Friday, 2 October, 2015
Interruptions are worse than a nuisance at the best of times, and a lost train of thought occasioned by a telephone call or whatever, may not only mean a lost idea, but can also impact on productivity. And that can begin to carry a financial cost, if it happens often enough. So, what to do? Eliminate interruptions? Good luck with that.
Scientists however think it may be possible, by way of electrical stimulation to the appropriate region of the brain, to counter the effects of interruptions, thereby leaving the brain where it left off, so to speak, and able to process whatever task it was working on, as if nothing had happened. And all, maybe, from the comfort of your open plan office cubicle.
So Blumberg and his colleagues recently decided to apply electrodes over one part of the brain that’s known to be active in shaping attention. And this area – it’s called the prefrontal cortex – plays a very important role in directing how we pay attention to different things. And the electric stimulation gave this area a little boost. The researchers then gave volunteers different tasks, interrupted them and then measured how quickly they could refocus their attention after the interruption.
neuroscience, productivity, psychology
Tuesday, 5 May, 2015
Surely thinking, as in what we all do everyday, shouldn’t come with a government health warning? Apparently though thinking, and other mental activities, may promote the growth of certain tumours, in some regions of the brain. What a truly alarming prospect…
That’s the conclusion of a paper in Cell published Thursday that showed how activity in the cerebral cortex affected high-grade gliomas, which represent about 80 percent of all malignant brain tumors in people. “This tumor is utilizing the core function of the brain, thinking, to promote its own growth,” says Michelle Monje, a researcher and neurologist at Stanford who is the paper’s senior author.
disease, health, neuroscience
Wednesday, 5 November, 2014
If you’ve ever felt that your stomach is somehow trying to communicate with you, that may be exactly what is happening. It seems our digestive system is host to our enteric nervous system (ENS), and its function is not solely restricted to matters of digestion:
Embedded in the wall of the gut, the enteric nervous system (ENS) has long been known to control digestion. Now it seems it also plays an important role in our physical and mental well-being. It can work both independently of and in conjunction with the brain in your head and, although you are not conscious of your gut “thinking”, the ENS helps you sense environmental threats, and then influences your response. “A lot of the information that the gut sends to the brain affects well-being, and doesn’t even come to consciousness,” says Michael Gershon at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York.
biology, health, neuroscience
Friday, 24 October, 2014
It happens too often, we agonise over a decision, and then tear our hair out when it becomes apparent we chose the wrong course of action. It could be then that looking into a mirror should be part of the decision making process… seemingly the larger the pupils of our eyes at such a time, the more likely it is we are making the wrong choice.
This is because pupil size is a measure of a person’s arousal: the more aroused they are feeling, the wider their pupils are and the worse they perform on the test. As with many things in life, the ideal level of arousal for most tasks is somewhere in the middle: when people’s arousal levels are low they are bored and when they are too high, they can’t concentrate.
neuroscience, psychology, well being
Wednesday, 24 September, 2014
Is there a link between the sort of food you eat later in the evening, and the type of dreams you may have? Seemingly not, but a snack of some sort before going to sleep doesn’t sound like a bad idea, given how active the brain is while dreaming…
A dreaming brain is a hungry brain. “Sleep is a very active process and your brain needs a lot of sugar. I actually recommend to people having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before they go to bed: The bread and the jelly are great sources of simple carbohydrates, which are terrible usually, but great for sleep,” Wenk states. The theory here: Not only will you supply energy (sugar) to the busy brain, but you’re also providing it with extra serotonin – the “calming” hormone – to help usher in the onset of sleep.
diet, neuroscience, psychology
Tuesday, 23 September, 2014
Stories come along from time about people who wake up, or regain consciousness, while supposedly under anaesthetic during surgery. I’m not sure how I’d react if that were me, save to say I’d likely be petrified.
Then there’s the case of a Lithuanian woman who played violin during some recent brain surgery. Yes, you read that correctly, and it wasn’t because she wanted to keep herself amused, her playing was crucial to the outcome of the procedure…
Naomi Elishuv used to be a world-class violinist who played with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, but uncontrollable shaking caused by a neurological disorder called essential tremor forced her to stop playing 20 years ago, the Telegraph reports. She only recently learned of deep brain stimulation, the surgery that could correct the problem, but there was an unusual aspect to her eventual operation: Elishuv had to play her violin during the procedure at Israel’s Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center on Tuesday so doctors could make sure they positioned an electrode needed to stop the tremors in the correct place.
medicine, music, neuroscience
Monday, 22 September, 2014
If you have a full diary, or an overly busy schedule, news that you might be able to do a thing or two while sleeping could be music to your ears…
The researchers then lulled the participants to sleep, putting them in a dark room in a reclining chair. Researchers watched them fall into the state between light sleep and the deeper sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). They were then told a new list of words. This time, their hands didn’t move, but their brains showed the same sorting activity as before. “In a way, what’s going on is that the rule they learn and practice still is getting applied,” Tristan Bekinschtein, one of the authors of the study, told Shots. The human brain continued, when triggered, to respond even through sleep.
It sounds like what we might be able to do while asleep is pretty limited – actually it’s incredible that anything at all is possible – so I wouldn’t go expecting to achieve all that much.
neuroscience, psychology, sleep
Monday, 14 July, 2014
Incredible… people would rather inflict pain on themselves, say by way of an electric shock, than be alone with their thoughts, says some joint Harvard, and University of Virginia, research.
In a series of 11 studies, U.Va. psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues at U.Va. and Harvard University found that study participants from a range of ages generally did not enjoy spending even brief periods of time alone in a room with nothing to do but think, ponder or daydream. The participants, by and large, enjoyed much more doing external activities such as listening to music or using a smartphone. Some even preferred to give themselves mild electric shocks than to think.
I wonder if introverts were part of this study, because I can’t imagine there’d be too many turning down an opportunity to have time out to be alone with their thoughts.
neuroscience, personality, psychology
Tuesday, 8 July, 2014
Pickpockets work so well at deceiving us because, it seems, our brains are wired to be easily duped. I assume, in fact I hope, there’s an advantage – for us, not just those trying to con us – in such a modus operandi?
According to neuroscientists our brains come pretty much hard-wired to be tricked, thanks to the vagaries of our attention and perception systems. In fact, the key requirement for a successful pickpocket isn’t having nifty fingers, it’s having a working knowledge of the loopholes in our brains. Some are so good at it that researchers are working with them to get an insight into the way our minds work.
crime, neuroscience, psychology
Monday, 12 May, 2014
This sounds concerning… it seems people may not be aware of what they are saying until they are actually uttering the words they speak. In other words, no plan or thought goes into our discourse, it simply slips out ad lib.
The dominant model of how speech works is that it is planned in advance – speakers begin with a conscious idea of exactly what they are going to say. But some researchers think that speech is not entirely planned, and that people know what they are saying in part through hearing themselves speak.
Maybe we all need to speak using prepared scripts, or cue cards?
communication, neuroscience, psychology