I hacked my brain and wrote the next theory of relativity

Monday, 24 March, 2014

Brain hacking. Does it really enhance our abilities? Some people sure seem to think so:

Lee was an early member of a DIY community that’s sprung up around a technology called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). This noninvasive way to jolt brain cells is being studied in labs and clinics for its potential to reveal how our brains function – and perhaps to augment abilities or treat disorders. Unlike most other brain-tweaking technologies, tDCS doesn’t require expensive equipment; all it takes is a 9-volt battery, some simple circuits, and a couple of electrodes. Consequently, it didn’t take long for so-called biohackers to band together and come up with schematics for devices.

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Fuller minds may take longer to recall than not so full minds

Friday, 7 February, 2014

Something to bookmark for later reference… older minds aren’t really subject to memory loss, they’re simply storing far more data than younger minds, that’s why it takes, or may take, longer to retrieve, or recall, certain items of information:

Since educated older people generally know more words than younger people, simply by virtue of having been around longer, the experiment simulates what an older brain has to do to retrieve a word. And when the researchers incorporated that difference into the models, the aging “deficits” largely disappeared. “What shocked me, to be honest, is that for the first half of the time we were doing this project, I totally bought into the idea of age-related cognitive decline in healthy adults,” the lead author, Michael Ramscar, said by email. But the simulations, he added, “fit so well to human data that it slowly forced me to entertain this idea that I didn’t need to invoke decline at all.”

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Bad dreams can be categorised, and there’s more than one type

Thursday, 6 February, 2014

Those who like to dismantle what goes through their minds as they sleep will be interested to know that nightmares and bad dreams appear to conform to several themes or narratives… as if one type wasn’t enough.

The third most popular narrative thread for both nightmares and bad dreams was “failure or helplessness.” This was defined as: “Difficulty or incapacity of the dreamer to attain a goal, including being late, lost, unable to talk, losing or forgetting something, and making mistakes.”

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Even making simple choices is a battle for the brain

Friday, 6 December, 2013

If you’ve ever wondered why making sometimes quite simple decisions can be oddly difficult, here’s something of an explanation… regions of our brain would appear to be in conflict with each other when it comes to selecting one option over another.

“Different brain regions may be nudging you to go in one direction or another,” Floresco said. “I like to use the analogy that there are battles going on in your brain pushing you one way or another. What our results suggest is that this nucleus, the lateral habenula, helps this circuitry reach a definitive decision and/or helps you implement it once there is an apparent ‘winner’ in this battle.”

I’m not sure what’s better. Knowing that I’m not actually indecisive, despite all appearances, or the fact that my mind is at war with itself…

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Delete your alarm clock with a steady sleep routine

Tuesday, 26 November, 2013

You could dispense with an alarm clock, were you to go to sleep around the same time each night, every day, and wake up at the same hour the next day. Such a routine allows for the optimisation of a protein called PER, that regulates sleep, largely ensuring you wake at the same time every day.

If you follow a diligent sleep routine – waking up the same time every day – your body learns to increase your PER levels in time for your alarm. About an hour before you’re supposed to wake up, PER levels rise (along with your body temperature and blood pressure). To prepare for the stress of waking, your body releases a cocktail of stress hormones, like cortisol. Gradually, your sleep becomes lighter and lighter.

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Are we left or right brained, or rather top or bottom brained?

Thursday, 21 November, 2013

It’s not so much whether the analytical left, or creative right, side of our brain dominates – an idea, it should be noted, some neuroscientists have their doubts about – rather it depends on how the systems of the top and bottom parts of our craniums interact with each other:

First, the top parts and the bottom parts of the brain have differ­ent functions. The top brain formulates and executes plans (which often involve deciding where to move objects or how to move the body in space), whereas the bottom brain classifies and interprets incoming information about the world. The two halves always work together; most important, the top brain uses information from the bottom brain to formulate its plans (and to reformulate them, as they unfold over time). Second, according to the theory, people vary in the degree that they tend to rely on each of the two brain systems for functions that are optional (i.e., not dictated by the immediate situation): Some people tend to rely heavily on both brain systems, some rely heavily on the bottom brain system but not the top, some rely heavily on the top but not the bottom, and some don’t rely heavily on either system.

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Getting the most from coffee… it’s all about the timing

Tuesday, 12 November, 2013

It is possible many coffee drinkers are partaking of the heart-starting beverage at the wrong time of day… aligning consumption with our circadian clocks could make for better results.

Drug tolerance is an important subject, especially in the case of caffeine since most of us overuse this drug. Therefore, if we are drinking caffeine at a time when your cortisol concentration in the blood is at its peak, you probably should not be drinking it. This is because cortisol production is strongly related to your level of alertness and it just so happens that cortisol peaks for your 24 hour rhythm between 8 and 9 AM on average (Debono et al., 2009). Therefore, you are drinking caffeine at a time when you are already approaching your maximal level of alertness naturally.

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If you can day-dream it, then there’s more chance you can be it

Monday, 21 October, 2013

Since I like to feature at least one motivational/productivity related link here each week… daydreaming, and playing video games also it seems, can boost our confidence, and a confident person is a productive person, right? Daydreaming may bolster confidence, but its real power however appears to lie in the way it helps solve problems:

Researcher Jonathan Schooler of the University of California, Santa Barbara believes that our brains are often working on “task-unrelated” ideas and solutions when we daydream. That could explain studies showing that prolific mind wanderers score higher on tests of creativity. And new research on the default network of the brain similarly found that our minds make unlikely connections between ideas, memories, and experiences when we are at rest and not focused on a specific task or project.

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Five ways to boost your intelligence

Friday, 18 October, 2013

Sure, the devil may in the detail as it were, but by doing more of the following you can significantly boost your levels of intelligence, says US Behaviour Therapist Andrea Kuszewski:

  • Seek novelty
  • Challenge yourself
  • Think creatively
  • Do things the hard way
  • Network

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There is no right or left side of the brain, matter of fact it’s all brain

Monday, 26 August, 2013

So, if you’re a creative type you must be “right brained”, and if you are more analytical, “left brained”. I have to say I’ve always enjoyed entertaining this notion, even if I’ve never found it completely convincing.

I like to think I’m creative, but people often tell me I’m analytical. I have four spreadsheets open, crunching an array of numbers, as I write this, so maybe they’re onto something.

Matters of my mind aside though, that likely defies any logical way of defining it, recent studies have seemingly debunked the idea of dominant left or right brain hemispheres having this sort of sway over our personalities, or thought processes. Whatever you are, creative or analytical, it’s the result of a combined, left, right, brain effort:

None of this means that some people aren’t more creative, while others more analytical and logical, just that it’s not accurate to say that creative people are more “right-brained”. It’s not their over-active right-brain that’s making them more creative; it’s their whole brain.

That has to make me creative in an analytical way maybe.

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