28 episodes

Neuroscience-based strategies for encouraging growth mindset, creativity, emotion regulation and resilience.

Mindset Neuroscience Podcast Stefanie Faye

    • Health & Fitness
    • 4.9 • 86 Ratings

Neuroscience-based strategies for encouraging growth mindset, creativity, emotion regulation and resilience.

    Season 2 Ep 12 - Moral Injury, Forgiveness and Cognitive Flexibility

    Season 2 Ep 12 - Moral Injury, Forgiveness and Cognitive Flexibility

    Moral injury is not a danger- or fear-based response to an event.  Moral Injury is tied to a sense of betrayal, a breaking of social trust, and transgression of one’s values.


    “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;

    the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

    -Khalil Gibran


    Is it possible to take a painful and negative event from our past, and 're-purpose' it to become an empowering feature of our story, of our identity?

    The process of re-organizing neural circuits to integrate a negative past event into a more complex and mature perspective is tied to cognitive flexibility.  This flexibility is a major aspect of the healing process for moral injury.

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    What is Moral Injury?

    I offered an overview of moral injury in the last article, but here’s a quick recap...

    As  Jonathan Shay defines it,

    "moral injury occurs when there’s a betrayal of ‘what’s right’, either by a person in authority or oneself, and in a high stakes situation."

    Litz and colleagues divide moral injury into three types: 

    * bearing witness to,

    * perpetrating, or

    * failing to prevent

    events that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.


    As we see from studies by pioneering researchers such as Ruth Lanius, Moral Injury is an emerging frontier in neuroscience and psychology to help us understand...

    * humans as a socially cooperative species

    * the importance of social trust and what happens when those bonds are broken

    * the importance of cognitive and psychological flexibility.


    What's beautiful about the exploration of moral injury is that it helps us find ways to bring negative events into a new light.  In doing so, it exposes resilient and powerful aspects of the human response to stress.  The processes used to navigate moral injury shed light on how to help help all of us be more empowered and find new ways to contribute to the greater whole.

    As we talk about moral injury, it’s also helpful to explore the idea of morality 

    What is morality?

    Jonathan Haidt, a professor of moral and political psychology at NYU describes morality as

    “interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make cooperative social life possible."

    • 50 min
    Season 3 Ep 4 - Embodied Cognition and Learning

    Season 3 Ep 4 - Embodied Cognition and Learning

    Learning is a gateway to power and freedom

    Learning increases our degrees of freedom by giving us new ways to move, communicate and adapt to challenges and capitalize on opportunities.


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    True learning is a sacred process that is not honored in how typical classrooms are run.  

    I have seen many kids begin to believe that something is wrong with them. Not because they are unable to learn, but because of the teachers’ and education system’s outdated understanding of how humans actually learn and optimize their functioning.

    On a deeper level, because of outdated and ineffective education models that exist in schools, I think many of us were not given a chance to truly tap into our unique brilliance, and the effects of this linger in us today.

    The highlights of my life have been working with young people and watching them light up as they recognize their capacities to learn.  I love teaching them the magnificent systems-logic that exists in the world and in their bodies for them to use for their own sense of power and agency.

    It was an honor to speak with two professors who align with this and are taking action to transform and disrupt education as we currently know it.


    In this episode, Drs. Sheila Macrine and Jennifer Fugate and I explore how our cognitive and learning processes are embodied as we discuss their book, Movement Matters: How Embodied Cognition Informs Teaching and Learning.


    Their website is: embodiedcognitionandlearning.com



    An example from the Movement Matters book is an expert bassoon player.  When this expert musician thinks of ‘bassoon’, their entire brain lights up with activity that simulates what it’s like to feel the smoothness of the instrument, the vibration of the sounds, etc. as they hear and play the instrument.

    Someone who has never played that instrument will not have the same areas light up when they think about a bassoon - there will be categories and words associated with ‘bassoon’, such as instrument or music, but that embodied, sensorimotor anchor of knowledge will not be there.  To learn something well enough to apply it, personalize and use it, we need to ‘play’ with the world, interact with it using our bodies and senses.

    As Dr. Fugate says in the interview, “the richer the initial experience , the richer the information that can be used for the simulation”.  Using more of our senses (including interoceptive and proprioceptive senses) during the learning process gives the brain-body more data to use later.


