Episode 37. The creative joy of exploring the human brain with Alex Cayco-Gajic
Play • 52 min

Welcome back!

Season 3 starts with an exploration of the human brain, no less!, with Alex Cayco-Gajic, a junior professor at the Group for Neural Theory at the prestigious school, l’École Normale Supérieure, in Paris.

Alex is interested in how different brain regions coordinate during motor and cognitive behaviours and has talked about her teaching and research with such passion and eloquence during our lessons, that I decided to invite her on the podcast to talk about the human brain, but also what makes her work so intensely creative.

She describes taking a leap from applied mathematics to embrace the messiness and frequent change of pace of systems neuroscience, where the frontier of knowledge is constantly moving and boundaries on previous theories are constantly being pushed, leading her to review her own assumptions and methods on a regular basis and to come up with new creative approaches to problem-solving.

Through striking examples, including my favourite, the glowing neuron, Alex not only shares her excitement about her work, but gives us a vivid and engaging picture of a field, which often seems daunting and impenetrable. We talk about the link between basic science and applied research, machine learning, language acquisition, ethics, what it’s like to work in an interdisciplinary department, but also the resilience, flexibility, and adaptability needed in her work, which often makes her feel like she’s riding one exciting wave after another.

Just like my conversation with maths teacher, Rob Leslie, helped us see mathematics in a whole new creative light, this is an opportunity to explore science, leaving behind our assumptions and experience from school, to discover what it’s like, and what it feels like, to explore one of the most complex subjects ever studied, the human brain.

Alex's website

The Guardian article on artificial intelligence

Alex's book recommendations


A maths teacher can be creative. So can a financial adviser, a community builder, and a yoga teacher. Not to mention a speed painter, a potter, or an actor!

Creativity is everywhere and I love nothing more than to explore it in The Creativity for All Podcast, either by focusing on a theme – such as perfectionism, feeding your creative brain, or the pressure to be creative – in my solo episodes, or through my conversations with all manner of creative people.

I want to challenge the perception of creativity and, in the process, debunk many myths attached to it: it's painful, for artists and the chosen few, etc.

My guests and I are keen to zoom in and dissect the origin of an idea, the impulse that makes us engage with our own creativity, with the hope that it will inspire listeners to get creative too.

My podcast is designed for anyone who’s already being creative, or is tempted to use their creativity, in particular those of you who think they are not creative or can never be. I would love to change your mind!

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