OP­TI­MISM IN THE FACE OF DAN­GER

Herald Sun - Switched On - - COVER STORY - ANNA BRAIN TV WRITER

There’s some­thing wrong with Todd Samp­son’s brain.

Where you or I might per­ceive an ob­sta­cle, he sees a pos­i­tive chal­lenge. This op­ti­mism bias ex­plains why he went ahead with a danger­ous high wire walk de­spite be­ing badly in­jured while mak­ing a sec­ond sea­son of Re­design My Brain.

“What peo­ple don’t know, be­cause it wasn’t cov­ered in the show, is that I was al­ready re­ally badly in­jured,” Samp­son says.

“I was train­ing at six me­tres a cou­ple of weeks be­fore and took a fall, re­ally bad. I had a level two tear of my ab­dom­i­nals, and I tore my left ro­ta­tor cuff, and my right bi­cep. It re­ally messed me up, phys­i­cally.”

Ever the op­ti­mist, Samp­son chose not to tell any­one.

“I didn’t tell the pro­duc­tion com­pany. I went to the doc­tor, and, of course, the rec­om­men­da­tion was ‘don’t do the show’, but I kept that quiet as well. So then I just tried to heal my­self, and trained around it. Luck­ily it worked.”

In the three-part se­ries, Samp­son tests the science of mak­ing the brain more adapt­able, sharp­en­ing the senses and man­ag­ing fear. He trav­elled the globe, tack­ling feats such as climb­ing a 120m rock face blind­folded. It’s hard to watch in parts, and pre­sum­ably would have kept his wife awake at night.

“She doesn’t know,” Samp­son ad­mits. “She hasn’t seen any­thing. She knew I was do­ing a high­wire, of course, and she very quickly said ‘How’s our in­sur­ance?’ But she doesn’t know the de­tails.

“I didn’t want to scare (the kids) too much. I’m go­ing to sit with them and watch the show ... The thing they’re go­ing to love the most is see­ing me get beaten up.”

Know­ing now that he has a sci­en­tif­i­cally proven dis­re­gard for dan­ger, would he do it all again? “Uh, yes. I know I should say no. Com­mon sense says, ‘say no’, but my mind says ‘ab­so­lutely’.” RE­DESIGN MY BRAIN, ABC, THURS­DAY, 8.30PM

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