    Embodied, Enactive, Embedded, Extended

    The idea of this process is aligned with 4E cognition. As described by Dr. Shaun Gallagher, this framework proposes that “cognition is not just in the head. it's something that involves the body in general and also the situation of the body in the environment …”

    As Schiavio and van der Schyff (2018) describe, there are 4 components of 4E cognition:

    * Embodied: Cognition cannot be fully described in terms of abstract mental processes (i.e., in terms of representations). Rather, it must involve the entire body of the living system (brain and body).

    • 1 hr 27 min
    Season 3 Ep 3 - Socio-Biomechanics of Resilience, Trust and Flow

    Season 3 Ep 3 - Socio-Biomechanics of Resilience, Trust and Flow

    “Once again, the world seems to be less about objects than about interactive relationships.”

    ― Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics


    Studying human brains while a person is immobile and alone in an mri machine can only get us so far in truly understanding human brains and behaviors.  Because optimal brain development requires serve-return exchanges with conspecifics (members of the same species), affiliative neuroscience moves us into an exciting new era of understanding.

    Affiliative neuroscience is an emerging field that combines neurophysiology (including neuroendocrine and EEG hyper-scanning*) attachment theory, and highlights the evolution of social acts within mammals, nonhuman primates, and humans.

    My interview with expert rock-climber Alma Esteban parallels affiliative neuroscience research and how we coordinate, move and attune to others as a way to solve problems and ascend to new heights. Before we go into that, let's take a look at Affiliative Neuroscience

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    Much of the current research on resilience focuses on fear physiology and stress neurobiology.  Affiliative neuroscience seeks to understand this as well but also what cultivates strength and stamina.  Within this, pioneer researcher Dr. Ruth Feldman defines resilience as the "hallmark of human achievement", which includes the ability to*:

    Face life’s hardships with courage and perseverance

    Enjoy intimacy and wider social circles

    Have empathy and compassion to others’ misfortune

    Foster a sense of industry and agency towards long-term goals

    Access creativity, vitality and meaning

    Be free of debilitating symptoms despite early adversity or current trauma

    Affiliative neuroscience points to coordinated actions of sociality as a mechanism for increasing endurance, diversity and adaptation, thus optimizing us as a species.

    *Feldman, R. (2020) What is resilience: an affiliative neuroscience approach, World Psychiatry ;19:132–150)

    Humans are literally, neurophysiologically, 'better together' than alone

    Social neuroscience research shows that we achieve goals more efficiently and accurately when we coordinate our motor behavior with someone we have a long-term bond with, particularly couples.  One of the reasons for this comes from having high levels of exposure to the others’ patterns of movement, which helps each brain create better predictions and automations for reading and responding to signals.  Trusting, attuned, joint-problem-solving partnerships optimize our individual and collective functioning. Unfortunately, as children, many of us did not have parents with this type of partnership for us to use as guides for our own future relationships. We need more models of this for future generations.

    Affiliative neuroscience shows us that bonding and affiliation are embedded in our DNA.  Ignoring this fact will result in continued mental health challenges and depletion of well being and functioning.  We are wired to seek out connection.  This means that if a person is not getting it in their physically proximal environment, there is a good chance that they will seek it out in other ways.  For many people today, this will happen online.

    • 1 hr 40 min
    Season 3 Ep 2 - Natural Intelligence & Embodied Mindsets

    Season 3 Ep 2 - Natural Intelligence & Embodied Mindsets

    The moment you learned to walk, the entire social and power dynamic between you and your caregivers changed.

    When you were an infant and lacked mobility, your caregiver would easily be able to track where you were. If they left you in the crib, they could be pretty much certain, you would still be there when they returned.

    As you began to move out of their reach, your caregiver needed to take on the role of ‘socialization agent’ and inhibitor of action to protect you from walking into danger or moving too far away where you were no longer visible.

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    This meant two things:

    Your caregiver would start saying NO more and prohibiting your exploration

    You needed a way to stay safe as you moved physically away from your protector

    Which then resulted in two major changes:

    You and your caregiver would begin to have power struggles as you increased your degrees of freedom

    You would need to ‘check in’ to your caregiver to know if something was safe or dangerous.  This is called Social Referencing

    One key way a caregiver ‘prohibited’ your action is through a sudden disruption in internal state attunement. 

