensations
    8. 8. EXPLICIT MEMORY • Hippocampus, left brain primary • Middle of second year • Requires conscious attention for encoding • Autobiographical: sense of self & time • Factual • Recall includes internal sensation of remembering • Sense of self in the past • Creates narratives Fig. 19-7 - Long-term storage of implicit memory for sensitization involves changes shown in Fig. 19-6 plus changes in protein synthesis that result in formation of new synaptic connections. (Kandel, ER, JH Schwartz and TM Jessell (2000) Principles of Neural Science. New York: McGraw-Hill.)
    9. 9. BRAIN PLASTICITY • The ability of the brain to change throughout life (rewire). • Development, injury, trauma. • Reorganizes: new synaptic connections, new neural pathways. • New learning creates change. • Change is environmentally dependent. • Learning does not have to be within our conscious awareness.
    10. 10. STORYTELLING • “An emergent language of the heart” (Rudolf Steiner Institute). • Intrinsic and basic form of human communication. • Telling of stories in an integral and essential part of the human experience (NSMA). • Story-telling-story-listening is a multifaceted relationship.
    11. 11. STORIES • Every culture creates stories to make sense of their world. • Stories sustain connection between generations. • Stories pass on wisdom, beliefs, & values. • Stories can be cautionary tales or inspirational legends.
    12. 12. THE NARRATIVE SELF • We live within and through stories. –cultural, familial, public, private, invited, intrusive, known, unknown • Stories facilitate sense-making. • Stories have are about the past, the present, and the anticipated future.
    13. 13. “Narratives allow us to travel back and forth in time, to create imaginary or alternative realities, to re-interpret the past…because narratives extend the ‘temporary horizon’, they are crucial to the development of a ‘self’, an autobiographical self” (Dautenhahn, 2002).
    14. 14. STORIES &THE RELATIONAL BRAIN • The brain is relational and social. • Stories are relational. – early attachment experiences--basic blueprint for future relationships. • Narrative capacity allows formation & negotiation of social relationships. – empathy, mirror neurons • “Pre-verbal transactions in narrative format bootstrap a child’s development of social competence and social understanding” (Dautenhahn, 2002). • Narratives help us cope through providing meaning to interpersonal relationships.
    15. 15. STORY AND MEMORY “Through stories memory is kept alive.” “Memory anticipates the future.” (Siegel) • Memories are neural patterns in the brain. • Current neural patterns are matched with prior patterns. • Stories create predictability in our lives. • Memory links present, future, past • Meaning making takes places when the emotional story is narrated. • Mean making takes place through neural integration. • Coherent narrative.
    16. 16. STORY LISTENING Story-listeners: • Link plot, sequence, characters to their own experiences (transactional relationship). • Attribute motivates to characters, experiencing empathy for them. • Develop a relationship with the teller and the characters. • Have a shared social-emotional experience with co-listeners.
    17. 17. POSSIBILITIES Storytelling activities… • Promotes social-emotional development. • Increases empathic capacity. • Enhances meaning-making ability. • Engages learning more effectively. • Creates critical neuro-integration of emotional intelligence and cognitive abilities. • Develops listening skills. • Supports autobiographical coherence.
    18. 18. CHANGE A BRAIN CHANGE A FUTURE
    19. 19. Traditional Storytelling
    20. 20. And now forAnd now for somethingsomething completelycompletely differentdifferent
    21. 21. Storytelling with CHILDREN:  Build time into storytimes for adults to tell stories to children  Use Story Starters as part of children’s programs  Offer craft programs that support telling stories
    22. 22. Storytelling with TEENS:  Host Poetry Slams or DIY storytelling night for teens  Use ice breakers at Teen Council and book group meetings  Pay attention to local school projects  Digital storytelling
    23. 23. Storytelling with ADULTS:  Host DIY storytelling nights with a centralized theme  Use ice breakers at book group meetings  Host a Moth-style StorySlam http://www.themoth.org/storyslams
    24. 24. Storytelling and the COMMUNITY:  Language exchange groups  Local community organizations  Community Justice  Physical and Mental Health
    25. 25. Storytelling and the COMMUNITY:  Language exchange groups  Local community organizations  Community Justice  Physical and Mental Health
    26. 26. Feeling inspired? What has worked? What would you like to try?

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