Neuro TrekksTrek I: Introduction to Neuroscience
This trek provides a simple overview of neuroanatomy to familiarize the attendee with basic terms and principles. Attendees will learn about the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems as well as additional details about the location and basic functions of primary cortical and subcortical regions. It's a good idea to take this trek before any others, but it's also not essential.

Perception and Cognition
Trek PC1: The Neuroscience of Touch

Touch informs us about the world around us, plays an important role in social and intimate relationships, and is essential for our well-being. It varies in terms of flavor, intensity, sensitivity, pleasantness, awareness, and its effects on our feelings. In this trek we will explore these factors in such a way that encourages our development as touch-positive individuals in a touch-negative culture.
Trek PC2: The Neuroscience of Visual Awareness
For most people, vision plays a major role in one's daily experience. The act of seeing seems to be a relatively simple matter of taking in what's there from the outside world. But there's more to vision than what meet's the eye, and what that is has vast implications for the faith that we place in our subjective experiences and our view of Reality. We'll look at the wiring of the visual system, visual illusions, and neurological syndromes that provide us with hints about the complexity that lies beneath our seemingly straightforward visual experience.
Trek PC3: The Neuroscience of Patternicity and Synchronicity
The term 'patterns' may bring up images of wallpaper or tile flooring, but in psychology it has a much broader meaning. We are constantly in the process of detecting patterns in our perceptual and cognitive realms, or finding the signal amidst the noise. Sometimes it's a "Where's Waldo?" sort of task such as seeing a tiger amidst the grass, but it also comes into play when trying to determining causality, such as what food made you sick or what behavior made you well. What is the basis for this pattern-detecting skill, why do we need it, and what happens if this skill becomes overactive to the point where the noise gets erroneously labeled as the signal?
Trek PC4: The Neuroscience of Memory (or Where did I put my Keys?)

Why do we remember some things and forget other things? Are all memories hidden away in dusty neural boxes somewhere, waiting to be reopened? Are they accurate enough to be trusted? What would life be like if we didn't have memory? We'll discuss the different types of memory and the neural basis for each of them, dispel some myths, and consider the role memory plays in how we define who we are.

The Self, Behavior, and Happiness
Trek BH1: The Neuroscience of Selfing and Choosing (or Your Brain Pondering Itself)

The question "Who am I?" has been around for awhile, and though we'd love to answer that question in 2 hours, you'll have to settle for what the latest in neuroscience offers on this topic. Who is that "I" that is involved in all that wanting, wishing, doing, choosing, observing, and being? What is the relationship between that self and neural activity? Is the "I" in "I like sunshine" the same thing as the "me" in "She pushed me"? We'll look at the neural basis for personality, body image, out of body experiences, multimodal integration, and dissociative identity disorders to provide some insights into this issue.
Trek BH2: The Neuroscience of Attention and Awareness
Attention doesn’t receive a lot of attention outside of neuroscience, but it’s a complex skill that is essential in all aspects of our lives. What is attention, exactly? Close inspection reveals that there are many different types of it—following a conversation in a crowded room is different than standing watch all night or observing bodily sensations during a vipassana meditation. To confound the issue further, terms such as awareness and consciousness are often used to mean similar things. We’ll elucidate the differences, discuss the phenomenon of flow states and consider why certain attentional states are associated with well-being.
Trek BH3: The Neuroscience of Emotions, Empathy, and Happiness (or Your Brain on Peace, Love, and Understanding) 

In recent years, neuroscientists have focused their fMRIs onto the brains of meditators and happy people. Such studies are often reported in the media, but understanding how those results relate to ones personal experiences as a meditator or just a human being can be challenging, particularly when neuroscientists and meditators often use the same terminology to refer to completely different phenomena and when there exist so many different types of meditation. In this workshop we will provide a brief account of the neuroanatomy relevant to the topics of happiness, attention, feelings, emotions, suffering, and meditation, and we will outline a potential neuroscientific model for how meditation, massage, and other practices may create more joy and wellbeing.

Movement and Posture
Trek MP1: The Neuroscience and Anatomy of Movement

The ability to locomote is a primary difference between plants and animals. We have voluntary control over all of our skeletal muscles, but most of the time we engage our muscles without voluntary awareness or control. Despite the ease with which movement seems to happen for us, there is a staggering complexity of sensory and motor pathways in the nervous system that have to integrate in order for everything to run smoothly. Neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinsons show us what happens when one of those pathways is affected. Various practices exist (yoga, dance, sports, massage, the alexander technique, etc) to promote flexibility and posture, with each applying different degrees of focus on the role of muscles, fascia, and proprioceptive neural signaling to achieve these goals. Can we integrate all of them to develop a unified theory of movement and posture? This class is a beginning towards that end.