    Each time you began to explore your environment, your mobilization-energizing systems would have been active.   Depending on each scenario, your caregiver would need to use voice and face to get you to stop going too far.  The way to do this is to put a brake on your energized state.  Human caregivers do this by using the word NO and making facial gestures that indicate disapproval of your actions. This is the mechanism of 'shame' - an inhibitor of interest-excitement and enjoyment-joy to reduce exposure or exploration (Tomkins, 1963; Schore, 2003)*.

    *more on this in an upcoming article


    How this relates to you now...

    Every caregiver has different levels of comfort and anxiety related to safety, danger and exploration

    Their comfort levels are based on their past experiences. Depending on what a caregiver perceives as dangerous, they will use a lot of prohibitory mechanisms to keep a child ‘safe’ (according to their perception).

    What the people around you were afraid of, disgusted by or avoided may not be things that are necessarily dangerous or inherently 'bad' for us.

    These include social types of danger such as rejection, failure, looking stupid, not fitting in, meeting new people, encounters with people who are very different or unfamiliar.  Another example I’ve witnessed in certain caregivers is an over-protection against germs, scraped knees, insects, and animals that will not cause them harm

    If any of these things feel aversive to you, part of your aversion may have some roots in the social referencing activity that happened between you and the people around you most when you were growing up.

    Your caregivers’ and social circles' perceptions of these things created an internal state within them which they would then transmit in the form of facial expressions, smell, voice frequencies, body posture, etc. - that became the reference point you used for your own algorithms of aversion, avoidance or approach. This is extremely important for actual dangers because as a child you also were not afraid of running into the street, sharp objects or hot stoves. Instead of learning in a way that can hurt or kill us,

    • 45 min
    Season 3 Ep 1 - Biomechanics of Human Communication and Social Intelligence

    Season 3 Ep 1 - Biomechanics of Human Communication and Social Intelligence

    "transformation begins with two commitments:

    the courage to try new

    things and act in new ways

    the honesty to no longer

    hide from or lie to ourselves".

    - yung pueblo


    Much of my work to help others has come from integrating neuroscience research and application, and the journey of learning how to navigate life, particularly when it comes to challenges rooted in childhood experiences of unsafety... an unfolding work in progress.

    The last two seasons of podcasts focused on the internal world - emotions, sensations, and the interconnectedness of systems of past, present and future.

    This season, I'll be focusing on biomechanics and motor systems.

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    Movement and Communication: the basis of your survival

    Your first experience of life was in a liquid environment. There was nowhere for you to go, nothing in particular you needed to do to get your needs met. You floated and ingested.

    As you left the womb, you entered a new environment. The cord was cut. Air separated you from all things. You needed to find a way to get your needs met, and deal with gravity, inertia and momentum.  To do this, your machinery equipped you with two mechanisms:  movement and communication.

    Movement meant that, over time, you would move the bones of your body to grasp, climb, crawl and locomote.

    Communication meant that you could increase your chances of survival by sending and receiving signals with others to benefit from their abilities and resources that you were not able to obtain yourself.

    These two mechanisms, movement and communication, are what kept you alive.

    They’re what keep you alive today.  They are also the basis of vibrations that you send out into the world.

    Movement and communication are mechanical translations of your internal world into external vibrations*

    * Movement and communication are different than thinking, feeling and sensing;

    * They are mechanical outputs that cause vibrations in the air around you

    * These vibrations are caused by moving bones via skeletal muscles, such as in your voice, face, breath, hands, and body.

    * These vibrations can be perceived by others

    * These mechanical outputs are translations of what is going inside of you

    *Blood vessels, internal fluids and organs are all moving within you at every moment.  These are internal movements that send subtle frequencies into the air around you - detectable to us in unconscious and sometimes conscious ways (such as smell, pupil dilation and blushing), and sometimes by instruments we create that amplify the waves (eg., heart beat, brainwaves). These play a role in motor commands, but are different than movement and communication in the sense I am using, which is tied to voluntary motor control. 

