Being alone with one’s thoughts, a shocking prospect apparently

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.

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Pickpockets succeed by hacking our brains

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.

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I don’t know why I said that, and nor does anyone else it seems

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?

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The synchronised, yet syncopated, playing of guitarists

Friday, 9 May, 2014

Guitarists really are suited to working in team, or band, environments… as a grouping prepares to perform, their minds appear to synchronise with each other:

Guitarists literally have the ability to synchronize their brains while playing. In a 2012 study in Berlin, researchers had 12 pairs of guitarists play the same piece of music while having their brains scanned. They discovered that the guitarists’ neural networks would synchronize not only during the piece, but even slightly before playing. So, basically, guitarists can read each others’ minds better than they can read music.

There’s an old rock classic called “Hotel California” by US band, the Eagles. I have it from a reliable source the song has been performed live using up to eight guitars. If that’s not being synchronised, what is?

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Skim reading is making poorer readers of us all

Wednesday, 23 April, 2014

You’re probably skim reading these very words as your eyes quickly scan through what’s on offer here today. That’s ok, I don’t mind, that why’s I try to be as succinct as possible. Besides, I’m just happy you’re here in the first place.

Online content and information has made skim-readers out of us all, but here’s the problem, we’re taking this ability to seek out key words and essential tidbits of data, and applying it to reading situations where we need to actually read, as in absorb, each and every word, to the point we’re no longer taking in as much as we used to:

Humans, they warn, seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online. This alternative way of reading is competing with traditional deep reading circuitry developed over several millennia. “I worry that the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing,” said Maryanne Wolf, a Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist and the author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.”

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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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