Our Latest Brainpower News and Information
Here are a few short reports on some recent brain research.
Following those there is a test you can give to your friends
(or yourself) to see if they are able to pay attention and focus
very well, which is an indication of their potential brainpower.
Reacting Without Thinking
It may seem that reacting without thinking is a bad thing,
but it depends on the context. If you start to fall you want
your legs to move and correct your balance long before you could
have reasoned out a solution. So, as much as we would love to
remember to think first before taking action, we also do not
want to impede the brain's ability to order the body to react
without conscious thought. What might interfere with that natural
ability? Electrical stimulation could be a problem, according
to a recent
report from MIT Technology Review.
Why would you electrically stimulate your brain in the first
place? It has been found that transcranial electrical stimulation
(TES), when used on a particular part of the brain, can enhance
memory. The catch is that the process seems to interfere with
automaticity, which is that ability to react without conscious
thought. It is not yet clear that this potentially bad effect
is significant enough to render the technique unusable, especially
considering the potential applications for stroke victims and
others who have memory loss and might learn to speak again more
rapidly with TES.
A recent study has shown that there is a different pattern
of brain activity leading up to moments of creative inspiration
in problem solving, compared to more methodical solutions. When
subjects prepared to have an "aha!" solution, brain
imaging showed a pattern indicating that they were focusing inwardly,
and more able to switch there thinking to new areas, and possibly
silencing irrelevant thoughts.
The problems were displayed on a video screen. When mental
preparation led to sudden insights, there was more brain activity
in temporal lobe areas associated with conceptual processing
and cognitive control. More methodical solutions showed more
activity in the visual cortex. Researchers took this to indicate
that this deliberate problem solving involved external focus
of attention on the video screen.
You may have heard me say that creative insight is more likely
with work than with waiting. This study and others may lead to
learning exactly what kind of work to do, or how to put people
in the most creative frame of mind to solve problems. I'll be
reporting more on this in future newsletters.
Of course, as often happens in science, the research is mostly
confirming what has been known and used for centuries. Methodical
problem solving is different from sudden insight? No big surprise
there. Don't expect the research to disprove many of the techniques
for creative problem solving either. It will more likely just
show why they work.
Research like this is very important, and really may lead
to new ways to think. However, don't hesitate to use what works
for you before it is "proven." Man was thinking long
before science existed.
Daydreaming for Brainpower?
In another study (this one was done a few years back), it
was found that daydreaming is not mental laziness, as it is sometimes
considered. In fact, those who daydream may be better at solving
problems. The study, which used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
machines to scan subjects' brains, found that certain areas inside
the brain become more active during daydreaming, including what
is known as the "executive network," a region of the
brain associated with complex problem-solving. So kick back on
the couch once in a while and let your mind wander.
The TOVA Test
TOVA is the acronym for "test of variable attention."
I've mentioned it previously in the Brainpower Newsletter and
on our Brainpower
Facebook Page. It's not a difficult problem to solve, but
those who have ADD (attention deficit disorder) seem to have
trouble finding the solution either quickly or easily, and so
it is one of the many tests used for diagnosis. Here is the puzzle:
I have before me two boxes. One is empty, the other I notice
has a box within it, and that box has two boxes within it, and
those two boxes have 4 boxes each within them. So, I pick up
the box with all the other boxes in it, and place it inside the
empty box....how many boxes are there all together?
You can figure out the answer for yourself, but there is a
clue in the side bar if you are not sure. As mentioned, it not
really a tricky or tough puzzle, but you might want to copy it
down and let your friends give it a try.