    The control mechanisms of Initiation and Inhibition have powerful impacts on our daily life, mental health and relationships

    As we practice and understand the machinery of our body and what we can control and adjust, the better we can get at initiating when we want to initiate and inhibiting when we want to inhibit. This applies not only to movement of our entire bodies, but also the movements we make as we communicate with each other

    When it comes to initiation and movement, we can learn to move in ways that get closer to what we ...

    • 58 min
    Season 2 Episode 11 - The Neuroscience of Attachment and Emotion Regulation

    Season 2 Episode 11 - The Neuroscience of Attachment and Emotion Regulation

    Attachment theory is not a 'theory'.. it's a part of our neurophysiological operating system

    Attachment is a way of seeking proximity to an attachment figure. 

    It’s a biobehavioral adaptation that helps us regulate ourselves and explore new frontiers. This in turn helps us achieve higher levels of complexity and adaptation to a variety of environments, particularly in the social realm.   Allan Schore states that although traditionally attachment theory was emphasized in the field of behavior and emotion, it is now supported by enough research from neurophysiology that attachment theory can simply be called ‘regulation theory’. 

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    Attachment doesn’t mean co-dependency

    This may sound counterintuitive, but our attachment to a secure base when we are young actually helps us become more independent.   Knowing we have an emotionally attuned, available and regulated base to return to and turn to in times of distress helps regulate our immature nervous system to tolerate a more expansive array of emotions and situations until our own more sophisticated brain and body architecture can help us do this for ourselves and with a wider variety of people.  



    One of the keys of secure attachment is resonance, attunement and availability. 

    The availability and attunement of an attachment figure is important during a wide array of emotional experiences.  Their availability is particularly important during times of an infant’s distress (Neufeld).  

    Because of how brains mature over time, the infant or young child does not have access to self-regulating features (Harvard Center on the Developing Child).  It must outsource these to an attachment figure.  This is a non-negotiable of being human.  

    This system of attunement and availability during various situations and affective states helps create bonding behaviors between child and attachment figures through a release of oxytocin.

    These oxytocin-releasing behavioral and neurochemical bonding mechanisms get disrupted when an attachment figure is:

    * physically or mentally ill

    * depressed, anxious, addicted

    * verbally/emotionally/physically abusive

    * threatening or violent

    * consumed by other relationships

    * geographically distant due to jobs or travel. (Feldman)


    When an attachment figure is misattuned, unavailable or threatening, the child does not experience micro-behaviors and signa...

    • 1 hr 7 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
86 Ratings

86 Ratings

Mark Sargent ,

Love Her Show!

Hit play, pause, switch to Notes on my iPhone, write notes, resume playing the show, pause, write more notes. That’s how good this show is!

The interviews are great, and I really like her briefing the neuroscience topics before the interview starts.
It gives me context that I can play with, while listening to the interview.

The Music breaks seem to follow a “learning pace” that buffer the topics and help with my retention and reflection of what I just learned. 👍👍

She is an excellent source for helping me write my curriculum and articulate to my clients (in a way that makes sense) the “mental aspects” of survival.
Awesome work! Thank you 🙏

DeepDarkSee ,

Wonderfully nerdy and useful!

I love understanding more of how the brain works, and Stephanie brings a fascinating perspective as a biological neuroscientist and a counseling practitioner. She addresses human behaviors and needs from multiple perspectives, from how we are wired, our learned behaviors, our drive to address our wounds, and our needs for socializing, contact, approval, and play. “Hey baby, wanna get together and coregulate?“

The first two seasons went deep in supporting practitioners, and as an individual on a personal growth path they weren’t an exact match for me, although they still offered a lot of value. I’ve just completed the second episode of the third season and I’m excited to have found virtually all of the content directly applicable to my personal growth path.

coalesceterol ,

Excellent podcast

This podcast has been an excellent addition to my life. My life has been touched by so many of things she discusses. If you have challenges understanding trauma’s, moral injury, anxieties, depression, and attachment then this is a podcast you ought to listen to. Her perspective is one that is based on neuroscience and is still compassionate as it’s obvious she has dealt personally with people who have had challenges getting to the root of their issues. It’s been great to hear her speak using science to point to the hope people should have as they tackle issues in their lives that are seemingly overwhelming. Thank you Stefanie!

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