Science

On The Road’ Turns Brain Science Into A Gameshow

Brain Games is back—but this time Nat Geo is bringing the brain science to a neighborhood near you. Brain Games: On the Road is like a mashup of Brain Games and Family Feud that is filmed on the streets of suburban neighborhoods from a roving mobile studio.

There are 20 episodes in this season of Brain Games: On the Road—aired 4 episodes at a time over the course of five weeks. The 30-minute shows premiered on February 25, and air on National Geographic from 8pm to 10pm Eastern each Friday.

I am a fan of the concept of Brain Games because it combines entertainment with fascinating science about how the brain works and then gamifies the whole thing. The games always involve some sort of cognitive confusion that makes them more challenging. Once the game ends, a deeper explanation is shared to help you understand why or how average brains have such a hard time with these things.

Here is a clip that provides an example:

Brain Games: On the Road is hosted by Chuck Nice. You might be familiar with Chuck. He is an 18-year veteran of stand-up comedy, with a rich history in television and radio. For eight years, he provided comic relief to The Radio Chick show, bringing the funny to New York’s radio airwaves. He is the host of Buy Like A Mega Millionaire on HGTV, The Juice on Veria Living, and The Hot Ten on Centric. Nice can be regularly seen on the Today show, has guest-hosted Joy Behar: Say Anything!, and co-hosted The View. You also might know him as a co-host on the Star Talk show with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Neil is one of my personal heroes, so I will readily admit that I am jealous.

I had an opportunity to chat with Chuck about the show. There was a solid vibe right from the start as we kicked things off talking about our unseasonable weather—Chuck was experiencing unusually warm weather for New York and I was experiencing unusually cold weather for Houston in February—and how much we appreciated it. That is until we stopped to consider that it shouldn’t be that way and how unfortunate it is that we aren’t doing more as stewards of planet Earth to address the existential crisis of Climate Change. But, I digress.

Chuck explained that even though the show was filmed “on the road,” they didn’t travel as far as they might have liked to due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They constrained their travels to California.

Aside from just being generally fun and interesting, what excites Chuck about hosting this show is the science. He proclaimed that science is everything—from how your brain thinks, to the physics of getting an airplane off the ground or driving a car. “What I love about this game is, you know, the brain is kind of the final frontier. I know everybody thinks it’s space, but your brain is really the final frontier, and you don’t have any idea for the most part how your brain works. And this is great. Through games, you’re like, ‘Oh my god! That is what happens to my perception in this situation!’ Or maybe it’s happening in another situation. Or it might be like, ‘Oh my god! That was so much fun and I want to learn more about it.” So this is what I really like about the show is that we take fun games, and then turn that into actual brain science that is applicable to your everyday life.”

I have to agree. I find the underlying science very interesting, and I love to understand more about the way the brain works—and how it sort of doesn’t in some cases. The amount of stuff your brain just invents or the shortcuts your brain takes to process information is both amazing and concerning.

I don’t think Chuck believes Brain Games: On the Road is going to bring about world peace, but he does feel like it is at least a step in the right direction. “We live in a very polarized time. And a lot of it has to do with the way we think about things. What I love about showing people brain science is maybe it will alert them to why they’re kind of perceiving things the way they do. Maybe this is why I am so opposed to this or accepting of this. Or maybe what I’m looking at isn’t really what I’m looking at. And I think that is really important for you know, having healthy discourse. Now that may seem like a stretch, but that’s just how I feel.”

Check out the show on Friday nights, or stream previous episodes on Disney+.

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