The Science Behind UrbanTOX

Synapse Connections

We believe that travel has the ability to transform lives. It’s a channel for self-discovery and provides the ability for new avenues and directions to be presented for your life. Options once never considered seemingly become possible. And there’s science to back up our claims.

Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, a research psychiatrist at UCLA explains this biological phenomenon in layman’s terms. Inside every factory there are routine tasks that, once mastered, demand little thought. Similarly, in the human brain familiar tasks that require almost no conscious thought are managed with great efficiency by the basal ganglia, the “habit center of the brain.” Routine tasks such as taking a shower, buttering our toast in the morning, driving the same car on the same route to work every day—any actions that have been learned, mastered, and relegated to habit—get “shoved down” to the basal ganglia in the brain.

But, every factory also requires executives, such as the chief executive officer, to perform tasks that are less routine responsibilities comprised of negotiating, managing crises, strategic planning, and other nonconforming functions. The CEO’s job is equivalent to the complex tasks performed by the pre-frontal cortex— the part of the brain that processes new information and solves difficult problems, and like the CEO, it extracts a hefty price for its abilities.

Schwartz points out that the job of the basal ganglia is to “free up the processing resources of the frontal cortex.” So once tasks become habitual, the brain offloads these tasks. That leaves more horsepower for unfamiliar and complex tasks to be performed in the frontal cortex—the brain’s CEO.

Technology gains and comforts of our modern world have had an unfortunate side effect in that more tasks and decisions become routine or predetermined and offloaded to the basal ganglia.  Our brain’s CEO is asked to engage less, and our actions and viewpoints become highly predictable and hardened.

Travel to new destinations changes the entire context of our understanding, and forces the CEO to engage in nearly every decision, small or big.  Our CEO is asked to re-engage and process new situations and new viewpoints.  Old habits and perspectives are questioned and re-evaluated.  It is in these times that we learn deeply about ourselves and the world around us.

It is the mission and vision of UrbanTOX to create an experience in which you would be challenged to see your world in a different way, to expose you to new people, experiences, and stimuli, and to empower you to make bold steps and decisions for your life.