When he isn’t shirtless and lifting weights Todd Sampson, CEO for advertising giant Leo Burnett, is also a panellist on channel ten’s The Project, ABC’s The Gruen Transfer and The Gruen Planet. He also starring in the second season of ABC’s Redesign My Brain.
Sampson aims to use all his previous brain training and learn to face fear to achieve his ultimate challenge – a skywalk across a 3cm cable suspended between two buildings 21 floors high with minimal training.
To achieve this challenge he starts tightrope training with the help of world-famous skywalker, Nik Wallenda, and a troupe of Australian acrobats.
Neuroscientists have discovered that our brains can overcome hard-wired fears, such as fear of heights, through ‘Emersion Therapy’ – repeated exposure to scary situations. So Sampson puts himself to the test to develop this resistance.
To learn to overcome fear, Sampson abseils face first down the side of a 21 storey building, but he needs to learn to avoid panicking during his skywalk, so he travels to Boston University where Professor Todd Fachione immerses him in the virtual reality of World Viz to expose him to heights in a safe environment. Next, Sampson needs to hone his decision-making skills under stressful situations and learns to regulate his ‘optimism bias’, which may cloud his judgement. Thankfully Dr Tali Sharot, a leading expert on the science behind decision-making, is on hand to help.
Sampson then discovers that there’s a scientific basis behind mindfulness when he travels to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to meet Professor Fadel Zeidane, a leading researcher on the subject. Inspired, Sampson heads to Boston’s Harvard Medical School for mindfulness mediation training, and with the help of Dr David Vago, a Harvard neuroscientist, and an experienced Zen Buddhist Monk, Todd learns a new meditation technique.
The finale airs tonight, 8.30pm on ABC.