Sexuality and Relationships
Trek SR1: The Neuroscience of Sexuality

In this trek we will be exploring sexuality from a primarily neuroscientific perspective, with topics ranging from not-so-basic genital anatomy to the neuroscience of facial and pheromonal attraction, orgasm, interoception (feelings), and body maps.
Trek SR2: The Neuroscience of Intimate Relationships
Intimate relationships involve a wide variety of qualities (e.g. lust, romantic love, attachment, compassion) and get combined in various ways to create many different relationship forms (e.g monogamy, open relationships, swinging, friends with benefits, casual sex, and polyamory). We will discuss a possible neuroscientific framework for understanding these forms in terms of different combinations of qualities with the hope of creating a common language for communicating effectively about these topics with others. We’ll also consider what it means to be compatible with someone, how we subjectively assess this, and what happens when our subjective interoceptive assessments (feelings) don’t line up with objective reality, with the hope that such an understanding can assist us in making better relationship choices.
Trek SR3: Neolithic Relationships
In this workshop we delve into the lifestyles, anatomy, and sexuality of our distant human ancestors and our nearest primate cousins (as discussed in Sex at Dawn) and consider their implications for our relationships in modern society. This class builds on the previous workshop’s discussion of the function of lust, romantic love, and attachment in relationships by comparing the roles these functions played for Neolithic foragers in tribal units versus recent humans in nuclear families and considering how those functions could change in healthy, 21st century relationships.
Trek SR4: The Neuroscience of Social Permaculture
Creating sustainable, thriving ecosystems is relatively easy, but creating sustainable, thriving, human relationship systems is much more challenging. Permaculture is concerned with the design of sustainable systems and is usually applied to systems such as gardens, farms, cities, or whole societies. Small social systems, particularly intimate relationships, are not often discussed within a permaculture framework, even though human relationships are often the weakest link in the sustainability chain. So in this trek, we apply the same permaculture principles that we use to design and implement an ecological food forest in order to design and implement sustainable, thriving, human relationships (or a social food forest). For instance, we consider what the functions are in human relationship systems, and how the concepts of zero-waste, diversity, and guilds would apply to optimizing the selection and arrangement of the system’s elements. Because a social system is far more abstract than an ecological system, we keep somatic homeostasis and neuroscientific models of behavior as the basis for real, not metaphorical, energy exchanges. We also consider what the relationship is between homeostasis and relational compatibility and how our dedication to the former can impede our attainment of the latter. By integrating a permaculture perspective into how we think about relationships and becoming aware of the neural basis for our motivations, we can be better designers of thriving relationships.
Trek SR5: Wired to Love: Explorations in Mindfulness and Interpersonal Neurobiology
Take a look at relationships through the lens of neuroscience. Through interactive discussion and exercises, we’ll discover how we seem to be wired to love.

• Neurobiology: an integrated approach to compatibility, feelings, & drives (lust, attraction, attachment, compassion)

• Emotions: how they arise and propagate to others

• Meditation: how it enhances networks relevant to well-being

• The Self: who, or what, is this “I” that loves,
and how do self illusions foster romantic delusions?

• Evolution & Ancestors: how the bonds amongst our nearest ape cousins and our close-knit, foraging ancestors inform our relationships today

Integrative and Experiential
Trek IE1: Experiential Neuroscience
This workshop is an interactive, participant-driven exploration of neuroanatomy and neuroscientific principles that doesn’t happen in a typical lecture-discussion format. Think of it as neuroscience improv wherein participants offer personal experiences and we bring together all of the neurological steps involved in making this experience happen, first by plain description, and then implemented through movement and roleplay. If you’ve ever wanted to be an amygdala, this is your chance.

Politics and Society
Trek PS1: The Neuroscience of Politics and Sustainable Society

Is there something about one's brain that makes one conservative or liberal, or is the causality in the other direction? Could an MRI determine whom you voted for? Can we have a sustainable society that's polarized? Is it possible that our own minds contain cognitive blindspots that contribute to this polarization, and if so, what can we do to avoid such pitfalls? We'll discuss how hope and change begins in our own neural tissue.


This is a full-length course on Neuroanatomy. The neuroanatomy of every sensory system, as well as the motor system, limbic system, memory, attention, and the autonomic and enteric nervous systems are included. Quizzes and exams are given that test for knowledge of structure and function, with each exam requiring identification of neural structures. This is a simpler version of what would be required for medical students. It does not cover pathologies. Assignments are online. Distance course not available.


“This class is shattering my illusions.”

“I’ve never been so energized about learning anything before.”

“Mark is great at maintaining focus while also allowing the class to evolve somewhat organically.”

“Mark handles the learning environment in a calm and open manner, and is very effective at inviting student interaction.”

“Mark is a wonderful, knowledgeable teacher. The way he teaches is very approachable and accessible.”

“Mark's variety of teaching methods made learning large volumes of info a lot easier.”

“Mark's presence was supportive in so many ways I can't count.”

“Mark's neuroscience background brought a fascinating light to it all.”

“This class changed my perspective on life--massage, connection, human nature.”

“Mark is an outstanding teacher. He is engaging, fun, patient, kind, very knowledgable, and explains things well.“

“[Mark’s] class was extremely well organized, flexible, and well presented.”

“The quality and quantity of information is amazing.”

“Class kept me engaged by being really fun.”

“So much information presented concisely and clearly. Marvelous!”


Various massage and yoga programs in Hawaii and the West Coast.

To register for a course, please call 808-345-9069. Payments can be made in advance via paypal.

To schedule a course in your area, or to augment your own massage or yoga training program with one of the above courses, contact Dr. Olson at 808-345-9069. All workshops can be customized in such a way to best fit your program's needs. Options such as consecutive 2-hr trekks over a period of weeks, as well as 1-day and multi-day events are all feasible.

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